Week of January 29
Growth, Unity and Leadership
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. –Ephesians 4:6
Paul so eloquently describes the perfect organizational structure in this verse. Rooted in love, we work purposefully within a plan of aspirations, assignments and goals.
But what happens when a work group does not flow or conjoin effortlessly? What about growth pains or problematic members? What is God’s way to handle these challenges?
As a ministry leader, I have noticed that God trains me and grows me as He simultaneously grows our ministry. God has taught me that ministries are made of up imperfect people serving a perfect God, myself included. This means that we must trust God first and be careful and prayerful what we entrust to others all along the journey.
The Lord will often use our ministry volunteers to challenge me to come up higher in a new area of management or spiritual maturity. For this, I have learned to thank God, because He is building a repertoire of skills and development in me that will become second nature going forward, lessons that I can then share with other emerging leaders.
One area that has become a new normal for me is letting go quickly of that which is no longer fruitful. God gives us fresh manna every day. People, organizations and businesses should be growing and improving daily. This dynamic is life. And when the Lord opens my eyes to people and things that cannot grow in the direction we are growing, I know it is time to let go. This, in and of itself, is a type of pruning.
Many years ago, I attended a church service in which everyone was handed a tent peg as we walked into the sanctuary. We had no idea what it was for. But as the sermon began, we soon learned a lesson that sticks with me to this day: Keep your tent pegs light.
As the Israelites traveled through the desert, they had to pick up their tents and move forward. Stepping into the “unknown,” like Abraham, requires great faith, vision and courage. Not everyone will have what it takes to come along. Many will fall away in the journey. And many will not even have the courage to try. Those who fall away are being pruned away from the group by their own choice.
Then there are the ones who have preconceived ideas—vain imaginations—of what the group should do and the direction it should go. If the group doesn’t move in the direction they think it should, they turn and leave. These are the ones who are not committed to God’s will, but their own limited viewpoint or selfish ambition.
Then there are those who try to remain and are with you physically, but truly, they are not for you in their hearts. They are the Judases, the jealous ones, the controlling ones that try to hold others and the organization back. They have a root of envy, and they typically target members of the group, and, in some cases, sabotage projects. Left unattended, the result is destruction in the midst of construction.
James 3:16 says, “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” Although these people try to hide or suppress their sin, it always surfaces as the bitter root begins has been left to sprout up.
As a leader, it helps to have the gift of discerning of spirits. Great insight, led by the Holy Spirit, can reveal much. People’s hearts have a way of proving out the truth of where they are spiritually and emotionally, through spoken words, attitudes and actions. Many times, these people do not want to leave, because they are caught in a stronghold, and they don’t know where to go from where they are. Unlike people who can be reassigned to other positions, these people are the ones leaders must intentionally prune away entirely.
In any organization, it’s important to keep in mind that leaders are not just monitoring the quality and timeliness of our work. They are also surveying how well we get along with others, the unity factor. They take mental (and sometimes written) notes of our conduct and our performance.
God cares about relationships. And where there is unity, there is multiplicity both spiritually and tangibly. Fruitfulness—or output—matters to God (Gal. 5:22). And work is much easier and fluid when there is peace, a valuable commodity, especially in these accelerated times in which we live and work.
As you reflect upon your relationships and responsibilities, where and what were the pivotal moments that you made a decision to overcome obstacles God’s way? Was there ever a time in which you felt provoked or stayed stuck? God offers us multiple opportunities to choose higher ground. What will you choose, and how will your choices affect your life and those around you? Remember, whatever we choose will continue to grow.
Margaret D. Mitchell is the Founder of God's Love at Work, a marketplace outreach purposed to share God's greatest power source - the love of Christ.