How can callings contribute to good team relationships and how can they hinder good working relationships? Should a team screen those who want to join the team? What are some good questions that team members should ask each other before committing themselves to each other? What stages do teams often go through before they become productive and effective. What are some things that can bring conflict in a church or team? In this panel discussion, the panelists Andrew Kurtz, Dwight Nisly, and Kevin Brechbill reflect on their life observations and experiences. Panel discussion moderated by Ernest Eby.
This message was given at the Church Growth Seminar 2022, which is a segment organized by the Church Planters’ Forum.
The Kingdom Fellowship Weekend podcast is available through many outlets. Listen online, download episodes, or subscribe through your preferred provider.
Dial-A-Message code 2212# to listen by phone (click here for more information).
Ernest Eby: Okay, good afternoon. In just a minute here, I’ll have each of the people on the panel introduce yourselves. You can say how many children you have. If you know approximately how many people there are that come to your church, you can mention that and where you’re from.
As for you that are listening in, we look forward to your questions here. So, Brother Steve Fisher, are you back here somewhere? Okay, so if you could get these cards that are out on the table outside the door, and have them ready? If you have a question you’d like to submit, raise your hand and get Steve’s attention, and he’ll bring them up to us. Then we can work on them here at the end if we have time, which hopefully, we will.
I’m Ernest Eby from State College, Pennsylvania. Our church is “Followers of Jesus.” We have nine families that moved in there to be a part of the church and about half a dozen singles, and we’ve been going for about eight years. I’m married and have two daughters, one of which is here.
Kevin Brechbill: I’m Kevin Brechbill from Chambersburg Christian Fellowship. We have eight children, and 85-90 people go to our church.
Andrew Kurtz: Good afternoon, my name is Andrew Kurtz. My wife Roxanne and I have seven children, five of which are here, two of which had other commitments but wish they were here. We are from Granby, Massachusetts. That’s where we live. We serve the Greater Springfield area, so we’re in the western part of the state of Massachusetts. And there are seven families at the fellowship and a few singles.
Dwight Nisly: Good afternoon. I’m Dwight Nisly, and our family lives in New York City in Brooklyn, and my entire family is here. I’m grateful to have them here. Our entire family consists of three children. We started our marriage a little later than many people do, when I was 38 and my wife was 33. So, our window of a family was quite small, and we praise God for three healthy children and they’re all three here. I went to Brooklyn, New York, in 1997, when the church plant was already about 10 years old, and I helped start a school at that point and have been there ever since. And so, in some ways, I don’t know if I qualify as a church planter, but for some reason, they asked me to join this panel.
Ernest: Okay, thank you.
I’ve been involved with the Church Planters Forum now, for about eight years. We’ve probably interacted with somewhere around a dozen and a half church plants during those eight years, and many of them have really struggled. And the number one struggle we’ve had is teamwork – partnering together as teams, working together. We didn’t launch these churches. These are just churches that are represented there at our annual gatherings. Some folded up; some nearly folded up; some are going for their second life, I guess, or third life. And so, this is a very important topic. It’s easy to find people who are excited about Jesus and excited about winning souls, and so forth. But, boy, when you got to do this with other folks and work together, then that takes it to a whole new level.
So, oftentimes people come together and they think well, certainly if this person is passionate about the Lord and he’s passionate about souls, certainly, this is somebody that’s going to be mature and we’re going to be on the same page and work well together. And then find out later that, oh, we should have discussed some things here. Or maybe there’s more maturity needed here than what we had when we started.
So, the first question we’re going to discuss today came in just after this last topic and it says, “Please expound on the concept of preferring your brother.”
So, since Kevin was the one that mentioned that, we’ll let him get started, and then the rest of you can comment on that as you like.
Kevin: I’d like to start with a really practical thing, and then let someone else take it (chuckle). Yeah, so preferring your brother is not an easy thing. I think it’s one of the core things of Christianity. It becomes a way of life. Like, it’s down to letting someone else talk first. It’s down to letting their ideas actually come to the table and take root, and not yours. Not pushing your agendas. It’s a deep thing that has to be developed in your character, is what I think of when I think of preferring my brother. And then out of that –
You know, it’s kind of like this – when you think of the Anabaptist world, one thing that they’re strong on is they do know how to submit to one another in a broad sense. That’s why, when Christian Aid Ministries comes together and they go to build something, their ability to submit to one another, they can turn something around in very practical ways. And the misconception about not preferring your brother is kind of the concept of not submitting. When you learn to submit, actually you get more traction faster, and you can actually get things done at a greater speed and a greater confidence.
