Sermon. August 1, 2021
Rev. John Steitz
Today our attention will be on teams. Teams are essential to practicing all of our core values: Spiritually Alive, Neighborhood Engagement, Loving Church Family, and Making Disciples.
Teams are essential to the work of the Church. Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry forms a core team. Guided by the Holy Spirit a team of Apostles to build the early Church. Very soon, the work of the early Church overwhelms the Apostles. They form a team of Deacons to help them do the work of ministry.
Each of the small Jesus communities that develop throughout the Roman Empire as a result of mission trips of Paul and others are run by small teams. Some of these house churches were only the size of one small team. Some emerge as a local network of several house churches, each made of one or several teams.
Basically then, Jesus forms a core team. Later the Holy Spirit empowers a core team of Apostles – many from Jesus’ core team plus others like Paul – to equip more teams – Deacons, and local house church teams.
The early Church is a network of small teams that together do the work of ministry.
Why do some teams achieve extraordinary results and others do not? What do extraordinary teams have in common? How do we create strong teams more often?
Research points to several key indicators. We are only going to cover two of these key indicators today. Looking at these two indicators is enough to uplift the importance of teams to the early Church, and enough to set the vision for strong teams in our work together.
My hope in this sermon is to begin casting a vision for strong ministry teams. Strong teams that can empower us to practice our four core values.
Today we will focus on “A Compelling Purpose” and “Shared Leadership.” Through the newsletter, in offering a workshop on strong ministry teams, and by bringing these group dynamics into the work of our existing teams and committees will allow us to go deeper.
- A Compelling Purpose.
Strong teams have a compelling purpose that inspires and stretches members to make the group and its work a top priority.
In the early Church this compelling purpose was to share the Good News that through Jesus Christ, God’s reign of shalom – justice and peace – was already breaking forth into the world.
This compelling purpose of the early Church took tangible form through the Jesus communities that gathered together to practice Jesus’ Way of Love. These Jesus communities practiced loving God, loving neighbors and loving one another. They practiced a way of discipleship that modelled, embodied, and shared Jesus’ teaching in their life together.
People who were in the early Church as part of one of these small Jesus community house churches experienced a profound shift in how they saw the world and how they treated one another. Jesus’ Way of Love – loving God, loving neighbor, and loving one another – became central to their lives.
People outside of the early Church noticed the difference. These Christians were peculiar in their practices and stood out by the way they treated one another. Some thought the early Christians were fools.
Yet for many, seeing how those in the Jesus community practiced the compelling purpose of Jesus’ Way of Love was a major factor influencing them to join the early Church. They too wanted to be part of a community where people loved and cared for each other.
Practicing our four core values gives us a compelling purpose. Strong ministry teams help us make these core values a top priority in our lives. Organizing teams around our core values, or aspects of our core values, aligns us with the compelling purpose of the early Church: loving God, loving neighbor, loving one another and sharing Jesus’ teaching by modelling it.
Practicing our core values isn’t about teaching doctrine, it is about the compelling purpose of Jesus’ Way of Love. We model and embody Jesus’ love through our work together in strong ministry teams.
- Shared Leadership.
Shared leadership encourages members to take mutual responsibility for helping the group be successful.
Jesus rejects hierarchy telling the disciples that they need to be servants rather than lord over others like great rulers. The Apostles shared leadership and decision making.
The Apostles included Paul, who was not among the original disciples around Jesus, and who actually persecuted Christians before his conversion. He was accepted and acknowledged as one of the Apostles.
The Apostles shared leadership and ministry responsibilities with the Deacons. Distances between Jesus communities, and available communication technology – letters – meant that each local house church network needed to share leadership in order to survive and thrive.
Shared leadership in the early Church was gender neutral. Women clearly played key leadership roles. Without shared leadership that included women as equal leaders the early Church would not have grown as strongly and as quickly as it did, if at all.
Within the early Church, the limitations on women’s leadership, male dominance, and the creation of a church hierarchy all develop a few generations later.
The first generations of Christians practiced shared leadership in very equalitarian and liberating ways.
Shared leadership is essential to strong, extraordinary teams because this empowers the mutual responsibility that inspires people to bring their whole selves with their unique gifts and expertise to the team and its task.
Leadership in strong teams comes from the whole group. Members lead together: initiating, facilitating, structuring, suggesting, all to move the group toward its shared purpose. Responsibility for outcomes is also shared. The person taking the lead shifts according to the issue at hand and the gifts or expertise required.
Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ through our core values gives us our compelling purpose. Combining this compelling purpose with shared leadership will help us build and sustain strong ministry teams as we practice Jesus’ Way of Love in our time and context.