Team is one of those words that everyone knows, and many would say they understand, but in reality I think much fewer actually have a genuine understanding of what team is and maybe less totally live it. And when that same attitude comes into the church, it's something we need to start looking at.
The world at large thinks it understands team - in sport, you have a 'team player' or you get a 'superstar' who is able to do it on their own. They imply that it you have to settle for a team player, then great - but if you can get a super star, then that's better.
That doesn't work, of course! I've always said give me eleven (players in a football team) team players over 11 superstars and the team players would win every time. Why is this? Because no one can do it on their own, and no one was ever meant to. In the football world, you only have to look at the difference between Real Madrid ('superstars') and Barcelona (Team players) - it's Barcelona who play the best football - AND win the most at the moment as well.
But I'm not here to talk about football - forgive me - I'm talking about team.
I believe in team. I love team. And praise God I am part of a great team here in St Petersburg as well. I feel that I also live team. My decisions, motivations, thoughts are all working in my mindset that its team first then the individual.
Sadly not all think that way - and just so slightly too in the church. Most of it goes unnoticed but recently I've seen it there, under the surface, wrapped up in other nice sounding words but all the while the message is the same - I want to talk (ONLY) with the main guy!
Many churches & leaders talk in terms of number 1's or number 2's. "He's a great leader, he'll make a great number 2 but I don't think he has it in him to be a number 1".
Accurate, maybe helpful, but ultimately, in my opinion, not the language of team!
The world of sports use number orders - 1st place, number 1 on the team sheet etc. The world of politics uses the same - Britain's number 1 etc. Music & media use this language. But should the church? Should those made equal in God's sight, given different roles, yes, but joined together not by role or calling but in love, as a family, together working for the glory of God.
We can also sometimes talk in a way that makes us sound like we believe in team. This is a true story of a conversation I had last week when a couple from England were visiting the church. They were mature Christians from a good church. He asked me "So who leads the church?" to which I replied "A team leads the church" - this is 100% accurate, it's how we talk, it's Biblical and it's right. His reply surprised me - in a very quick, automatic response he asked "Yes, OK, so who is the Executive Pastor?". About ten seconds after that he didn't talk to me again once I answered him in the way he wanted to hear - off he went to talk to the number 1.
He used the phrase executive pastor in such a way that stated - "Yes, yes, I get it, we are 'talking' team - but what I really want to know is who REALLY is the leader". It was disappointing to hear coming from someone I hoped would know better.
So what do I believe then?
I believe in the gifts as seen in the Bible - and especially in Ephesians 4 - some to be Apostles, some Prophets, then Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. I believe in a difference of role, an honouring of one another in team, and belief that your team members will go further than you - a collective togetherness that understands you are family, God's team in place in the local church or region, helping one another, loving one another, lifting one another up above yourself. I believe in working to each others gifts. In a clear team with everyone's heart for one another, this is very easy to do. I don't believe we are all the same (which is why team is key!) nor should we all do the same or think the same. I think that within this team that works, that thrives, that extends God's Kingdom, we can even then talk in terms of Executives or even Team Leaders, because we all understand where we are coming from - it's a description of the roles, and honouring of giftings - it is not an elevation of one over another.
And this is where I see the problem outside, and why I am writing so strongly against it now. Because when we act like the world does, and talk like they do, we don't honour team, we actually do the opposite. Yes, the Number 1 may feel flattered for a while that he is being singled out, but then where is he - if his team are being squashed down, if his fellow soldiers aren't there for him, God's church, His bride, isn't going to go very far.
Last week made me look down the years - to a time when I have a team around me, where I am leading the team. And when I see such people coming and wanting just to talk to me, people who say they believe in team but their actions confirm they don't, then I saw myself saying the following. "You want to know me? Then get to know my team first!" I wonder what reaction I will get. It doesn't really matter. The team God puts around me will be an amazing team, and I'll want them to feel lifted up all the time. It's the language I want to talk in. Yes, I believe in roles and gifting and anointing. But I believe in team first, because if the team is right, then all those things will only be used all the more for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom - which at the end of the day, is what I'm here for. Not the pleasing of man but the Glory of God!
If you are interested in the nations and like the sound of this future team - then get in touch with me and we can start talking. It might be the most amazing thing you ever do....