And so that’s why I think it’s critical that we learn to prefer one another on a local level. We can do that when we go to CAM, but can we do that at home in our own congregation? Then we can get traction. We need to understand that “upside-down Kingdom concept.” That’s my comment to that.
Ernest: Ok, thank you.
Andrew: So, one of the common buzzwords in society today is narcissism. So, you don’t have to read many articles or listen to too many YouTube channels or whatever it might be, and you’re going to come across the word narcissism, right? And the scripture has a term for that, and it’s “selfishness.” Narcissism is simply selfishness, and it’s a self-focus. And I agree with that in a very practical sense with what Kevin said, that we can give ourselves a very simple test, like how much do I prefer others above myself?
And one simple test is: Who is the subject of my conversation? So, I think we probably all have had conversations with people where the conversation was all about them. Right? It was all about them. And did you ever go away from a conversation and realize that they don’t know anything about you, but you know everything about them? Right? It was a very one-sided conversation. Now, unfortunately, we probably all have had it the other way, where we’ve talked about ourselves, and we go away realizing that we really don’t know much about the other person. All right, so that’s a simple test that we can give ourselves, like, how much do I prefer other people above myself?
Second thing is, I think it’s just learning to value other people, or part of this is simply learning to value other people. So, when Jesus was giving this teaching there in Luke where they asked the question, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of God?” And Jesus said, the princes of the Gentiles do it this way, but among you it shall not be so. You should do it this way. Jesus then immediately following that teaching asked this question. He said, “Who’s greater? He that sits at the table or he that serves?” And the obvious answer to that question is, the ones that sit at the table are greater, but Jesus says, “I am among you as one that serves.” So, Jesus just created a value proposition there for everyone. Jesus Himself valued others greater than Himself. So, I think if we do those two things: we learn to prefer others in conversation and we learn to value others, we’ll be well on our way to preferring others.
Dwight: I think one of the unique things about God’s design is that the very first institution He designed was the family, and perhaps our greatest challenge to preferring one another can be in our families. And it’s amazing – it’s been said that we are nicest to those outside of our family. But I think in preferring one another, God gives us the opportunity to start with our own families. It’s a challenge to me. I think sometimes it’s easy as a father, for instance, to think that our voice and our word should be heard above everyone else’s, but to what extent does our youngest child feel like I prefer them over myself? And perhaps as we ask God at that first level of family to develop the preferring one another, it’s our first and maybe best place to develop that Kingdom value. I think beyond that, to the degree maybe that we are able to do it on that level, we can then look at other team members and other cultures and apply it there.
Ernest: Okay, thank you. Helpful thoughts.
All right. So, we’re going to go into three different realms here and talk about those. And then we will have some random questions maybe at the end related to this topic.
So, the first one is talking about Calling.
So, there may be that some people on a team have general interest in helping people spiritually. Others on the team may have specific interest in reaching Muslims, Jews, middle-class families, low-income neighborhoods, Amish, Mennonites, Kingdom seekers, etc. And so, you have people coming together, but they may have a particular group that they’re interested in targeting. Maybe they don’t even realize that before they get together or maybe they do, but it’s something that should be talked about. So, people have different callings. Some people have a more general calling. Some people feel like they have a more specific calling.
How can callings contribute to good team relationships and how can they hinder good working relationships?
Maybe we’ll start with Dwight.
Dwight: Well, I think one of the good gifts God has given us is a sense of calling, and I think callings provide focus. They provide a clarity of purpose, they give us a sense of direction, and they allow us to go forward in a way that we in our own efforts and wisdom wouldn’t be able to have that focus or clarity. And so, I believe God does provide that call. It’s interesting that the apostle Paul would often start out his epistles with his calling. And it seemed like that directed and focused and drove his letters and his life.
Andrew: Yeah, I think callings are something that do need to be openly discussed. I heard of at least one church plant where there was conflict over callings. The one family felt like the calling was to this certain group to the exclusion of anything else, and the other family involved had a broader sense of interest and calling to serve a greater demographic, and it actually did cause conflict. So, having the conversations about what our callings are, I think are important in the church plant team-forming stage. Early on, those things need to be known and understood. At the same time, I don’t think the callings all have to be identical. I think they should be diverse, as Kevin was talking about, and like what Dwight mentioned.
