• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

My friend Paul

My friend Paul went home to be with the Lord last week.  The deep groan of sadness that I felt when the news first came out, began to give way over time to reflection on the impact that this one brother had on my life. paul_welcome

As I ‘re-watched’ the videos in my head of the many times we had shared life and ministry together, three words or word images came to mind

Persistent challengePaul regularly put challenges out in front of you. The reason I started running marathons came about the day Paul called me up to announce he had an entry for me for the London marathon. I had never put my name in for the London marathon (a lottery system)!  Apparently Paul, however, had been putting my name in, along with his name and his son’s name, for three years until our names had been drawn!  Paul didn’t just challenge you in life activities, he challenged your capacity to believe that ‘God could do above and beyond what we could ask or think’.  He pushed you to believe that God could work among a resistant people group; that He could spawn movements of multiplying churches; that He could work in and through us to reach others for Christ.

Dogged perseveranceI cannot think of Paul without thinking of how he was constantly ‘moving forward’.  I still marvel at how he, a former wrestler, finished the London marathon in a very respectable time. He doggedly pursued the difficult tasks.  More importantly, he doggedly pursued God.  There was always that new thought, fresh insight that the Lord has laid on his heart and that he wanted to share with you when you got together in a meeting.  He not only shared, but he lifted you up before the Lord in prayer, and you could count on that when he told you so.  He kept driving forward to the ‘upward call’.

Amazing adventureYou never quite knew where Paul was ‘taking’ you when you set off with him.  One year, he decided to rent a boat on the Thames for the week long meeting of the Europe field directors.  After that ‘week on the boat’, we all said that we would never do that again.  However, his ‘adventure’ worked to draw us together in a way we weren’t expecting … and part of the proof is that we’re still talking about that infamous ‘boat trip’ to this day!  It wasn’t the craziness of the activity that finally characterized Paul, it was the context of grace he tried to create where you came to recognize the One in whom we put our trust and confidence, and who gave us the grace we needed to keep moving forward.

I will deeply miss my friend Paul.  I have missed him being part of my team for the past number of years.  Detlef got that privilege in recent years. And we are all better people for having rubbed shoulders with Paul.

I will not forget the impact that Paul has left on my life.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with another how they have influenced your life!

Six characteristics of a team

Within the World Team Global community, we talk about the six (6) characteristics of an effective or fruitful team.  Stated simply, these characteristics are: common purpose, appropriate division of labor, accepted leadership, agreement on the plan, solid relationships, and good communication.

HumilitySomething struck me as I was reading through that list again recently.  All six are linked by one essential heart attitude or motivation.  Humility.

To agree to a common purpose and to share the workload means that we as team members will need to ‘give up’ something for the benefit of the group.  To stand behind accepted leadership, we must take our hands off the proverbial ‘steering wheel’ and allow ourselves to be led by another.  To agree to a joint plan means that we choose to stand behind the direction we as a group have taken.  And obviously, solid relationships and good communication can only occur on a team when each of us is willing to be transparent with others, acknowledging our mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and offering forgiveness to others.

Each characteristic seems to call for humility.

Humility though is often somewhat elusive to us.  No one has ever ‘explained’ how to go about growing in humility by certain action steps.  Maybe that is why it might be better to talk about ‘gospel humility’. It’s the humility that is the fruit of God’s work of driving the Gospel deeper and deeper into our hearts.  It’s not something we do, but something that is cultivated.  It’s about a heart that allows God’s Spirit to search us, pull us up short, and enflame our hearts with the overwhelming good news of the Gospel again and again!

So monocultural and multicultural teams can be fertile contexts wherein God works that gospel humility into our lives; where we learn the richness and depth of His love as we rub shoulders in team ministry with brothers and sisters who may not be like us but are committed to the same vision and calling.

A question on which to reflect: how has God used team members to further your understanding of and growth in grace?

Multicultural teams don’t work

Now that I’ve got your attention, neither multicultural nor monocultural teams work in the long run if team members don’t work hard to understand the ‘world’ of each member.

