If we want to make a significant, lasting impact, we need to work with the people around us – to be part of teams. But, because we all bring our baggage with us, this is much harder than it seems. In this series, I’ll share some of what God is teaching me about bridging this gap in the hope that it will be helpful for you, too. Let’s dive in.
Principle #1: To be an effective team member, you’ve got to start with yourself
This is fairly intuitive, right? At the end of the day, a team is made of individual players and it’s good or bad depending on the skill and commitment each person brings.
If we look in the mirror, though, we often don’t operate like this. Here are some lies and excuses I see in my own life. Maybe you can identify.
- I can do my part, but no one else is really trying, so why bother?
- I’m not sure I bring all that much to the table. Other people seem to have it covered, anyway.
- I’ve got to focus on school/rotations/exams (or my job, my kids’ activities, making sure we have enough to retire, or…). After all, Jesus has called me to this – he doesn’t want me to be unfaithful to that, right?
- I’m already being faithful; do I really need to improve?
- In all honesty, being part of this isn’t all that important. I’d rather spend my time elsewhere.
Just to be clear, I never verbalize these things – I’m much too spiritual for that! Instead, these are the things that surface when I’m really, really honest.
We don’t have space to address all these excuses here, but Ephesians 4:15-16 is a good start:
…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
First, Paul says that each of us is part of ‘the whole body’ – that is, the church. Ultimately, that was God’s choice, so we need to be committed to other Christians around us. (And others who are not of faith; but, that’s not the point of this post). That will mean, at the minimum, being part of a local church, but I believe it often has other expressions, too. Like your campus fellowship or leadership team. Or, a local ministry you’re excited about. If God has called me to a particular ‘team’, it’s a privilege to participate.
Second, Paul says that everyone is critical. ‘When each part is working properly…’ No one is unimportant or overly important to the team. If people rely on you too much, or, don’t value your role enough, there are ways to begin addressing that, but the reality is that you are an essential part of God’s work where he has placed you.
Third, everyone is called to ‘grow’. We can’t stay where we are – we have to move forward, specifically, by becoming more like Christ (that’s Paul’s point at the end of v.15; see 4:17-6:20 for the details). No amount of skill can make up for a stagnant walk with God. Conversely, you don’t need to be a ‘superstar’ or off-the-charts at something to make a huge impact. If you simply pursue Christ day after day, you will have a ridiculous amount to offer. This is incredibly hard in the midst of busy lives, but it’s our privilege and calling.
Finally, your contribution makes a tangible difference. Notice the result: ‘when each part is working properly… the body grow[s] so that it builds itself up in love’. You can only do your part, but when everyone takes that approach, great things happen.
The best teams I’ve been part embody these principles. It’s never perfect, but their members believe they’re there by God’s design, so they understand they’re important to the health of the team. They try to keep taking small steps forward. When those (simple) things are in place, amazing things happen over time.
Last time, I promised each post will contain an action step, something to think and pray over to help you grow. Here we go:
- Think about one team you believe God has placed you on. Which (if any) of the above excuses do you find yourself struggling with?
- Which of the four principles from Ephesians 4:15-16 applies most to your situation?
- What one specific step of change could you take this week in response?
Personally, I’m convicted that I need to be more practically invested in my local community (small) group. God is showing me that I don’t always believe my efforts make a difference, but this week I’m going to pray for each of our members, trusting that God hears my prayers and is going to respond. That’s it – it’s not rocket science or earth-shattering – but I trust God will help me keep moving forward.
I trust that, as you take your own small steps forward, God will do the same for you.