20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #17: Friendships are Vital, Inside and Outside the Church

Can a pastor have friends in the church they lead?

It’s an honest question pastors ask. And depending on their experiences, you’ll get different responses.

I say “yes.”  Just as I’m convinced we need to truly love the people we are with, eschewing the separation between clergy and laity best we can, I believe that meaningful friendships within the church are crucial to long-term ministry. Pastors who guard themselves from friendships in the community end up isolated from the community, bearing the load alone, a load that was meant to be shared.

Now, I’m not naive. I know we can all get hurt in community, and being in leadership can amplify the risk. I understand the need for safe relationships, people who you can process struggles with and confide in. And while there may be times when that kind of friendship is available within your church, there may be other times when we need to reach beyond our local community.

Here’s my point: while I think meaningful friendships with people in the church are vital and important, I don’t think they are the only friendships you should have. I think, as a pastor and as a leader, I need people who call me their pastor and friend; I also need significant friendships with people who don’t see me as their pastor, ever.

As I grow in relationship with people, I come to know who is trustworthy, honest, and loving, just like anyone else does. And some, we find out, aren’t. And (again, like all of our friendships) different people become unique friends, with varying levels of transparency or connection. That’s not a bad thing; that’s natural. And needful. That’s why, for me, I don’t filter friendships through the grid of “church/non-church,” keeping the “church” friends at arms length. Rather, I let each friendship stand on its own, and let it grow (or not) in the most natural way.

Jon and Tom in AZ - Copy
There are friends who are with us through the seasons. Jon is one of those friends for me, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for friends I have developed over the years, both in and out of my local church. They have sustained me in life and in ministry, and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

  • Friends who love me, truly, and not as a way of getting anything from me.
  • Friends who tell me the truth, kindly, and for my good.
  • Friends who question my motives, while at the same time, believing in me with all their hearts.
  • Friends I can just “be” with–not performing, not having to measure up or guard their perception of me.
  • Friends who will be there, even if I’m no longer the pastor.

I need these friends if I’m to stay whole and healthy, not only as person but as a pastor. I’m glad I have them.

The words of this Need to Breathe song really sums it up. I’m thankful for friends who embody this heart for me.

Brother, let me be your shelter
Never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low
Brother, let me be your fortress
When the night winds are driving on
Be the one to light the way
Bring you home

So far, I’ve posted 16 of the 20 Lessons projected for May. You can catch up below.

 

 

Gospel Gone Viral: 3 Things Chewbacca Mom’s Video teaches us about the Good News of Jesus

By now you’ve all laughed along with the Chewbacca Mom as she shared her joy “with her friends on the internet-webs.” The boys and I heard Tennille shrieking upstairs as she watched it through her first time and we joined her for a second round of laughter.

Viral videos fascinate me. I love how they spread from friend to friend, network to network, moving from a few people to millions sometimes overnight. United Breaks Guitars, the Ikea Punster and the WestJet Christmas Miracle–to name just a few of my faves–always leave me wondering: what made this video go viral? And as I reflected on this latest explosion of Chewbacca mom–now the most viewed video on Facebook–I had to ask:

What does Chewbacca mom’s success teach us about the viral spread of the greatest news ever, the good news about Jesus?

chewbacca-mom-600First, by definition, viral messages are something you want to share. No, that’s too tame. Messages that go viral are messages that you just have to share. They can’t be kept to yourself. Even though we live in a media-saturated, YouTubed world, certain videos still gain traction because they are shared so enthusiastically with friends. Do I need to even make the connection with the news about Jesus, the greatest news that we’ve just got to share? There’s a reason the good news about Jesus swept the Roman world in the century following Jesus’ death and resurrection–it was viral news that spread from network to network, impacting everyone who heard it, because it just had to be shared.

The second thing, which comes out very clear in the Chewbacca mom original video, is how she is simply sharing her joy with others. Her infectious laugh, her delight in the big reveal, her irrepressible enthusiasm as she dawns the mask and then shrieks and roars into the camera is pure, unadulterated joy. She just loves what she’s got!! When we experience joy, we want to include others in the delight.

cewbacca-mom-facebook
There’s nothing quite like a bike ride with Chewbacca, courtesy of Facebook.

