The third core ability of All Nations church planters is to be a healthy person on a healthy team. I know I’ve said this about all of the core abilities so far, but this one is perhaps the most important! In fact, the first three abilities are more about how we live as believers than any particular church planting ability. They are core and foundational to the others.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When the Bible uses the phrase, “above all else,” then we probably want to pay attention! If you were to read much on missions, you would find that one of the top reasons (and perhaps even the biggest reason) missionaries leave the field is because they can’t get along with each other. This is sad, but it’s so easy to take offense with each other, especially when the stakes are high. And, in pioneer church planting the stakes are high and expectations on fellow teammates is high.
In All Nations, we recognize that not all missionaries are wired to work well together. So, we try to form teams based on the temperament and abilities of the individual workers. (Many of our hub workers are trained in Strengths Finder, for example.) We recognize that not all missionaries are involved in church planting in the same way. And, sometimes, we let people part ways and remain brothers and sisters, but not necessarily teammates. We see this happening in the Bible when Paul initially parts ways with Barnabas and John Mark, but Barnabas did want John Mark on his team (Acts 15:39). Just because someone is not good for one team does not mean that they are not fit for service at all.
Since guarding the heart is so important, we need to learn to become good forgivers (Matthew 18:21-35). We have to learn to process our hurts, losses, and offenses. Many of our church planters globally have partnered with Fresh Start (www.freshstartforallnations.org) and found it to be a helpful tool for them. I love it because it’s simple, Biblical, and effective. When we get hurt, we learn to forgive. We count the cost of that forgiveness and do it anyway. This is critical to our teams being able to make it long-term. I wouldn’t still be on the team I’m on today if I had not gone through this process of forgiveness many times with many of my own teammates! And, I know they have forgiven me many times as well.
It’s also worth noting that, in general, All Nations team members in pioneer church planting situations are not usually on large teams. I find large teams to generally be counter-productive to the kind of long-term work we are hoping to birth. Big teams often overwhelm local cultures, and the foreigners end up bonding too much with each other and not enough with the locals. Also, it keeps the locals from moving into leadership quickly, which is critical to church planting movements. Large teams have a greater possibility to rub each other wrong, and then that takes time to resolve. I think there was a reason Jesus sent people out two by two (Luke 10:1) and not six by six. It’s not to say that it’s wrong to send out larger groups, and sometimes we do. But, in general we shy away from it for the reasons stated above.
All Nations does not assume that the oldest veteran on the field will make a good team leader. In fact, they often don’t. This is because usually, the pioneering type of person we need to initiate a pioneering work is not a shepherding type. This type of person is willing to pioneer into new areas, but they do not want to be slowed down by training up novice missionaries. So, we are careful in not assuming that the veteran missionary will necessarily be a good trainer of new missionaries, which is often what a team leader is doing. They might be the same person, the pioneer and the team leader, but often they are not.
I honestly think that being a healthy person on a healthy team is the one core ability that ends up taking the most time for leaders like myself. We spend a lot of time trying to help missionaries get along. And, if they are not, then Satan is winning his battle and the kingdom is not advancing. Being a healthy person on a healthy team is foundational to the core abilities to come.
Other blog posts in the Core Abilities series:
Pam spent ten years in Central Asia as a church planter and Bible translator working among a previously unengaged people group. Along with others, she was able to help lead people to Jesus and train them to lead their own churches. The local believers have, in turn, shared Jesus with others and also raised up other leaders. Pam’s heart is to train and send church planters to share Jesus with other unreached people groups: those who would never have any chance in their lives to hear about Him. To this end, she trains and coaches disciples who make disciples based on simple Biblical and research-based best practices. Pam is part of the Global Support Team and is also a member of the International Leadership Team.