Patrick Lencioni is a leadership guru who knows and understands organizational leadership. He also understands the nature of the talent war that every organization is facing, due to the need to secure great employees and build a cohesive team. In his book The Ideal Team Member, Lencioni describes three virtues that are most valuable to cultivate in order to thrive in the work world. He says that finding people who are humble, hungry and smart is the secret to building great people who work on a great team.
I think I have read everything Lencioni has ever written, but this one articulate book caught my attention. Having led a number of church teams, I began to reflect on Lencioni’s three virtues in light of the spiritual parallels. After doodling on my list for a few days and testing the list against my experience leading teams, the spiritual parallels became very evident. I identified four virtues of the ideal team player on the church ministry team. If your staff can demonstrate these characteristics in an ever-increasing way, you can build great team members who work together on a great team.
The ideal church staff member should be: 1. a Servant Leader, 2. Spiritually Ambitious, 3. Self-Aware, and 4. Spiritually Mature. Twenty-five years into ministry, with many successes and failures, I can tell you that great staff members, great teams, and great spiritual accomplishments are dependent upon the existence of these four qualities in the members of the team you lead. Dive in a little deeper with me.
1. SERVANT LEADER
Jesus taught that leaders in His kingdom were not to be like leaders in the Roman system of leadership. They did not and would not lord their leadership over others. Instead, they would be servants of others. Struggling with the nature of Christian leadership is nothing new. Even James and John needed a lesson in this kind of servant leadership. Most teams today still wrestle with this common problem.
The launching pad for all levels of Christian leadership is to remember that the leader is a servant. Whether you are just leading yourself, or you are leading other people, teams, a division or even the overall ministry, you must remember that you are never more than a servant. Once a leader in the spiritual world no longer sees themselves as a servant, the paradigm has completely shifted. Leadership will no longer be about influence, love and the benefit of others. It will become about control, ambition and desire.
One of the most difficult challenges that spiritual leaders face is that the higher they go up the ladder of leadership, the more they must remember that they are nothing more than a servant. The DNA of a servant must be so deeply embedded in each one of us that no matter how high one may ascend, we never forget we are nothing more than a servant of others.
2. SPIRITUAL AMBITION
The next trait may first appear to be a direct contradiction to the first principle, but it is not. To understand the difference, you must first understand the distinction between personal ambition and spiritual ambition. Personal ambition is always prohibited in the Bible. Nowhere does God encourage or Jesus model personal ambition. In contrast, Kingdom ambition is always encouraged. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these other things will be added unto you.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.”
The spiritually ambitious person will have the same ambitions that Jesus had while He was leading His disciples. Jesus wanted to see people follow after Him. He kept inviting people to come follow Him. And He wanted these followers to hunger and thirst for His Word. He taught them and instructed them. He modeled for them the things He wanted them to know and the way He wanted them to live. Jesus was also ambitious for the success of His whole church. Jesus said His church would be founded upon the common profession of faith in Him as the Son of God, and He promised to build it come hell or high water. Jesus was ambitious for His people to look like, act like, talk like, and live like Him, because He was grace and truth personified, revealing what it looks like to love God and love others. In contrast to selfish ambition, the heart of Jesus’ ambition was His desire to bring glory to God and flourishing to people.
In the same way, as church staff, pastors, and lay leaders, we should be ambitious for Jesus to be reproduced in the lives of others, and we should be ambitious to please Christ. As Paul said in Colossians 1.28-29, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Paul’s ambition was to labor and strive in order to present people to Jesus who looked like Jesus.
Perhaps the best outcome of being self-aware is that you can recognize the positive or negative effect you are having upon others. When working on a high capacity team that is striving for big achievements, it is very important to know how your attitude, behaviors and activity impacts others. Annoying habits and abrasive personality traits always detract from the team. But when a team member is aware of these potentially destructive patterns and is willing to let God redirect them for the benefit of other team members, the overall outcome of the team’s work can be greatly improved.
The Bible consistently contrasts the ways of a person controlled by God to the ways of a person who is controlled by the flesh and the world. The spiritually self-aware person knows they are living every moment in the presence of God, while the worldly person only sees themselves as living in the presence of other people. The spiritually self-aware person lives by wisdom that comes from above, not the wisdom of pop culture and the world. The spiritually self-aware person lives in humility, while the flesh and the world cry out for us to live by pride. The fruits of the Spirit direct us to embrace the things God values, while the fruits of the flesh are in direct contrast, as Paul describes in Galatians 5. Ultimately, the spiritually self-aware person lives to please God and not themselves or others.
4. SPIRITUALLY MATURE
Ultimately, there is a difference between the ideal team member out in the world and the ideal team member in the church. In a phrase, it can be boiled down to spiritual maturity. Through His giving of the Great Commission, Jesus taught that His followers were not to be just converts, but that they were to learn everything He taught them, and that they were to not just know it but to live it. This life orientation that is directed toward God ultimately affects the way we live, work, believe, think and even die.
Many have said that a person will never lead someone beyond where they are personally. I believe that to be true spiritually as well. You can never lead others beyond where you are in your personal walk with God. Your spiritual maturity will become the ceiling or lid for everything else you seek to do in your life and ministry.
To be spiritually mature, there are seven things you must always have fixed in your mind: (1) You must always have a faith orientation towards God and your following after Jesus Christ. (2) You must never forget that you are a sinner in need of daily grace and forgiveness. (3) You must seek truth from God’s Word and not rely upon the wisdom of the world or your own personal edge or insight. (4) You must become and remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as God guides you through life. (5) You must steward the life and gifts God has given you and use them for His pleasure and gory. (6) You must live your life to be on mission for God. (7) You must ultimately seek to please God and live to glorify Him.
So there you have it – four virtues of the ideal church staff member:
- Be a servant leader
- Be spiritually ambitious
- Be self-aware, and
- Be spiritually mature