The third thing that really struck me is her willingness to put herself out there.  Now, I’m sure she had no idea she’d become an internet sensation overnight, and she’s likely reeling from all the attention she’s getting. But on that day, following her celebrated purchase, when she propped up her phone on the dashboard to share with her friends, she put herself out boldly and without reservation. That’s part of the charm of the video: it’s just her–normal, awkward, unscripted, bumbling, honest, and so, so thrilled that she wants everyone to get in on it.

So what can we learn from this? The good news of Jesus, the most viral message ever and continuing to spread, fans out through similar means. Based on these three observations, here’s how the good news about Jesus goes viral.

3 Ways Chewbacca Mom’s Video Shows Us How the Good News of Jesus Goes Viral

First, it’s irrepressible news: The good news of Jesus is so good, so delightful, so amazing that when people discover what they have, and really get it, they just have to share it! I’ve seen this over and over again, as the good news spreads unstoppably through friendship and family networks.

Second, it’s all about joy: And this good news is shared not out of duty or compulsion, but as an expression of pure joy. Lesslie Newbigin, the missionary-theologian, likened the spread of the good news of Jesus to an “explosion of joy.” And that’s what we see, down through history and into today: when people really meet Jesus, the joy explodes!

Newbigin

And third, it’s shared boldly: With the innocent boldness of a child, we put the good news of Jesus out there for our friends to hear. We simply want others to get in on what we’ve found, so we prop up the phone (metaphorically) and share it out on the inter-webs, to our friends, neighbours, streets and homes, not knowing where the message will spread. And though it often goes unnoticed, there are those times when someone else hears it and catches the joy, and shares it on. And from person to person, family to family, the greatest message of all time, the most truly viral news out there, takes hold, transforming whoever hears it and responds to its invitation to follow Jesus.

  • Did you notice any other connections between her viral video and the way the good news of Jesus spreads?
  • Why does the most viral message of all sometimes feel like “old” news and how can we change that?

 

20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #16: Titles Separate (Or, you can just call me Tom)

“Are you Pastor Tom?”

“Yes, I’m the pastor, but you can just call me Tom.”

And depending on the person’s cultural background, that introduction comes as a relief or it just seems weird.

I don’t go by my first name to be strange, difficult or novel. Nor do I do it because I want to downplay my role or responsibility as the pastor. No, I go by my first name because I’m convinced that titles do more to separate us from others than support relational and spiritual growth. Maybe there was a day when titles helped, but I think that day is long gone.Pastor Tom

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t refuse the title of pastor if it’s necessary for people. Certain folks find it difficult to call me Tom only; their cultural background demands the title of “Pastor” out of respect or deference. Others instruct their kids to address me as Pastor Tom as a way of teaching them respect (kind of like using Mr. or Dr.). Past the first introductions, I don’t correct them or insist on my first name. In short, I don’t get hung up about it.

But if I have my way, especially when I’m meeting new folks and setting expectations, I encourage the use of my first name without my title.

Why do I prefer my first name only? Well, beyond my basic conviction that titles separate more than support relationships, I can think of at least four more reasons.

  1. People might not see me as one of them. And it’s important that they do. This is particularly true in our post-Christian society, where more people are self-identifying as spiritual “nones” (as in, spiritual affiliation=none). The title of pastor, esteemed and valued as it might have been historically, is not helpful to our mission to help people far away from Jesus find and follow him. But I also think it’s true within the church, too. Christians need to see me as one of them, toiling in the same trenches as a Jesus-follower, Christian, father, friend, husband, brother and fellow traveler in the faith.
  2. I don’t want to run the risk of people interacting with me as a position rather than interacting with me as a person. By front-loading who I am rather than what I do, I am able to make that personal connection more direct. This is especially true when I’m out in the community, but as more and more new-to-church folks connect with us, it’s critical when we gather for worship, too.
  3. I want to break down walls and establish personal trust. Depending on people’s background, they may have visceral or negative reactions to my “position”.  I want to build personal trust, and my title could hinder that.
  4. The pastoral pedestal is a problem. This is particularly true within the church. The more people see me “up there”, the less I’m able to really help them. And the more I see myself as “up there”, the more I am in danger of pride, self-deception and power.

In 20 years of ministry, I can’t think of a single instance where using my first name hindered my ministry as a pastor. But I am acutely aware of how many times using my first name helped build bridges and nurture relationships, particularly with those far away fromTom Jesus.  So, while there might be some kind of loss in the rejection of this moniker, I’m willing to accept the losses for the sake of the greater missional gain.

