Thursday, October 17, 2013

Teams and Truth-in-Tension.

Most leaders know and love the promise in Isaiah 54 where God says, ‘Enlarge the place of your dwelling, for you will spread out to the right and the left.’ It speaks of expansion, growth, and multiplication. However, many ignore the little precursor to the promise, in which God counsels, “Lengthen your chords, strengthen your stakes. ” Using the metaphor of a tent, God is saying that for enlargement  to take place in a sustainable way, we will need longer tent chords and  stronger stakes.
In other words,  greater growth will require greater tension.

Andy Stanley, alludes to this in his book Deep and Wide.
“Most situations in church are not problems to solve. They are tensions to manage.”
When leaders and teams have an aversion to tension, they tend towards simplistic solutions to any situation that challenges the status quo. They try and resolve that which is not meant to be resolved. This invariably means that they have a smaller tent or sphere of influence. The idea of healthy tension can apply to finance, vision, relationships and administration. Growth places a healthy tension upon all of these. But I want to look specifically at managing  truth in tension as a precursor to expansion.

As I said, not all truth is truth in tension.
There should be some non-negotiable truths which are like stakes in the ground.
But most truth is truth in tension.  It is managing the tension between too seemingly opposing truths.
As we manage this tension, we create a safe and sane space in which people can live with freedom and conviction. This is a key to expansion and mission. I have already blogged about this as it pertains to a community, but what about a leadership team specifically?

Here 5 truths in tension which we are trying to manage well as a leadership team in our community and some questions you could be asking in your team.

1. Pleasure and Pain.
We see this in Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. He is full of gratitude for what God has done in the church,(1:3)  but he never ceases praying for them. (1:9) He struggles for them (2:1) and rejoices in them (2:5) This is a great description of the highs and lows of leadership. Our season brings with it the pleasure of a new community gaining traction, the fresh response of volunteers, some wonderful God encounters, seekers in our relational nets, the possibility of new leaders filling new gaps, the provision of finance, and the arrival of new visitors. The pain we feel, may include fatigue from an extra meeting load, pastoral stress over unhappy people, the increased complexity of teams within a team, the frustration with volunteers, the sense of the unknown in terms of how your new ministry role, the sacrifice of sending good people out and now having to fill the gaps left, the sense of being left ‘back at the ranch’ instead of being on a new journey. You don’t resolve pain in ministry. It just is. But we can learn healthy ways to deal with it. What’s you greatest pleasure and what’s your greatest pain in ministry right now?

2. Grace and Truth
Jesus came full of grace and truth. It wasn’t a little bit of both. It was full doses of both. In fact, grace makes no sense unless we have heard the truth that we have sinned and are in need of a Savior. We want to be kind and generous in the way we think and speak about others whether they agree or disagree with us, while also clearly communicating what we believe and why we believe it. Building around truth without grace leads to condemnation, and means we do not take people with us towards our vision. Building around grace without truth leads to license and laziness and means people may be with us, but are not going anywhere. Are you more of a grace giver or more of a truth teller? How can you grow? Who is the one person/couple that you most need to lead in grace and truth?

3.Continuity and Change
 We want to be faithful stewards of what God has done in the past in our community, guarding the good deposit left by our predecessor, while leaning courageously  into the new things that we see God is doing. Continuity acknowledges that God was at work before we were, and gives people a sense of His faithfulness. If we are handing off a ministry, it means that we finish the task entrusted to us through good mentoring and delegation. Colossians 4:17 “Say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry you have received in the Lord.” But if we are never courageous enough to make changes we become maintainers instead of ‘faithful stewards who give God a return.’ In what area are you needing to ensure continuity and in what area are you needing to bring change?

4. Structured and Organic
The Bible describes God as a Creator and a Designer. The Church is described as a field and a household. It is called to be rooted in love and grounded on Christ. So we manage the tension of being organic and structured. With growth comes complexity which requires more structure.
What is the area of structure to which I am giving myself?
How do we structure for organic life? Where does structure kill life?

5. Generalist and Specialist.
Tim Keller says that as a church grows, its staff moves from generalists to specialists. We have moved from ‘rugby’ to ‘football’ in many ways. This is necessary. But we cannot lose the New testament call to servanthood which means we will ‘fill the gap’ where there is a need. Epaphras was a ‘brother, worker, soldier, messenger, intercessor. What are the primary gaps that need filling in our season?

6. Unity and Diversity – we want to maintain the unity of the Spirit while we attain to the unity of the faith. While there are some truths which are foundational to the life of our community, there are others that are not unity breakers. Unity does not equal conformity. It simply requires that we remember that as embers of Christ , we belong to one another, and that we  can do more together than we can apart!

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