Maybe you are a small group leader. Six months in, you discover that some are more committed than others. A few are always engaged. One or two seem disconnected. You begin to wonder, What am I doing wrong? It’s not what I expected. Or maybe you are a Christian parent. You determine...
Ministry should never be done alone.
This is why we have teams. There is something dynamic and energizing about a group of people working together with the gospel at the center. This could be a Bible study, small group, volunteer team, or a prayer group.
Paul was a team leader and encouraged others to build gospel-centered teams. On numerous occasions, he would mention fellow team members with endearing terms. He calls them “his fellow laborers” (1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philemon 1; Philippians 4:3), “fellow servants” (Colossians 1:7, 4:7), and “fellow-soldiers” (Philemon 2; Philippians 2:25). Each member had a significant role in Paul’s life.
Within teams, we also see the damaging work of the flesh when disagreements disrupt unity. So Paul pleaded with Euodia and Syntyche to work out their differences (Philippians 4:2). Mavericks also destroy team unity, often using personality, title, and position as a leverage to push personal agendas.
So what should gospel-centered teams avoid? And what should a gospel-centered team look like?
What Should Gospel-Centered Teams Avoid?
1. Avoid serving in the Lord’s work alone.
Along the years, I have noticed that I can fall into the trap of doing ministry alone. I’m not sure how I get into these binds, but I end up being the only teacher or volunteer for the ministry. This could look a number of ways: teaching Sunday school alone, setting up an event by yourself, or being the only one meeting a person’s need.
Jesus taught the two-by-two principle when he sent out the disciples (Luke 10:1). Why two-by-two? Having others join you in the work of ministry brings encouragement, accountability, and burden-sharing (Romans 12:15). Ask others to join you because this ensures long-term stability and productivity. Recruit a team, or ask your church leaders to help you, before venturing out alone.
2. Avoid thinking that God uses superheroes.
God assigns spiritual gifts by his grace (Romans 12:6). The distribution of gifts among the body shows us that every person is important. Each has a part to play. God selects no superheroes for his gospel-teams, but sinners redeemed by Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:20-21 makes it clear to all leaders that the Lord uses the “regular individual,” “the common,” or “the not so wise in human eyes” to work on gospel-teams. Each of us should discern our spiritual gifts and exercise those gifts within the local church. Sometimes, we are called to serve where there is simply a need, even when it humbles us and doesn’t seem to use one of “our gifts.”
3. Avoid using personality as a cover up for sin.
Certainly, God created diverse people with different temperaments and personalities. Thoughtful books and personality inventories reveal how these can be both beneficial and detrimental to a healthy group interaction. Consider taking one of these (DISC or Smalley’s Personality Inventory).
However, sometimes we can use temperament and personality as a cover-up from owning personal sin. If you are always arguing with your team, or you find yourself frequently disagreeing with plans that have been in place for some time, this is not a “personality trait,” but sin. Or maybe you are constantly asserting your desires over others or using your title, position, or experiences to “lord it over” the ones under your care. That’s not personality, but sin.
Rather, we are to serve first by picking up the basin and towel (John 13; Philippians 2:7). Don’t use personality as a cover up for sinful behavior. Clothe yourself in Christ and put on the Lord Jesus when working with others (Romans 13:14).
4. Avoid a lack of personal spiritual growth.
The apostle Paul counseled Timothy: “The things which you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The need for Timothy to show progress in his spiritual growth should be our goal as well (1 Timothy 4:15-16).
Personal time with Lord is vital to group dynamics. Spending time with the Lord through prayer, meditation, and quiet prepares us spiritually to engage with others.
What Does an Effective Gospel-Centered Team Look Like?
So what does it look like to be part of a healthy gospel-centered team? Individuals make up teams. Each of us has a responsibility to work out our faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and to pursue godliness, both privately and within the group context.
Let me offer four practical traits of gospel-centered teams.
Prayer is that time in which we come before the Lord to pray for private and corporate needs. When you pray privately, do you only pray for yourself, or do you love those in the church by praying for them? Consider reading Matthew 7:7-8 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 to help you pray. Prayer-centered groups can be also a wonderful place to join with other believers in praying about personal, corporate, and global needs (as in Acts 12:5, “but earnest prayer for him [Peter] was made to God by the church”).
Personal and corporate godliness is commanded. We cannot rely on yesterday’s stale bread. Failure in my personal life damages the body of Christ. So accountability is needed in order to maintain a pure, Word-filled life before the Lord (James 5:16; 1 Peter 1:13-16; Ephesians 5:1-5).
The Word of God cleanses the sinful heart when read publicly and privately (Psalm 119:77; 1 Timothy 4:13). I am reminded that when I read the Word, my heart is changed, my thinking is changed, and my actions are changed (John 15:3-4; James 1:22-25). Where should you start? Read a verse! Meditate on it. Read it again! Draw out a few principles to put into action. Join a small group, and share with someone what you learned from the passage.
Pursue a gospel-centered team that is committed to discipleship. Discipleship is a team endeavor and a way we serve one another. Discipleship connects each individual to God’s Word for growth in godliness (Luke 10:1-12). Growth in godliness fuels the soul when it is weak and when our burdens seem too heavy. A team can encourage us to keep being faithful to upward call of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 2:2; Matthew 28:19-20; Hebrews 10:25).
Christian, pursue these four qualities of gospel-centered teams, and may each of us at the conclusion of the ministry year see great progress in our godliness within our groups or church family.