What does it mean for Jesus to be Lord of your team? In our last blog post, we discussed the call for Jesus to be Lord of our lives and its implications. In this, the second of three posts on the personal and social ramifications of a Jesus-centered life, we will look at what impact the lordship of Jesus should have on our teams.
Our life of faith and discipleship is about more than just a personal and private faith. Jesus is not satisfied with being Lord of our individual lives. He also wants to be Lord of us. As we seek to give Jesus increasing lordship of our lives, we discover this cannot be fully realized until Jesus is Lord of how we live life with one another.
To be clear, not all teams built in the name of the Christian faith and the Gospel are built on the confession of Jesus as Lord. In fact, many are built around the lordship of the human leader. In these groups, the human leaders word and vision are unquestioned, blindly implemented and treated as gospel. Their vision and leadership direction do not have to be bad, but having a good and biblically-informed direction are not the same as a Jesus-led team. The difference is not what the team does, but rather who the leader of the team is and how the team works together. Having a Jesus-led team also shifts the goal and how the team measures success. Instead of working to build a ministry or for the fame/reputation of a leader, a Jesus-led team works together to build the Kingdom of God and for the glory of God. The difference is in the motivation, operation, and desired outcomes.
Perhaps you can think of an example or time in your life when you witnessed a team that worked for the sake of the Kingdom and to love King Jesus well. What do you remember being different about that team from others, even from other ‘ministry’ teams?
In the ways of the world, the leader is the owner of vision/knowledge/power. They delegate, manage, and dictate. But this is not so when Jesus is the Lord of our team. When Jesus is Lord of our team we see and treat each other different. Because we believe Jesus lives in each person, we think about our teams differently. People are not just a commodity towards the end of accomplishing a vision, they are specifically part of building it. This changes our posture from dictating to listening. We listen for Jesus to provide the knowledge, wisdom, and insight the team needs to accomplish its mission. Granted, management and delegation still have a place, but the posture is not one of power. When Jesus is Lord, he is the holder of the power and all others take on the posture of servants. They serve Jesus and they serve one another.
Put into practice, this looks like collaborative or shared leadership where the team is submitted to the Jesus in one another. We can do this whether we have a flat structure or a very hierarchical one because it is primarily about our heart attitude. We determine together in our hearts that Jesus is the Lord of our team and we will all be submitted to what he says. Even if you are alone in your conviction of this, you can submit your role as a team member to the lordship of Jesus.
At this point it is important to make the distinction that not everything a Jesus-follower says is the voice of Jesus. This is true for both the leader and the team members alike. The danger of a dogmatic leader is that the people around them treat their words as if they are holy and unblemished. This is a sign that the human is Lord and Jesus is not. No human is perfect and no word is without a mixture of spirit and flesh. Discernment is key and that requires others.
As a community and as a team, you are either spurring each other onto holiness and good works, or you are covering up for one another and enabling sin to have its way.
A Jesus-led team is a small community of people who fear the Lord and love us enough to tell us the truth. We are not good at discerning the motives of our own heart or identifying the mixture of flesh and spirit in our daily lives. God made us to need each other to experience the fullness of God. We need one another to grow in spiritual discernment, relational skills, and as a mature five-fold expression of the fullness of Jesus. Training resources for teams are available in each of these areas.
There is so much scripture that substantiates the call for shared leadership that we cannot do it justice here. But from the operation of the Trinity to Ephesians 4, it is clear that there are no solo leaders in the Kingdom of God. As we give Jesus lordship of our teams, he draws us towards one another. This drawing is meant to sharpen and refine not only us as disciples, but also our vision, message, and operations.
This shaping and sharpening of iron-on-iron is not suited for merely transactional relationships. If we are working with one another in a transactional give-and-get way, sharpening will feel harsh or even abusive. A deeper type of relationship is required for shared leadership to be effective. Team members need to be committed to each other in a way that resembles a healthy family of brothers and sisters in the form of covenantal relationships.
Covenantal teams are a place of love, accountability, and transparency. Just like in a healthy family, covenantal teams have clear expectations to which everyone is held accountable. Roles and tasks may differ, but how each person is called to behave as a team member is the same. Each person gets to ask for things they need and be challenged to give to others. Additionally, each person gets a chance to ask “why” and receive a good answer - Why are we doing the task this way? Why did you say that? Why did you not fulfill your responsibility?
In covenantal relationships, each person is called to love well and be loved well.
Covenantal relationships, as opposed to transactional ones, are established for the good times and the bad. We choose to be bonded to one another no matter what mixture of spirit and flesh is exposed. We choose to stand in the gap for each other when the enemy attacks or our flesh is manifesting. We choose to contend for the lordship of Jesus no matter how good an idea may sound. We pray, repent to one another, and forgive. We see each other current, not in the past, because we are always embracing the way Jesus is re-creating us. We choose covenantal relationships because we all serve something greater than our group’s specific mission and vision. We serve Jesus as our Lord and we dedicate our lives to his Kingdom.
As a team, we have a choice: we can build our own kingdom, or we can be part of Jesus’ Kingdom. When Jesus is Lord of our team, we have the amazing opportunity to join Jesus in what he is already doing. We know it is not about us; it is about Jesus. We are committed to one another to see the Kingdom come. We get to discover and explore our role in that. We are not just about building the thing we dream up, or even the thing we can do well. Instead, we work together and hold each other accountable to the Kingdom call.
When Jesus is the Lord of us, we begin to reflect him to the world. We can be an example of kindness, shared mission and vision, and the fullness of life in any work space. Many teams are full of competition, selfish ambitions, strife, and passive-aggressive behavior. This is the way of the world, where people grab at each other’s heels and pull each other down as we play king-of-the-mountain. Others will notice a team that does not play games because Jesus is Lord.
Nothing demonstrates the Kingdom of God more than a life-giving team environment. They are marked by candidness and joy.
Life-giving teams discuss ideas vigorously, laugh heartily, and contend for one another. They champion the work of Jesus by speaking into each other's lives with grace and light. They pray for each other, celebrate each other, and go the extra mile for each other.
Moving ours team towards a greater confession of Jesus as Lord is a migration process. As we each seek to give Jesus Lordship of our individual lives in greater measure, Jesus will draw us towards one another, but we also have to continually reorient ourselves to the goal of Jesus as Lord of our team. We have to openly reflect on how we are doing and what tweaks would make us better. We have to pray and lean into our life of discipleship, knowing we probably will misunderstand and hurt each other.
Being in covenant with one another, seeking the Kingdom, and dealing with all the ‘stuff’ that comes out in that environment is the life of a disciple. For me, nothing, no written text and no mentor has ever been as formational as being part of a team that is seeking Jesus as Lord. Even when the mission of the team has not been accomplished, the journey we walked with one another has been worth all the treasures in heaven. It has made the scriptures come alive to me, both the exhortations and the corrections. I have experienced repentance, forgiveness, submission, leadership, longsuffering, celebration, phileo love and the fullness of life in Christ in these teams. When Jesus is the Lord of us the gates of hell cannot prevail.