Team Building Jesus’ Way
One of the primary tasks of any leader is to put together a team made up of “A” players. This is true in the business world, the sports arena, and most certainly true in the local church. When Jesus began his short three-and-a-half year public ministry, one of the first things he did was to assemble a team that would continue his work long after he had ascended back to heaven. There are many team building principles to be learned from Jesus. Here are a few.
1. Jesus varied his recruitment methods.
Jesus would recruit some team members with a very simple and direct approach, simply saying, “Follow me.” James and John would leave their commercial fishing business behind and do just that, or Matthew would leave his tax collecting franchise to heed the call. But he also allowed team members to recruit others—it was Andrew who went and found Peter, and it was Philip who brought Nathanael. Leaders of teams need to recognize that some of their current team members may be able to reach and recruit new team members that they may never reach. And maybe Jesus’ most direct recruitment method was when he knocked Paul to the ground with a blinding light on his way to Damascus!
2. Jesus built diversity into his team.
While some of the first recruits to Jesus’ team had the common background of commercial fishing, there were others on the team who had nothing in common. Matthew was a tax collector, on the far left of the Jewish political spectrum, and working in partnership with the hated Romans who were occupying Israel. Simon the Zealot was on the far right of the political spectrum, and had a hatred for anything to do with Rome! Can you imagine the tension at the first team meetings when those two came together? Yet Jesus was able to see past the surface differences to realize the value each would add to the cause. Discernment to see past a resume is one of the key components of effective team building. The best teams are made up of people with varied personalities, backgrounds, gifts and perspectives.
3. Jesus was not overly concerned with treating all team members equally.
As happens on most teams, a few of Jesus’ team members seemed to rise to the top, and Jesus spent extra time developing them. Peter, James, and John were Jesus' “inner three.” They went places and saw things that the other nine did not experience. After the resurrection Jesus is telling Peter about some difficult things that will come in his life, and Peter looks over at John and asks Jesus, “What about him?” Jesus said, “If I want John to live until I come back, what is that to you? You follow me.” John was called “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and was perhaps closer to Jesus than any other member of the team. Jesus invested more time with the high performers on his team.
4. Jesus knew when he needed an “outside hire.”
Jesus handpicked a very select group of high quality individuals to be his disciples, and they certainly were not slouches! But when he needed someone to be the primary carrier of the gospel to the wider Roman Empire, he went outside the original team and went after Paul. Paul very much counts himself an apostle along with the original twelve, but much later than the others as though he had been "born at the wrong time” (1 Corinthians 15: 8). Paul possessed unique qualifications that made him the right pick.
I like how Bill Hybels puts it in his book Axiom: “I’ve been in various church services when pastors have poked fun at the disciples Jesus chose, as if the Messiah shot low and went after misfits. I don’t think this is the case at all. True, he didn’t necessarily surround himself with aristocrats. But a careful profile analysis reveals that guys like James and Peter and Paul—a monster leader to whom Jesus made a special appearance on the Damascus Road—had quite high leadership capabilities. And when his action-oriented, high-capacity direct reports were thrown the kingdom ball, they scored in a way that would count for all of history. May the same be said of us. With every recruit we invite into the game, let’s be found guilty of gradually upgrading the leadership talent of the local church so that our contribution can count for all of history too.” (p. 39)
What other team building principles do you see in the leadership of Jesus?