Building a team – we can’t do this alone.

If we want to see a Disciple-Making Movement take hold, we need to form teams.

The grand vision God has given us requires teams of people who together commit to reach the harvest.

When we ask God, ‘What do you want to do?’, we suddenly discover the plans and intentions of God himself. When this happens, we can have a rush of foolish adrenaline and a temptation to pride. We can think that because God is calling us to such a big vision, there must be something special about us.

But when we realise the stark reality of the enormity of the task, we are driven to our knees. We discover there is nothing we can bring to God’s table that will be ‘enough’; blowing our puny ambitions out of the water! This realisation will leave us feeling weak and ready to run away.

It’s in this moment (or hopefully before we reach this point), we need to broaden and deepen our understanding of leadership and recognise the power of team. If we want to reach cities, regions and whole nations for Jesus, we must be able to reproduce leaders. And not just one leader but teams of leaders – leaders who multiply.

At whatever level or language you use, fulfilling the great commission has at its heart a model for multiplying leadership.

Called to reproduce harvesters

When we see the field is ripe for the harvest, the mistake is to think, ‘I need to do it all’. We tend to rush into the harvest and try to rescue all the fruit before it falls to the ground and rots. But the reality is the harvest is bigger than just one person. The vision calls us to not only be harvesters but multiplying harvesters, just as Jesus did. 

Rodrick Gilbert said, ‘The harvest is plentiful … we are to focus not on the harvest, but the harvesters’. Jesus said we should, ‘… pray to the Lord to send more labourers’ and he focused on doing just that by discipling the labourers to go out and be harvesters.

This is the task Jesus invites all his disciples into when he commands them to go and make disciples. He calls us into a model of multiplication from the beginning – joining him in prayer to pray for more harvesters.

As God begins to bring his vision for us into focus (the where and the who), we can also begin to see his vision for a team that will bring this vision into reality.

So where do we start?

Prayer.

As Jesus announced the vast harvest, he called us to pray for the workers of the harvest.  It is a prayer of multiplication – asking that the harvest force would match the great need of the vision God gives.

Our role as disciple-makers is to multiply the harvest force and is core to our strategy – through prayer, relationship and training – as we prepare people to lay down their lives for the gospel. 

This also involves examining our thoughts, intentions and motivations. Asking questions like:

  • How do I see myself?
  • What is my motivation to lead?
  • Have I grasped the vision of multiplying disciple-makers?

As God begins to reveal potential team members, begin to share the vision and foundation of Disciple-Making Movements with them. Jesus called his disciples by inviting them into the two-fold task of following him and learning to become fishers of men. Right from the beginning the would-be disciples were involved, invited into the mission and called to respond to the lostness of the harvest field.

Identifying harvest workers

When we look at the way Jesus gathered his disciples (Mark 1:16-20, Luke 6:12-16), we see that God did the job of preparing each of these young men, Jesus just shared the vision and called them out.

As God gives us his vision, chances are he already has a harvest force in the making – our job is to identify them and call them out.

So what do we look for in identifying potential harvest workers?

  • Look for the discontented

There will be people in which God is already stirring a vision for something more – they may be filled with a holy frustration and are seeking real change. Just like David’s team of mighty men who were ‘discontented’ (1 Samuel 22:2), we are looking for those who are no longer satisfied with the status quo.

These people will also have a heart for the lost (which usually motivates their discontent). There is a genuine compassion for lost people and a willingness to do whatever it takes to reach them. We often see this in people who have had experience in mission but are not sure how to translate this into their current world – these people are prime candidates to be catalysed as workers.

Quick word of warning: Be careful as you look for those with a ‘holy discontent’ that you don’t gather people who are anti-church. As disciples of Jesus we are all part of his church. We are looking for people who love the church and want to see it reach its full potential in engaging the harvest and making disciples.

  • Look for the doers, not the talkers

True authority does not come from charisma, a winning personality, the Colgate grin or what others think of us. Rather it comes from God alone, who sees what goes on in the secret places of our heart. 

When we look for potential leaders, we can fall into the trap of Samuel as he selected the next King of Israel – focussing on seniority or outward physical appearance as the mark of a leader. However, when we want multiplying leaders, our focus is to be on a person’s simple obedience. We look for people who obey and step out.

I have learnt over the years not to be impressed by personality but by those who actually put their hand to the plough and work hard. Don’t be fooled by shy personalities and quiet people – they can be the great achievers. Some of the highest level of leaders are introverts.

Quick word of warning: Be careful of early adopters. People who adopt too quickly are also apt to move onto the next new thing as well.

  • Look for those who are already leading

It’s pretty simple – leaders lead. That’s just what they do. Good or bad leaders are identified by the people who follow them.

Leadership can come in all sorts of packages and ways – quiet, loud, large teams, small groups. When we look for the person of peace, we see people who are already influencing others.

  • Look for chemistry

Teams are bound together by relationship. Teams are not business relationships, or ‘grit your teeth and get through it’ relationships – these are focused simply around strategy, coaching, business and skills.

Teams are chemistry driven and must be about true relationship, which requires us to be relational people. Someone once said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. We need to learn to build a team culture that resonates with the values of the Kingdom of God before we can focus on a team strategy. Part of this is being wise with our tongue and using words of encouragement. It also requires us to be sensitive to culture and people’s different experiences, focusing on inclusiveness rather than exclusion.

Every disciple is called to be a disciple-maker – we see this as the Spirit is poured out in Acts:

Acts 2:17-18

“‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy.

Chemistry helps a team to be a safe place for people to belong, learn, experiment, grow and even fail. All are necessary if we want people to stretch out of their comfort zones and into the vision God has given each of us.

Quick tip: Laughter is really important in any team.

As you gather a team – what next?

As you begin to gather a team:

  • Begin to pray
  • Be relational
  • Begin to coach and train
  • Keep sharing the vision
  • Meet regularly to learn from each other – Create spaces for peer learning, pray for each other, encourage one another, dig into the word together. Develop a sense of accountability among the team, as well as one of constant growth in obedience to step out and do new things as God leads. This is the heart of the church. (Acts 2:42ff)
Back to you

There is a lot to say about self-leadership, particularly when you are at the beginning of building a team. Self-leadership is making sure our internal world matches our external world. As we lead others we need to focus on what is going on inside us. If a movement is to be catalysed, the health of our inner spiritual life is paramount to being obedient to God’s vision.

As you do this, consider the following:

  • Be secure and know your identity is formed because the father says, ‘… you are my son …’.
  • Maintain spiritual disciplines to keep your first love burning.
  • Be patient with people, don’t write them off too quickly.
  • Think long term. We usually overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 10 years.
  • Let the spirit set the agenda.
  • Be ready for ‘vision’ tests. There will be hard times when you lose people. People will have all sorts of agendas that you need to watch out for. This can be hard, particularly when you are forming a team and afraid to lose people.