“Hi, I’m Tom. What’s your name?”

“Yes, I’m the pastor here. And you can just call me Tom.”


  • Do you think titles are important? Why or why not?
  • Do your unchurched friends find the title of “pastor” more or less helpful in their spiritual journey?

My first 15 lessons are available below:

20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #15: You’ve Got To Love Your People

There is a subtle danger in this pastoring gig. We can be in love with the idea of ministering to people and fail to love the very people to whom we are called to minister.

In my 20 years of ministry, I’ve learned that loving the people I minister to is more important than any philosophy of ministry or theology of the church I can muster.

Seeing these young people grow up following Jesus is one of the greatest privileges of my life.
Seeing these young people grow up following Jesus is one of the greatest privileges of my life.

That’s why Lesson #15 of the 20 I’m posting is this: You’ve got to love your people. Now, if that sounds weird to you (like a bit of a no-brainer), you might be surprised at the resentment and bitterness that can creep into pastoral ministry, making pastors jaded toward their own people. They can start to view them as wretched losers or difficult parishioners, resistant to change and muddled in the muck.

I understand how it happens. Hurts and misunderstandings are part of community life, leaders feel acute isolation, and continual strains and pressures can contribute to a loss of love for the actual people you are called to pastor.

I think that’s why some pastors move on to other churches with such regularity–they’ve fallen out of love with their peeps and begin to imagine how much better it would be somewhere else, where the people are kinder and more open and responsive. We all know how that works out . . . when five years later they move on to somewhere else.

Rather than looking for the greener pastures and whiter sheep, the call is to live more fully into the love of Jesus for his deeply flawed, mixed up people, of whom we as pastors are one!

Two folks I love who love me in return. I'm privileged to journey with them!
Two folks I love who love me in return. I’m privileged to journey with them!

Loving the people to whom we have been called is central to meaningful, effective ministry. And doing so over a sustained period of ministry will require that we dig deeper than the institutionalized cut-and-run philosophy of pastoral church hopping commonly allows. Unless we do, churches won’t grow–and neither will pastors.

I do love my people. And I know they love me. We are a mixed up bunch, making our way in fits and starts after the Jesus who loves us and calls us to follow. We do fail each other, but we also forgive each other. And while I do not have this ministry thing figured out, I do know that without love for each other–true, committed love–we won’t experience all that Jesus has for us, nor will we be able to live as his vibrant witnesses in the community in which he’s called us to serve.

You gotta love your peeps!


  • Why do pastors often get into difficult relationships with their people?
  • How can we grow in love rather than simply move on when things get rough?

I’ve almost finished posting my 20 lessons from 20 years of vocational ministry. Here’s the first 14 lessons:

 

 

20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #13: Be Encouraging

  • Be encouraging.
  • Do whatever you can to affirm others.
  • Express gratitude for what you see.
  • Tell people what you love about what they are doing.
  • Empower people in their relationship with Jesus.

Encouragement is a game-changer, influencing all our relationships, be that in the church, family, workplace, or coffee shop.

As I continue my month of reflections, initiated by my realization that I’ve been serving in vocational ministry for 20 years, let me share a lesson with you that makes SUCH an impact on our daily life.

Lesson #13: Be Encouraging.

I think my greatest impact in ministry has come when I’ve been the most encouraging, when I’ve stepped in close to affirm, support, and even challenge someone.

Paul challenged and affirmed his Christian friends to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” In my experience, many Christians serve without much feedback at all. And when feedback does come, it can often be negative. “The music was too loud.” “That kid was sure disruptive.” “You made the coffee too weak.” Deflating, dis-empowering drivel.

Now, as any reader of this blog will attest, I’m all for honest, helpful, constructive feedback.  But I’ve noticed that people are rarely affirmed and encouraged, told what they are doing right, offered a good word to boost their spirits, or simply thanked for their service to the body of Christ.  And even more, few have had the kind of insightful encouragement we all need: “When you led worship today, I was so drawn to the love of Jesus for me.” “I just love seeing you interact with your children–you are a great mom.” “Thanks for coming early to support our coffee addiction! Just think of how dangerous we’d be without you?” Unless we are willing to become super-encouragers, no amount of feedback we offer will be constructive.

