Teams in Mission: Are They Worth It? (Part Two)

“A real team has a goal that compels its members to work through their differences and misunderstandings. It compels the team to capitalize on their differences and create solutions that no one could design alone. That’s the kind of goal that transforms a group of like-minded people into a team.

Missionary groups who are mistakenly called teams suffer in two ways: (1) they fail to catch the synergy that is inherent in real teamwork, and (2) they waste a lot of energy in trying to act like a team. Missionaries and mission organizations ignore this to their peril.

So if you want to be an effective team, first make sure you really are a team. Then you can move onto the next step:” .….. continue reading “Part Two” of David’s EMQ article, posted by Ed Stetzer at The Exchange, Christianity Today.

But we must!

David had felt “but we must!” have conflict resolution with Z___, and was not given that opportunity. God worked in wonderful ways, however, and we are reminded of how good He is.

Recently we taught class sessions on Cross-cultural Communication and Biculturalism, and I had the opportunity to remember and appreciate the bigger story.

The teammate who stayed, the young Japanese pastor, grew and kept growing. More than ten years later, he is still pastor and the church continues as a creative witness in its community.

Communication, understanding and trust were strengthened between the mother church elders/pastor and the younger pastor over the years we worked together, and David played a key role in that. All of this took place in Japanese, with its nuances of respect, honor, and varying degrees of indirectness. Ironically, the gaikokujin (literally “outside country person”) who was operating outside of his native culture and language, was used by God to aid their communication with each other.

The book hadn’t been written yet, but David was following principles described by Duane Elmer in Cross-cultural Servanthood (2006). Openness, acceptance, trust, learning, and understanding are what “must be” modeled and pursued in ministry teams, if we are to thrive and succeed. I am honored to have seen that in action, especially in a multi-cultural setting with its extra challenges.

Lead with your ears

Post this at all intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. — James 1:19 (The Message)

I used to believe leaders were the ones with strong voices, firm convictions and inspiring visions. They were the charismatic ones who brought a crowd to its feet and galvanized a group into action. They awakened aspirations, quieted doubts, and instilled confidence and commitment.

I’ve come to realize there is another side to leadership.  It’s something that is glossed over in most of what people say, read & think about leading. It’s something that we desperately need in our leaders. It’s something that we desperately need in our churches, our teams, and our ministries.

We need to listen well.  We need to be leaders who receive others into our presence.  We need to put ourselves into a posture of openness to what others think, say & do.  We need to lead with our ears.

When leading across cultures, a listening and learning posture is indispensable.  With people of your own culture, you can make assumptions about where people are coming from and sometimes get away with it.  That doesn’t work in multicultural contexts! Effective cross-cultural leaders diligently and persistently work to understand the perspectives, values, doubts and aspirations of those around them.