Tips From Jesus For Effective Ministry Teams

Jesus did not come to make our ministry teams more effective. He came to seek and save the lost. Yet the church is his body, and it is designed by him such that we all must depend on one another. Thus we must work in teams. And because He is Lord of it all, all our teams should take on a Christ-shaped character. Here are seven ways that the ethos of our Lord must shape the ethos of our teams:

1. Where nobody cares who gets the credit.
Matthew 20:20-28 vividly describes the need for this ethos. The mother of the sons of thunder comes to Jesus and asks for her sons to have the most prestigious spots on Jesus’ throne in his kingdom. Jesus does not immediately negate that desire – it is not wrong to desire glory (Romans 2:7). But Jesus does question whether James and John actually realize what’s required to pursue that glory (Matt. 20:22). After all, before the crown comes a cross.

But the team starts to crack in v. 24: the others are indignant, not at self-promotion itself, but undoubtedly because they want self-promotion too. This is the normal way of men, but not so with Jesus’ people (25). Jesus’ people work best when no one cares who gets the credit. And the only way for that to happen is if the team is centered on ONE person getting ALL the credit – Christ himself.

2. Serve the success of others.
And out of the goal of making much of Christ, the effective ministry team is too busy for self-promotion, because each team member is too busy making sure that the other guy will be successful. This comes at the end of Matthew 20. Jesus’ kingdom inverts all our categories: those who are greatest are those who serve others (Matt. 20:26). It should be a race down to the bottom – not doing lip-service to this serving thing, but becomes slaves (27) to each other. Why? Because we are just following in the footsteps of our Lord (28).

True leadership in the kingdom is devoted – devoted – to making much of Christ, and making much of the success of the other guy. This requires self-forgetfulness. And that self-forgetfulness is only found by remembering all that we have – especially our justification – in Christ. Only then are we free to serve for Him and others, and not to prove ourselves (more on this below).

3. Care much for the spiritual trajectory of the others.
The nuclear reactor for the power of our ministry – whatever that ministry is – is our joy in the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10). But sin and distance from God saps that joy. This is why the heart of David’s prayer, after his sin with Bathsheba, was this:
Psalm 51:12 (ESV): 12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

This ethos is stated most plainly in Galatians 6:1-2. Verse 1 speaks of restoring others from sin with a spirit of gentleness. Paul here uses a very similar word to the one Jesus used at the end of Matthew 11, when he described himself as “gentle.” Sin is itself a burden, and it creates many others burdens – sin is the great complicator of life. Sin itself and its attending guilt – we were never meant to carry these burdens; they’re too heavy for us. Thus we should gently help one another with these burdens, in mercy and grace. Ministry teams must never get so busy that they cannot slow down to notice the burdens of the other teams members, and help them along.

4. Pull your own weight.
But that is not the end of the paragraph in Galatians 6. Paul goes on to say:

Galatians 6:3–5 (ESV): 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 
Verse 5 begs the question: so which is it? Are our burdens too heavy, or not? The answer lies in the difference in the nouns. “Burdens” are the cause of sin. But the “load” in verse 5 is different. It’s the work and responsibilities that we are all called to. These we should learn to bear “loads” ourselves and follow through on them diligently. We should not expect everyone else to come to our aid to do what is our responsibility. We should handle it, or relinquish the responsibility to someone else.

This is because the church is both a hospital for sinners and a barracks for God’s little platoons of grace. In other words, this is war, and in war, soldiers die alone, but we fight together. So on the one hand, no man gets left behind in his sin. Yet on the other hand, the platoon fights together best when each soldier pulls his own weight for his assigned task.

So don’t stay in a ministry just because you think no one else will do it. It’s better to have a position go vacant, than to have someone there that, for any number of valid, good reasons, cannot fulfill the role. Better to have a role go vacant than to have someone languish spiritually in that spot. But if that’s not you, Paul says, pull your own weight.

5. Enjoy yourselves.
The tactics that you choose as a group should be enjoyable to you. There is a faulty logic out there that says that if your ministry tactic is really holy, then it should be laborious drudgery. But I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. What I do see is that whenever the crowds of people watched Jesus work, they utterly loved it. They truly enjoyed his tactics. 

That doesn’t mean there’s no hard work. Quite the opposite. But part of the enjoyment of life is experiencing the sweetness that comes on the other side of labor and toil. Joy is at the center of all we do, and it is our goal. After all, God invented and instituted work before the Fall. Work is not the result of sin; futility in work is the result of sin. But God always designed joy in work to come through labor. Thus Paul could summarize his whole ministry this way (emphasis mine): 

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
6. Being for others, to develop them.
I take this from one “micro” moment in the life of Jesus, and one “macro” view. The micro moment is when Jesus restores Peter, after Peter’s denial of Jesus. Throughout the episode, Jesus demonstrates faith in Peter – actually, faith in the Father’s power working in Peter. Thus even though he knows Peter will fail him, he prays for him (Luke 22:32), and relates to the Peter with a confidence that God will restore him: “. . . And when you have turned . . .”

Of course, not everyone is suited to do every task. God gifts us all differently. The point is that to be like Jesus means to be for people. Even if they cannot serve now, at this moment, our default stance should be to ask how we can get this person “qualified” to serve in this or another role? Though at one point Paul did not want John Mark to accompany him in ministry due to Mark’s apparent flakiness (Acts 15:38-39), he later found him to be singularly useful (2 Tim. 4:11).

Thus one of the shining marks of leadership in the kingdom is the quality and quantity of new leadership that that leader produces. This is borne out in the leadership of our Lord. Around the world, through the centuries, no one – absolutely no one – has produced more “leaders” in more fields and endeavors, let alone the church, than Jesus. The mark of a true leader is the quality and quantity of other leaders that grow from his leadership.

All of this to say this: ministry teams are greenhouses for this ministry multiplication to happen. Good team leaders are constantly working themselves out of a job, because they always have more than one more person in the wings, developing and maturing to take their place.

7. Prove the goodness of Christ, not yourself.
Church ministry is not the place to prove yourself. It is not the place the prove that you really are what nobody believes you are back at the office. It is not the place to prove that you really can be a man, or a leader, or a great musician. The goal of every ministry is to somehow prove to the world more of the infinite worth of Christ. Even the person pushing a broom does it to somehow demonstrate the beauties of Christ. 

If you want to serve in a ministry in order to prove yourself, then that will become the bowling ball in the bed of that ministry, and everything else will roll towards it. And it will not be pretty. It will be chaotic and unpredictable. 

But a leader and a team that is devoted to proving the worth of Christ will listen to one another, and to the Word, and will work together in a way that no one cares who gets the credit. They will serve each other, because they know in doing so, they’re serving the name of Christ. They serve both the ministry and the souls of everyone. But they will carry their own load for Christ. They will enjoy themselves, as they labor in an atmosphere that’s for everyone. And in that ethos, the goodness of Christ will rise to the top.

What does this bring up for you, in your ministry? Looking for a place to serve? Let’s talk!

Cordially in Christ,