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.- (1 Thessalonians 5-11 NIV)And then moving beyond encouragement in our ministry to one another, we must encourage one another as we follow Jesus together. Encouraging one another and building one another up is about giving each other what we need to keep growing in Christ, keep serving in his name, keep letting the Spirit work in our hearts and heal our hurts, empowering us to become all he desires. In the church family I’m part of–the Evangelical Covenant Church–we often recall a question from our early Mission Friends: “How goes your walk?”, a kind of spiritual “What’s up?” This question was not meant to engender guilt or create tension–its purpose was to care and understand so we can pray together, stand together, and support one another in our journey together in Christ. Like hikers scrambling a steep trail, we follow Jesus together, encouraging one another along the way.

Really encouraging one another takes time, energy, and a willingness to get in close. Truth is, we can’t encourage one another and build each other up from safe distances. Until you know where I am struggling, until I know where you feel insecure, we can’t really “give each other courage” for trail ahead. Vulnerability is key. Because when we’ve prayed together, when we’ve shared our hearts with each other, when we’ve eaten together and laughed together and fished or played or sang together, then we are able to encourage each other in the ways that count.

And the more encouraging we are to each other, the farther we’ll be able to go, the better the journey will be, and the greater effect we will have on the world. So let’s be encouraging.

Let me ask you:

  • What is most encouraging for you?
  • What is one way you can become more encouraging today?

Ministry Lessons I’ve posted so far (I’m going for 20): 

20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #10: Jesus is always at work


Jesus is always at work,
 even when we don’t think so. And we don’t always think so, do we? Perhaps no truth has encouraged me more in ministry than this: Jesus is always at work.

Even when we can’t see what’s happening, Jesus is at work.

Even when all hope seems lost, Jesus is at work.

Even when it looks as if nothing is going on, Jesus is at work.

Here’s Lesson #10 of 20 Lessons I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Vocational Ministry: Jesus is always at work.

It was early in my vocational ministry that Blackaby and King’s Experiencing God blew my mind with this biblical truth: God is already at work. Therefore, I need to look for what he is doing and join him in that work. As anyone who has read or studied Experiencing God will tell you, this assumption is transformative.

And it has been ministry bedrock for me, helping me as I’ve ministered to difficult marriages, traversed spiritually resistance relationships, reached out to people far away from Jesus, or prayed for the health of the church.

Jesus is always at workMore recently, the work of Vantage Point Three (VP3)  begins with the assumption that God is up to something good in us, in our community, and in our world, something that is worthy of our whole life response.

What a difference this makes in our daily life and ministry to others! I can walk into any situation, any school, any family, any town or farm, any city or boardroom and Jesus is already present, already at work. This assumption sets my heart right and my eyes keen, watchful for how he is already working, attentive for how he is already bringing his kingdom on earth at it is in heaven so that I can get in on what he’s already up to.

Wherever we go, rather than first asking, “What should we do here?” we ask, “What is Jesus doing here? And how can we join him in that?”  That fundamental shift brings transformative change.

On the weekend, I enjoyed a walk with a friend and fellow Covenant pastor. He reflected on the difference this principle makes when working with people who are disconnected from Jesus, even overtly resistant to church or faith. When we carry the assumption that Jesus is at work in a person’s life, we can trust the Holy Spirit is present and our work and witness can and will have effect. Rather than feeling the pressure to create or manipulate anything, we can serve and speak and share with trusting hearts, partnering with Jesus in his ongoing work.

I’m so thankful to Jesus for his work all around us. I’m relieved that Jesus is leading us, empowered by the fact that wherever we go, he is already present. When we show up, it’s Jesus who shows us around. And then we simply follow his lead.

Think of a difficult situation in your life: When you assume Jesus is already at work, what difference could that make?
How does this principle change your evangelism?

Are you a little behind? I’m posting 20 lessons from my first 20 years of ministry, throughout the month of May. Catch up on previous posts: 

20/20: Lesson #5: The Local Church is God’s Plan

How is God going to pull everything together? What is God’s plan to make his grace and forgiveness known and experienced in the world? Through his people, the church.

The local church is God’s plan for making his reconciliation real in the world. And that’s why I’m passionate about growing a healthy, local church. That’s lesson #5 of my 20 lessons from 20 years of ministry.