Obviously, they have to be somewhat logical, in a sense. Like, if you are interested in reaching the unsaved Amish, you’re not going to move to Hartford, Connecticut. Right? Because they aren’t there. But if you want to reach that demographic, then you’re going to stay or be in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for example. So obviously, citing yourself where you’re calling is, I think is a logical step. But then families involved in a church plant blessing each other in those callings, I think is important. I don’t think these callings are contradictory or held in tension. Rather they should be complementary, even though they may create a little bit of tension or are held in tension. There are a lot of things about church life that are held in tension, and that’s part of the beauty.
Kevin: I don’t have a lot to say on it. I guess the thing that I have seen over the years is sometimes with “callings,” people can use that as an excuse to be really self-centered, and I think that’s what brings the division, and then they cloak it under the word “calling.” So, I think that has to be deciphered through when you have this issue at hand. So that’s my thought to it.
Dwight: Yeah, I think on kind of the negative side about how calling can bring conflict rather than unity – I think sometimes we can look at callings in terms of superior and inferior callings, and it can develop into a rating system of value. I don’t think that’s God’s intention or design. I think that can create kind of a competition also perhaps, because of trying to rate which calling should receive greater preference or funding or focus or value. I think it can sometimes create a disengagement whenever we think it’s not our primary calling, when maybe God would want us actively involved.
Ernest: Okay, thank you.
Moving into the second category here: Screening.
Should a team screen those who want to join the team? And another question right with that, What are some good questions that team members should ask each other before committing themselves to each other?
Maybe Andrew. Do you want to get started there?
Andrew: Sure. So yes, absolutely there needs to be a screening process. I think for families and for a church to work together well, there has to be at least some level of compatibility, and the screening is part of that process. So, taking the second part like, “What are some of those screenings that should be discussed?” I have just a few here: So, Vision would be one. What is your overall vision for the church? for your family? for your life? Calling, as we were just talking about. I think calling is an important discussion to have. And Doctrine, having some doctrinal discussions to make sure there’s a doctrinal similarity. And I think another one would be Prior church experience. I think prior church experience molds and shapes and forms us in a way that few other things do.
Dwight: I sometimes wish I could have a chat with Jesus, because somehow, he developed the first – maybe “church planting team” with the kind of diversity that would scare me. You have the tax collector and the Zealot. Wow, that just seems like asking for trouble! And yet I believe Jesus was very intentional in His first team. Someday I would like to look through the Gospels and try to look at all the conflicts that his team encountered, and how Jesus responded to each conflict.
One was already mentioned here, when there was a desire to be at the chief positions within the Kingdom, and His response. Once was when his team thought that children weren’t really an essential part of their work and ministry, and Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come to Me, because actually of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!” It would be interesting to really take a look throughout all the Gospels, I think, and see, what did Jesus do with the conflicts of His team?
But I think one of the things that is really critical to ask is, What hurts do you come with? And how thoroughly have those hurts been resolved? And what are you doing to resolve those hurts? Because unresolved hurts of the past have a way of walking with us into the present, and even especially in cross-cultural settings, bringing responses and triggers that can be really hurtful to pre-believers or believers. And so, questions about hurts and conflicts, what they have been, and to what degree they’ve been resolved, I think are important.
Kevin: Like, you stole my thunder on that one! So, my thought was very similar: What’s your conflict resolution history? How have you been able to work through conflicts? Because if you don’t know how to work through conflicts, you’re going to be the worst person on the team. And to me, that’s one of the most important aspects. And my other thing I was going to say, is How easily are you offended? I think there needs to be a development with that within us. If we get offended easy, we’re not going to work well on a team. So that’s my two thoughts.
Ernest: So sometimes people have asked me something in relation to teams, what advice I would have, and I tell them to keep their ideals high and their expectations low. Otherwise, if you keep both of them high, you’re going to be very disappointed at some point. If you keep both of them low, you’re never going to shoot for anything. You’re going to be satisfied with something very mediocre. So, keep your ideals high and your expectations low.
The apostle Paul and Barnabas had a very sharp contention, the Bible tells us, over screening. One thought Mark was qualified and the other thought Mark was not qualified. And this disagreement became so heated that it split the team and they went separate directions. And from what we know, they never worked together again on the same team. So sometimes I like to ask teams, “What options did Barnabas and Paul have other than the one that they chose, or the one that they simply defaulted to?” So, I’m going to let these brothers speak to some options that they or others could have besides just splitting up and heading separate directions.
