As an avid rugby fan, I’m enjoying the Rugby World Cup. In the run-up to this year’s cup, fans and experts alike speculated on various factors—from team rosters to weather conditions—as they tried to predict whether their nation would succeed. We’ll have to wait to see who comes out victorious.
There is one factor, however, that gets overlooked in these debates—and that is crucial to success.
Disunity kills—it’s like a poison flowing through a team’s veins.
Few things will spoil a team’s chances at victory like a lack of unity. Don’t get me wrong: superb talent, hard work, and excellent coaching are vital. But even with these things, disunity kills. It’s like a poison flowing through a team’s veins.
I recently received a call from a pastor who’s planting a church in the same area as ours. He wanted to extend me the courtesy of telling us their plans. I felt deeply honored that he’d consider us even though we’d never met.
As we talked, he asked if we could meet up, expressing a desire to glean whatever wisdom I may have to offer. I agreed, despite being reluctant to share my “wisdom.” I often feel as though we’re fumbling our way through ministry, simply asking God to keep us faithful. As I put down the phone, I pondered what I’d just committed to. Am I in over my head? Will I actually have anything of value to say to this brother?
But as I prayed before our conversation, I sensed that I should encourage their team to cultivate unity in diversity—not just in their core team, but in the church as a whole. Here are three things they—and anyone else involved in church planting—can do to cultivate unity in diversity.
When I worked in student ministry, my regional director would say that “vision leaks.” It’s imperative, then, to keep reminding people of the vision so they won’t stray from it.
Having served in various ministries, I’ve also learned that “vision morphs and scales.” So it’s essential to keep adapting as a team in order to attack new horizons that a growing vision will make available.
To be clear, what I mean by vision is simply how we, as God’s people, apply the biblical marks of the church within our local context. Staying united in this vision is therefore crucial. It can be tempting to leave such a vision behind if your church grows numerically. When such growth happens, it’s all too easy for pragmatism to creep in. People end up relying on “what works”—even if it means leaving the original vision by the wayside.
Healthy church-planting teams cultivate unity in the biblical vision they begin with, so that the “success” (or lack thereof) they experience doesn’t lead them down selfish paths of pragmatic pursuits.
2. Mission and Contribution
If it’s important to cultivate unity in diversity around the vision we’re heading toward, the same should apply to how we get there: namely, the mission.
Critical to any sports team’s success is their ability to execute, as a unit, on the game plan. It’s not enough for the players to merely know the plan; they must embrace it wholeheartedly.
When it comes to a core team in church planting, different members will have different levels of contribution.
That said, an effective team will cultivate the necessary levels of buy-in from its members. When it comes to a core team in church planting, different members will contribute at different levels. The contribution of the lead planter will look different from the young professional on call at work, which will in turn look different from the mother of four. Nevertheless, each of these people can work together for the sake of the church’s mission (evangelism and discipleship) at their diverse levels of capacity. Their buy-in is equal, but their contribution is different.
Cultivating buy-in for the mission, with healthy levels of expectation from each team member, accounts for the kind of “every-member ministry” rooted in a healthy understanding of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–31).
There’s a difference between valuing what someone has to give and actually enjoying their contribution. The latter is what I mean by appreciation. It’s good to tell someone they’re needed; but do they also feel wanted?
Cultivating unity in diversity works toward ensuring that people feel appreciated as they labor for God’s glory.
If we let people know they’re loved and enjoyed—both for who they are and what they bring—they’re far more likely to contribute wholeheartedly over the long haul. Cultivating unity in diversity works toward ensuring that people feel appreciated as they labor for God’s glory.
The diversity of gifting within church-planting teams doesn’t guarantee success. But we know that unity in diversity honors God, regardless of the results. How we cultivate it, then, matters immensely.
We can trust God to work through his Word and through his people in his world. May his Spirit empower us to cultivate unity in diversity within the teams we lead and serve with. This will surely benefit the churches we plant and the people we long to know and worship Christ.