Teams do not work because team members do not take the time to understand another’s ‘culture’ or way of working.  I can be from the same culture as other team members, but if I am a ‘thinker’ and another is a ‘feeler’, I could be frustrated by his/her lack of being able to ‘make a decision’. It may feel like he/she is always stalling our team and never wanting to come to closure.  However, that is not how this person is ‘thinking’ or processing. Failing to understand another’s way of thinking will cause dissonance and conflict in a team.multicultural conflict

Teams fail, not because of the cultural make-up of the group, but because we believe our way of seeing and dealing with reality (for example, how to do ‘team life and ministry’) is the best or ‘biblical’ way.  Our own culture can create a sense of right-ness in our hearts, and keep us from humbly learning from others on our team.  We can miss the opportunity to experience team in a deeper way.

It is true that when you add the ‘multicultural’ card into a team, it adds another dimension that the team must address.  However, the ‘multicultural’ card will also add a dimension to any team that enhances its cross-cultural ministry capacity.

When two or more cultures come together to work on a church planting team, they must learn how to ‘bridge’ between the cultures represented on that team.  They learn not only how to ‘divest themselves’ (Philippians 2), but how to ‘translate and contextualize’ what another is saying.  This allows them, as a team, to be even better prepared to contextualize the message into the cultural context of the people group to whom they have been called.  In other words, they gain valuable experience for their ministry from learning to work together and minister to one another as a team.

So, whether your team is monocultural or multicultural, each of us needs to start by asking at least two questions so that our team can be built on grace and honesty:

  • What do I need to ask another to better understand how they think and process?
  • What heart barrier (cultural, emotional or spiritual) keeps me from hearing and learning from another who seems very different from me?

Team or community?

What is a team?  And what is a community? 

To put it in as simple terms as I can, a team is a group formed around a task and a community is a group committed to life together as the people of God.  In our World Team Global network, we can easily confuse these two, mixing them so closely that they create misunderstanding and ministry stagnation.

Much of the confusion arises from false expectations that we may each bring to a team or a community.false expectations

One false expectation is that one’s team will automatically be his/her community.  This may or may not be the case.  One’s community might be best found outside of one’s team.  It’s a discussion we should not shy away from; one that would probably help our teams process and discern what community would look like for each member.  It would give us insight as to what kind of community would serve to best enhance each one’s ministry growth.

However, when one ‘demands’ that his/her team be the needed community, and when that ‘need’ is not met by the team, a good deal of heartburn can occur; frustration that derails a team from its primary mission.

A second false expectation is that we will only find true community with people from one’s same culture.  As cross cultural workers, we have chosen, following God’s call, to ‘adopt’ another people and culture.  Yes, it’s not easy to make the transition.  And yes, it’s not easy to worship and to ‘live in community’ in another language that is not one’s own heart language.  However, the richness of His grace is so much sweeter when one enters into and engages in community across another culture.  One’s heart can learn to worship in another heart language.

A final false expectation is that team and community are places where we will ‘feel good’ all the time; it will be like a ‘family’.  Both team and community, according to the Scriptures, call for robust and honest dialogue and can at times pass by moments of tension.  However, a good team and a good community know how to work through conflict and tension; just as a good family does.


I’m not giving way

Driving to the World Team Global workplace, I have to cross a bridge that takes one over the Oise River.  It’s quite a lovely view in both directions.  Normally, it takes about three minutes to cross. Tuesday of this week, it took forty nine minutes!  Since we are in the summer months here, towns and ‘state’ governments take the opportunity to do a lot of roadwork.  Such was the case on the bridge this past Tuesday, moving a four lane road down to just two lanes.