Dwight: I’m not sure what the best alternative should be. It seems to me like the classic struggle of the giftings of grace and truth. There are times when I’m kind of disappointed in Paul because I’m not sure that Paul would have even been in a position to lead a team if it wouldn’t have been for Barnabas. Barnabas was that bridge; Barnabas was that connection with the disciples who didn’t trust Paul, and he made that bridge available for ministry for Paul, and it seems Paul must have almost forgotten that now in terms of providing, extending some grace to one who failed. But the third alternative, I’m not sure how to respond to.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s a really good question, and I wasn’t sure how to respond to it either. I can give some idealistic platitudes like – Well, they should have presented it to the whole body for discussion. They should have talked it through, and all that type of thing. And maybe they did.
But at the end of the day, it is interesting to note one thing. And that is, that if you look at Paul’s first missionary journey, he went to Cyprus in that journey. And Paul never went to Cyprus again, because after the Paul and Barnabas controversy, Barnabas went to Cyprus, and Barnabas was the apostle to Cyprus. So, it looks to me like Paul at least honored and respected Barnabas’s ministry.
Ernest: So, if there comes a need to part ways, you can least respect the other person and not “set up a dealership in his town.”
Kevin: My only comment is, if we do end up parting ways, not to be critical of the other person. I think that’s the one lesson we can learn here. I think it’s really easy to find ourselves critical if someone doesn’t come or go with us, and I think that’s not a good representation of Christ.
Ernest: So earlier today, Brother Barry had mentioned that when he went to Haiti, he had this idea that “I am better than these people that I’m reaching” and it took a long time for him to work on that and get that out of his system. And I think that when it comes to sharp contentions with other people with whom we disagree, and like Kevin mentioned, you know, looking down on them or despising them, those are the kinds of things that we can sense in our own heart. How am I feeling toward this other person? Is this really a different calling? Is this really a different vision? Or is this something in my heart that needs some work of the Holy Spirit?
So yeah, there are the platitudes – what they could have done. One thing is just to simply recognize if you feel the contention becoming sharp, to recognize that this is a thing that will happen in team life. As you start working with a team, don’t be surprised if this comes along. And to work on it early on before it gets to the point where there’s no way that you can work together with the other person.
There are sometimes whenever two people or more get together to work on a team and one of them does change. Either they come up with a new philosophy or new doctrine, something that they did not come into the relationship with. And so, I would say that’s one situation where obviously there may need to be a parting of ways. If they were agreed on something, and then sometime later one of them decides that he doesn’t believe that any more, then there may need to be a shift and parting of ways.
Anything else that any of you want to say on this one?
Okay, Walking together.
Different writers and speakers have identified four different stages that happen in many relationships. This could be in a marriage, it could be in a church planting team, or even in the workplace. So, the first stage is the forming stage – it’s the honeymoon stage, the superficial stage, the pretense stage. And this is the stage where we often overlook things in others and try to make the relationship as smooth as possible.
And then the second stage is sometimes called the storming stage, or the disagreement, the conflict. And it’s like, oh, where did that come from? I thought we were having a good relationship here.
The third stage then is the norming stage. This is when team members learn to submit, surrender, prefer each other, and they get past the conflict stage. I might just mention there that most relationships in the world just go back and forth between level 1 and level 2, between superficial and conflict. But the goal is to move past that into a place of preferring each other and surrendering and submitting to each other.
And then the fourth stage is when you’ve moved through that stage to where you can really be productive as a team [the productive stage]. You’re now working together. You’ve been through the hard things, and now you’re ready to work together and bless the Kingdom of God as a group, as a team.
So, the question for you as a panel: “In your experience or as you’ve observed others, what are some things that can bring conflict in a church or team?”
So, I already mentioned one – that of bringing in a person changing partway through and not standing for the same things they did before. But what are some others?
Kevin: One that I’ve observed is the speed of which things are accomplished. You always have your Type A personalities that want to make it happen yesterday. And then you have the methodical steady people that maybe actually might get more done, and they have a method to their way forward. And I’ve seen that cause a fair amount of frustration. So, there is a way to work with it, getting it out on the table, communicating it. I think giving a clear picture of what that process of moving forward is and looks like helps both sides, and I think it’s really really important.
Ernest: Good. Andrew?
Andrew: Yes. Some observations of things that have caused conflict, that moved a fellowship or church plant from that forming stage to the storming stage are things like you had mentioned: personal trauma, unhealed wounds from the past that they get triggered by the realities of life. So, in the forming stage, the focus is on all the things that we agree on, but in the storming stage, the focus becomes all the things we disagree on. And, and that’s where the tension then comes.
