Trust and unity

As of this month, I have served on staff at The Chapel in Buffalo, NY for 14 years. And in 14 years, I have seen God do amazing things – literally incredible activity in the Western New York region. I’ve also seen incredible work done to the team and culture that make up the staff team at The Chapel. The healthy culture and strong team dynamic overall can, no doubt, be credited in part to the amazing leadership we have at this church. They have been sensitive to what God has wanted to do within this team, and He has purposefully and actively shaped the staff team of this church in order to prepare and equip us for the work He is wanting to do through us. He’s led us through several new seasons, filled with a lot of change.

Change is a force that can test a team’s health in ways that might not be expected. Change reveals the cracks and pinch points like few other forces can. It always seems to be that just when things settle into a rhythm and we finally feel comfortable with one another and how we’re doing things, that change comes along and rocks the boat. It’s good, healthy change most times. But nonetheless, change that presents learning curves to how we interact with one another. And the way we interact with one another affects us greatly.

Of all the things that I’ve seen as valuable for a team to hold onto, two words surface as incredibly important – TRUST and UNITY. 

Regardless of the season, whether change or consistency, a healthy team persists when trust and unity prevail – when team members are committed to cultivating and maintaining a high degree of trust and when they view each other as complementary to one another for the purposes of a common direction and mission. I’ve seen this play out in large and small scales – the importance of trust and unity was key way back when the team I was on was 3-4 people, it’s important within our ministry leader team at The Chapel (a team of 15+) and in any other context I’ve served in or led. Whether you lead a team at any level, serve within a team, or are looking to form a team, you must value trust and unity highly.

Near the end of this post, I’ll give you four ways to promote and protect unity and trust in your context, but first let’s look at what God says to us about these… We’re told of the  importance of trust and unity in scripture. I think Romans 15:5-6 has a lot to say to a ministry team when it comes to unity and trust:

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let’s look at it piece by piece:

1. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement… give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,  so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We need to believe the truth that God is the provider and the sustainer. It’s His work that He’s invited us to join Him on. We need to remember that we’re following Him and need to trust Him to give us direction as well as the strength and capability to complete it. We need to lean on Him. We need to trust Him. And we can’t just say that – we have to believe it and act like it. We have to stay focused on him and not let our worry overcome our trust, or ever be convinced that it all rides on our strength and stamina. God is in the driver’s seat and God sets the course and the pace. A team needs to remember who they are following and where they’re strength comes from.

God will give us the endurance and the encouragement to keep us going. He is trustworthy.

2. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had… so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The same attitude of mind as Christ Jesus… Let that get very real as we read Philippians 2:5-11

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

So God wants us to have the same attitude toward each other that Christ Jesus had…to model Jesus as the ultimate servant and to be selfless to the highest degree.

What does that mean for us as a team? This is both critical as a function and important as an example for us to set.

Functionally, if we’re not willing to trust and serve each other, we immediately cease to be a team and instead become a group of individuals, fighting for our own agendas. We will default to limited relational connection, and huddle in same-minded corners with our “real team” where we control most things – but unity here is of the utmost importance. Unity demonstrates value for our team members and what they contribute. Unity acknowledges the larger mission. Unity demonstrates humility.

As an example, how can we be trusted as leaders when there is even a hint of division or disdain for others that we serve with? The level of trust required is high for all of us on a team to speak well of one another and truly want to serve the best interest of the whole, promoting unity. How you live that out by example will permeate the entirety of the organization. If we model trust, humility, and service to others – those we lead will follow in that example.

But humility is hard, especially in seasons of change and uncertainty. We want to fight for what is best, sometimes best for us. And we can fall into the trap of becoming a bulldozer, all in the name of getting things done in a busy season. Having the heart of a servant doesn’t come naturally to us, but I see two great words embedded in Romans 15: Give you

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,  so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is saying, “may God give you this attitude toward one another” – not “you better conjure up this attitude by yourself.” Certainly we need to cooperate and make efforts to be trusting and value unity, but I would challenge each of us to make this a daily prayer – that God would give us the attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had. Ask Him to create it in us.

3. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had …so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do we think about our how staff team culture, our relationships with one another, our interaction and cooperation, even the words we speak, will bring about one voice that will glorify God?

God wants us, in unity, to glorify Him.

These are Jesus’ words in John 17:20-23
“My prayer is not for them alone (speaking of his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Jesus’ desire is for all who believe in Him to be one just as He and the Father are one SO THAT the world will know that Jesus is who He says He is, and will know that God loves them.

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

These things are important, and they must be valued constantly, not just on the outset or once in awhile. Trust and unity will not happen by default – they can’t be taken for granted. If we have them now, there’s no assurance that they will stay tomorrow. When there are a lot of moving parts and complexity, tensions may rise, communication may be strained, and priorities may differ. When there is change or newness, there is a learning curve for the whole team.

So how do we protect unity and promote trust?

1. We need to focus on Christ and trust Him to create in us that mindset
This must be a daily prayer of ours – that God would continually guard our hearts and shape our attitudes toward one another.

2. We need to actively interact with each other
How many people on the team will you not see by default at least once a day? Once a week? Busyness, physical barriers, or both can makes this a reality, but we can’t use that as an excuse. Personal interaction is vital! When you know someone, know what they are facing, and understand who they are, you will make decisions and react differently than when it’s not personal. Your love for them changes your interaction with them, so actively interact with them.

3. We need to actively trust each other and promote the mindset of a humble servant
Actively trust, meaning that we make the decision to trust one another. We give everyone on the team the benefit of the doubtassume the best, and trust that they are operating in the team’s best interest.

When we choose not to do this, we’ll hear phrases like “they were supposed to…” or ” you know they’re going to…” or “they never…” Choosing to trust and believe that the decisions being made are best, even if they aren’t the ones you’d make, serves the team and honors the people on it. Choose to trust.

4. Be transparent and candid
If trust becomes an issue – you are frustrated, confused, or concerned, be committed to transparency – come and speak with that person. There’s a lot of organizational stuff, EMAIL, that can bog down the simple conversation that needs to take place sometimes. And tension, division, and bitterness can only live where there are unspoken and unresolved issues. In order to actively trust, we need to willingly address issues. Candor can go much further in creating unity than niceties that never address concerns can. The truth is, we’re going to disagree – we’re going to get frustrated – we’re not going to understand why decisions were made. Don’t hold a grudge – go in humility and lovingly address the concern face to face.

John 17: “that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

When I think about these words, I want to do whatever it takes to promote unity. I want to serve everyone on the team I’m a part of; to trust them and honor them, so that we can be one voice that glorifies God. And I don’t want to take unity and trust for granted. I want to actively protect and promote those things.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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