What caught my attention wasn’t the roadwork, but the attitude of various drivers. Many had their own ‘method’ for dealing with the traffic tie-up and trying to get one more car ahead, by whatever means. One driver in particular caught my attention.

give wayThis driver was in the passing lane, next to a huge ‘earth mover’ type truck.  The truck was obviously ahead, but neither driver was going to ‘give way’.  With every meter, both drivers tried to ‘assert their authority’.  At one point, I thought the truck was literally going to scrape the side of the smaller car, and take the side view mirror in its path. I kept thinking to myself: “Just give way!  What’s the big deal?  So you’re behind the truck or behind the car, you’re eventually going to get over the bridge either three seconds sooner or later.”

Then it hit me that in my relationships with others at work, at home or in the neighborhood, I can be just the same.  Worse even.  I can be as stubborn as that car driver or truck driver, not wanting to ‘give way’ because my rightness is being challenged.  However, I don’t think it’s just me. In a given situation, all of us are capable of going ‘head to head’ with that ‘earth mover’ truck and pushing to get to the front of the line.

There’s why collaboration (one of the elements of our WT Ministry Framework organisational culture) is so hard.  It means we have to ‘give way’ sometimes.  It means we have to follow the consensus of the larger team at times.  All the while keeping in mind that we are going to get to the same end point.

There’s why delegation is difficult.  It means saying to another: “Go ahead, you work on this. I’ll support you, but you take the lead.”  It’s platforming or pushing another in front of you when we would prefer to be first or up front.

Next time, you are side by side with an ‘earth mover’ truck, merging into one lane, will you ‘give way’ or will you ‘hold your ground’?

If I could dream again

Have you ever found yourself ‘dreaming’ of how things might go better if even small things changed?  Have you ever ‘dreamed’ about the potential that would be released in the ministry and relationship spheres of a team if solutions were found for certain issues that beleaguered them?

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community of workers who choose to think well of others and hear them out.kids-listening

Whether it is a leader-leader, leader-worker, or worker-worker relationship, I am often surprised by how little ‘weight’ we give to the thoughts, ideas and direction of others.  In the case of leaders, I have noticed an unspoken assumption that whenever a leader ‘speaks’ (in writing or in person), their input can be discounted because the thinking is that he/she must not have the best in mind for those he/she leads.  In the case of teammates, we may talk much about community, but in the end ‘we will do what we have to do’ and will choose to ignore the input of others in our community to do what we (personally) think is best.

Yes, we can disagree with others with whom we work.  However, are we actually ‘mining’ the feedback, direction or ideas we receive for all it can teach us?  Is our style of followership causing those who lead us to ‘groan’ rather than ‘be joyful’ and thus depriving ourselves of their influence in our lives?

It’s a hard sentence to get out, but it might help us choose to think well of others and hear them out: “So tell me more about what you mean when you said …

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community of workers who choose to think well of others and hear them out.

People watching

Have you ever caught yourself just ‘staring’ at people in a restaurant, on a flight, or at an open air market?  You know, engaging in ‘people watching’.  I can at times find myself looking at all the people around me and wondering how many of them know Christ.Crowded...

A sense of guilt can easily well up in our hearts as we think about the unfinished work of the Gospel and what we feel we ‘need’ to do.

Yes, our hearts need to be daily broken over the lost condition of those around us.  However, the ultimate work of the Gospel does not rest upon our efforts.  A friend used to say: “No one ever got saved by your testimony.”  His point was that God may use your testimony to bring another to Himself, but it is He that opens the hearts of men and women to Himself.

However, what if our initial response of brokenness gave way to a further response.  What if we chose to train another to pray along with us, to join with us in engaging lost people in spiritual conversation?  What if we saw the ‘mission’ God has given us to be a team effort rather than just an individual effort?

Last night, (let’s call him ‘P’) P was my waiter.  Each time, I come through this city, I usually run into P at this restaurant. P knows that I am a Christian. I met P through C, who is a local believer here.  P also knows M who is a worker in this city.  I haven’t necessarily ‘trained’ C and M, but my spiritual horizons expand when I realize that God is using many people to bring Christ’s hope to the one of those  among the lost.

I just wonder about the fruit that might come from training up others into this missional work of God, rather than ‘carrying’ it by ourselves.