What do we have so far? Here’s the first four lessons:

Basic truth: Jesus is committed to reconciling this world back to himself, making everything right again. He loves his creation that much.

And how is he implementing his plan for reconciliation? By one means, and one means only: through his body here on earth, his people, the local church.

cathedral-blueprint-300x274Here’s the deal: There isn’t some other plan afoot for the reconciliation of this world. God isn’t working out some alternative idea to make his good news about Jesus known–like it or lump it, his people are it. In the words of Paul, God has committed to us, his people, his message of reconciliation, as though he were making his appeal through us.

This is both incredibly encouraging and deeply daunting. We’ve been empowered as God’s people to be his kingdom agents, so that his kingdom might come and his will might be done, here on earth at it is in heaven. We do that through service, through prayer, through witness and through worship. We do this by letting Jesus lead in our lives and love his world through us. We do this in the most practical, neighbourly sort of ways, living as Jesus’ hands and feet.

Political programs, educational initiatives, policy changes and community efforts can all be very good. But real and lasting change, the kind of transformation Jesus is aiming at, will not happen outside of full reconciliation with God. And that won’t happen unless people come to know Jesus, join his family, and follow him in his mission.

There are Christians who feel the church is peripheral or optional, a bygone institution of dubious value. They say they can take or leave it. Which is kind of like telling God you’re happy to get his inheritance money, as long as you don’t have to be part of the family or bear any family responsibility. But following Jesus means, by definition, being part of his family–it’s just a question of whether or not we’ll live in relationship with the family or attempt to follow from a distance, estranged from God’s people and the mission God has given us.
Over my 20 years of ministry, the local church has become more central than ever to my theology and practice of ministry. In the words of Bill Hybels, there’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working well. And though she isn’t perfect, I’m more convinced than ever that the local church is God’s basic strategy for making Jesus’ love and grace real in the world his loves.

This truth motivates me and clarifies my work. It inspires my heart and fuels my soul. And it’s why I give my life to see the local church flourish.

What else is going on that is bringing God’s freedom, grace and forgiveness into his broken yet loved world? Nothing. The local church is God’s plan A-Z for making his love real in the world he loves.

The local church is God's plan

20/20: Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly)

Have you ever felt like the change that was needed in your life was awfully slow in coming?

Me, too. But take heart: God is active and change is happening. That’s something I hold on to when I’m discouraged about the pace of change in my own life, or in the lives of others.

Today, I’m posting another lesson from my 20 years of full-time vocational ministry. (May 1 marked 20 years.) So far, we’ve got:

Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry

And now today, Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly).

I take great comfort in this fact. There are days when I have to choose to believe it, even when it seems like a leap of faith.

As I have looked back on my 20 years, I’m stunned by how much change I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others. But in the moment, on that Tuesday afternoon or that Sunday night, it can feel like nothing’s happening.  SlowLife change can seem so painfully slow.  Seeing people take steps backward in their relationships, give into hurts, lose yet again another battle with anger or addiction, lash out in selfish pettiness–it can be so discouraging. Looking in the spiritual mirror can be such a slap in the face. Why am I still struggling with that? 

And yet, what I can say is this: people really do change. When given the grace and the time, when loved and challenged in community, when grace really is the way we ministerwhen we trust the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life and story, we see real and lasting change happen over time.

Now, of course, not in every case. There are those who truly resist Jesus’ leadership in their lives. I get that. But on the whole, I’ve been more encouraged than discouraged, and it reminds me to take heart when I’m feeling like nothing’s happening, whether in my own life or in the lives of the people I’m loving. I often judge what’s happening based on a snapshot of a particular moment; God sees the panoramic, decades-long movie playing out, and he’s got a much bigger story in mind than you and I can imagine.

And this helps me. It gives me bigger perspective, more hope as continue to love and pray and serve others, as I continue to ask Jesus to lead in my life–God is at work and though it may seem slow, change is happening.
When you look back, what are some of the surprising changes you’ve seen in your own life?

 


Coming up next: Lesson #5: The Local Church is God’s Plan.

20/20: Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry

“Grace wins every time.” Matthew West’s song has been running through my head lately (I’ve posted the video below).  It captures something central to my faith and ministry: I believe it’s only as we operate with a “grace wins every time” attitude that people can begin to experience all that Jesus has for them.

Today I’m posting my third of 20 lessons learned from my 20 years in vocational ministry.

