Patrick Lencioni wrote a book in 2002 that has remained a best seller from the time of its publishing until this day. The book is entitled: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It is a leadership classic beneficial to businesses, churches, families, and any other environment where people need to live and act as a team.
We have been doing leadership development at my church with our staff. We broke them into groups of 3-4 people for 4 weeks at a time. One of the groups always rotates through The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. You may think, “Church staffs shouldn’t need this kind of training, should they? They always get along and act like a team, right? Its church!” Wrong. As Christians, we know the brokenness of man and the power of sin. We are often our own worst enemies. In fact, many churches do not experience health and vibrancy because their leadership teams (staff, deacons, elders, etc.) are dysfunctional. At The Journey Church, we are proactively fighting against this because we want to stay healthy as a team.
The five dysfunctions of a team are:
1. Absence of Trust
2. Fear of Conflict
3. Lack of Commitment
4. Avoidance of Accountability
5. Inattention to Results
The key for understanding this list is to understand they build on top of each other. It begins with an absence of trust. If team members do not trust each other, or do not trust their leader(s), they will not engage in healthy conflict. Healthy conflict allows teams to arrive at the best decisions and best strategies. But if conflict does not exist, people will not commitment to decisions. If there is no group buy-in on decisions, people do not hold each other accountable. Where there is no accountability, there will be lackluster results. This could be expounded on with much greater detail, but I believe you grasp the idea.
In one of our recent training sessions, one of our staff members, Brady Plunk, made a keen observation. He began discussing how it is sinful for us to not trust each other and not engage in healthy conflict, both out of love for the mission Christ has given the church and our love for each other. It is sinful to not be unified as a team. Then he made this piercing statement,
“Our sin as a team will affect Wilson County.”
The comment stopped all restless movement in the room. What a reminder! As the local church of Jesus Christ, commissioned with the task of reaching our community with the message of hope and salvation through the gospel, our mission to our county is hindered if we are not unified as a leadership team.
The same is true for your church.
Every church must fight their personal and collective sin for the good of their community. Our community needs our leadership teams healthy. They may not know it, but in the sense that Jesus works through his disciples to build his church, their coming to Christ depends on our being unified. This extends beyond a church leadership team. It also applies to the entire congregation. We must fight for unity so that we can fulfill the call Jesus has given us as a church.
How can we do it?
1. We must die to our personal agendas
We should certainly speak up if something is unbiblical and ungodly. However, most arguments in churches are not centered on whether or not something is biblical, but on whether or not something is preferable, namely, to one’s preferences. We must die to our personal agendas and seek what is best for the congregation. Often times in our strong desire to move the church towards a particular direction, because we think it would be best, we undermine the church because we bring disunity.
2. We must refuse to gossip about others
Gossip is crippling to a church’s unity. Trust is undermined and healthy conflict is impossible when you fear being gossiped about or slandered by others. Here is a good gauge for whether or not you are gossiping: if you are not talking to the person who can actually do something about the issue you are addressing, then you are gossiping. The Lord hates gossip. He hates slander. Refuse to engage in this church-crippling practice.
3. We must remember the big picture
Why are we doing any of this? Why are we a part of this church or leadership team? The ultimate answer to these questions should be that we believe in the mission. We believe in what this church is running after. Nothing unifies better than remembering what we are fighting for. It is worth getting over our frustrations if they are minor and committing to sit down to fix them if they are not, so that we can remain unified.
I will leave you with Brady’s potent reminder, applicable for wherever you are and whatever you lead, “Our sin as a team will affect Wilson County.” That is the sin of disunity.
Erik is the founding and lead pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon TN, planted in 2006. He speaks at numerous events throughout the year such as youth camps, D-Nows, marriage seminars, men’s retreats, and church planting training events. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in Religious Studies & Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a MDiv. He is a published author of numerous books and Bible studies. He writes regularly for both LifeWay Pastors and Unlocking The Bible sites. Erik is married to Katrina. They have 3 children: Kaleb (13), Kaleigh (7), and Kyra (3).