Paddle Together

Some years ago, I worked with a lady who was into dragon boat racing. She asked a group of us (none of whom had ever even been in a dragon boat) to participate in a charity dragon boat race. We had 30 minutes to practice together just before the event and our leader decided there was really only 1 lesson she wanted us to understand – Paddle Together!

It didn’t matter if we had the strongest crew, fittest people, best boat, if we didn’t paddle together, we wouldn’t come anywhere near our potential. But, if we paddled together – everyone in time and everyone together – we would be better together than the sum of our parts.

It’s the same in Church. We need to paddle together. It’s what leadership theorists call “alignment.”

It works at 3 different levels:

  • We can do our own thing as individuals. We have our little area and we do it by ourselves, without involving anyone else and without discipling and training others. God never meant ministry to be done by lone rangers. Jesus chose to serve alongside His disciples and, even when He sent them out on mission, He sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7). If you’re doing anything for Jesus, whether inside the Church or outside the Church, take someone else along with you.
  • We can see our teams as isolated little silos. We know we’ve fallen into this trap when we say or think things like this, “Our team is going fine. I don’t really need to know what’s going on in other ministries.” But, any team within a Church is part of the whole. Paul’s description of the Church as a body and each person a part thereof (1 Corinthians 12:27) doesn’t just apply to individual people as parts but also individual ministry teams as parts of the whole.
  • We can see our local Church as isolated. But, that would be to deny that Christ’s Church is universal globally and in time. We need to look beyond ourselves.

We need to recognise that there is always a trend amongst people to limit our perspective. We struggle to see the World and the Church the way Jesus sees it. As a result, we need to constantly recalibrate our vision.

So what can we do as FLBC leaders:

  • Take an honest look at our own heart. Ask God to shine a light into our own lives to reveal where we limit our views. Don’t ask God to show you if you limit your view – we all do it at some level. Rather, ask where you limit your view.
  • Pray for other ministries and Churches other than your own. The more we pray for others, the more we will be informed about what’s happening there. And don’t just pray for them by yourself – pray for those groups in your team – together.
  • Talk to people in other ministries and Churches. But talk to people without an agenda to recruit or compare to your area.
  • Ensure the goals/vision of your ministry are in alignment with the vision God has given the Church.
  • Honour and pray for your leaders. John Sweetman, Principal of Malyon College, has said, “If you can’t be part of a team, you can’t lead a team.” Pray for your leaders that they would lead well. Honour them (Hebrews 13:17) publicly and privately. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep leaders accountable but that should be done with respect, grace and love.

Many years ago, the Church in which I grew up thought we faced a significant crisis – both the pastors who had served for a long time retired within 6 months of each other. We went from being a Church with stable, long-term pastoral team leadership, to a Church with 1 interim, part-time pastor. It was a time of great uncertainty and challenge. However, the wonderful thing that came out during that season was how ministries started to pull together – leaders talked with each other, prayed together and stepped up together. There was real alignment! Because of that, rather than the Church declining during this season, the Church grew. There is enormous power when Christians paddle together!

“Everyone really does win when a leader gets better.” (Bill Hybels)

God said to the Israelites, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Lord, help us to paddle together in Your strength and Your mission. In the powerful Name of Jesus. Amen