So far, this is what we’ve got:

As you can imagine, I’ve now experienced more than a few difficult situations. As I’ve agonized over dangerous decisions and ached over lost opportunities, I’ve struggled with the urge to give up on people and stop believing in new creation potential. We probably all have.

But the fact is, grace really does win. And I’ve seen how, time and time again, I need to choose to live grace, holding out Jesus’ love and invitation even when it isn’t accepted.

Which leads me to today’s lesson: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry. What does that mean? It means that grace is the very philosophy I need to live, defining how I need to think, pray and work with people. Grace is the lens I need to look through, the method I need to employ, the choice I need to make. And whenever I’ve forgotten this, I’ve gotten lost.

One of my foundational ministry verses is “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you” (Romans 15:7). Acceptance in Christ is the very bedrock of our life together, defining how we interact. Because of what Jesus did, grace must be the filter, the atmosphere, the very modus operandi of our life and ministry.

It is by grace we have been saved, and it is by grace that we must live out this salvation. Grace must be the way I approach people, the way I connect with outsiders, the way I read Scripture, the way I think of others, the way I pray, the way I follow Jesus.

In my teenage years, a loyal friend pushed back hard against my creeping self-righteousness, shaking me awake to how cold and harsh I was becoming. From that day forward, I’ve prayed for Jesus to fill me with his grace for others. It’s been a work on progress (as I am a work in progress!), but I can see how grace makes all the difference.

GraceIn the trench of ministry, when pressure is on and lives are at stake, when poor decisions are being made and people are being hurt, it’s easy to move into fight mode. To forget the bigger picture. To get judgmental or harsh, to begin pushing or prodding or manipulating. To get impatient and frustrated. I feel all those temptations, at times giving in to discouragement.

But that is not the way of Jesus, nor it is helpful in practice. Operating by the grace of God is the only way we can be the people of God for each other and for the world. Grace wins every time.

Why is it easy for us to forget to offer the grace we’ve been shown?
Practically speaking, how can we accept one another as Christ accepted us?

Today’s lesson leads naturally into the next. Coming up: Lesson #4: People Do Change (Though Often Slowly).  


And for your listening pleasure, here is Grace Wins. Turn it up!

20/20: 20 Lessons From 20 Years–Lesson #2: Ministry Happens Best in Teams

Why we so often go it alone, I’ll never know. Because the most effective, life-giving ministry I’ve ever experienced has been with dynamic, unified teams. We’re simply better together, every time.

As of May 1, I’ve been in full-time vocational ministry for 20 years. It’s time to reflect, and so I’m posting 20 lessons I’ve learned in these 20 years, throughout the month of May. 

So far, here’s what we’ve got: Lesson #1: Good Mentors Matter. 

Lesson #2 sounds obvious: Ministry Happens Best In Teams. No, duh–bit of a no-brainer, really. Given that the Holy Spirit has gifted the body of Christ with a diversity of gifts, scattered liberally throughout, we cannot be the church without each other.

And yet I’ve found that on a daily level, we often go solo. As followers of Jesus, we’ll struggle and serve alone, when we could be walking and working with others. As a pastor, I spend most of my time reading, studying and preparing messages alone, as well serving in other areas of ministry. Personally, I’ve found that going it alone is often a symptom of my busyness, because I haven’t prepared enough in advance to include other people in what I’m doing.

pulling togetherBut when I consider the most fruitful experiences I’ve had in ministry, when I think about where the magic really happens, it’s when a team of people, gifted and called and committed, work together to see needs met and lives changed. Teams who pull off successful Alpha programs and witness people coming alive in Jesus. Dynamic duos who pray together for God’s work among us. Music teams who spend the time needed to grow musically, relationally and spiritually so that they can lead the church in heartfelt worship.  Teaching teams who study and share and prepare with each other, for the sake of the larger body of Christ. The Holy Spirit does something special when a team of people let him use them to build his church together.

All in all, teams can make the difference between sustained, fruitful ministry and inevitable burn out. They also enable more significant ministry to happen, as more people are using their gifts in God’s work. We were not meant to operate solo, and we do so to our detriment and the dysfunction of the body of Christ. We are simply better together, every time.

What’s the best team you’ve ever been part of?
Why are we often tempted to do ministry alone?

Up next:  Lesson #3: Grace is the Operational Mode of Ministry