Another one is chronic health issues. If there is a family that has chronic health issues, severe chronic health issues, they can be a burden to the fellowship, to the work of the fellowship, but they’re a necessary part. There it is. But knowing some of that going into a situation is good, because not only are they unable to carry their own weight, but they have to have some weight carried for them. So, I’ve seen that be a difficult thing.
Dwight: I think one of the big challenges when conflict comes is difference, and it can be on so many fronts. I think maybe the biggest problem is when there are those differences, there’s not a platform to openly discuss that. There’s maybe even a perception that difference is innately wrong, and the discussion of it will only bring conflict. I think the reality is that NOT discussing it will bring even deeper and more destructive conflicts.
But some of the differences that I thought about are the differences in giftings and personalities. Somehow, the lens that we tend to look at it is our own giftings and personality, and somehow that seems like the best set of lenses so easily. And yet when you’ve got so many different lenses doing the same thing, that can really create a clash. Differences in the use of money and even in your own upbringing as to how a good Christian should manage their money – that bleeds into an organization, and that can quickly create a tension. Money can so quickly create tension. Differing priorities can really create tension.
But I think there can also be the thing of jealousy. Jealousy in other people’s giftings, jealousy in other people’s assets. Maybe they have a nicer house, or a nicer car, or a nicer family, or a nicer part of the community, that you’re focusing on. Jealousy can just so quickly bind up the heart and create conflicts.
I think there can also be the difference of backgrounds. Each of us look through the filter of our background, and it really colors sometimes our ability to consider and to value the backgrounds of others.
Ernest: Okay, those are all good. So, with backgrounds, it could be wanting to be like your background or it could be reacting to your background. Either one can cause problems. On money, it has to do with spending – how you spend your money, but also how much you give. In a small team, you need some money and that can cause some issues if one person is expecting a certain amount of money to be given, and another person has a different expectation.
Are there more that you thought of? More things that can cause conflict?
Dwight: I was also thinking about a selective use of scripture, and I don’t know if we can totally get past that. But in worship, you’re going to have some who are going to notice the verse for instance, that says “Be still and know that I am God,” and that seems to be their driving verse. Others are going to say, “But the Bible says, ‘Clap your hands, all you people. Shout for joy with the voice of triumph.’” The reality is that the Bible says both. But sometimes all of us may struggle more with the selected use of scripture than we realize, but through that particular verse, we see the other person maybe as less spiritual or less safe within our worship experience.
Ernest: And then there’s the thing of differences in personalities. One difference in personality could be the “be still” versus the “clapping.” There could be a lot of differences in personalities. So, you have people who see everything as black and white. Then you have people that can just kind of go with the flow and do whatever. Somebody has noticed that if your team has too many people with the black and white, it’s going to struggle a lot more, just because of, you know, it has to be THIS way.
Okay, if you have more questions back there, raise your hand. Steve will try to pick up your card and bring it up here. So, if anybody has a question that you’d like to hear us talk about.
Kevin: While we’re waiting, the thought that I did have is, I think if you want to be successful in life, one of the things you need to learn is to be able to work with a team, because if you think you can accomplish a lot by yourself, maybe. Probably not. But if I take a team to where you’re going with, they say, five guys, I can get ten times more accomplished. And that’s the power behind it. It not only multiplies by the number of men there. It compounds. And that’s the power of a team. So, it’s really, really critical to do that. And I think that happens in a church life as well.
Ernest: Okay, thank you.
Next question: What is some practical advice for how a team can spend less time in the storming stage and move more quickly to the norming or the surrender stage?
So, we know of situations – teams, churches, relationships, where this just goes on for years and years. And so, are there any practical ways to move it from this conflict into something more profitable?
Dwight: I think in this stage, it is really a tough stage to celebrate the diversity of giftings within the body. I think it’s the stage at which we are wrestling with challenges and the conflicts of diversity, but it’s hard to celebrate. And yet, if God is the Giver of those gifts, and if we’re going to celebrate God and what He has done, even where we’re facing challenge, I wonder if it’s not important. I think of people who are facing adversity and still praise God. And I don’t think that is living in falsehood; I don’t think that is living a lie. It doesn’t need to be. I think it is choosing to direct the focus at the Giver of adversity. And I think here too, we can look at the Giver of the diversity and worship Him and praise Him, and even look for ways to honor each other, even when we are so vastly different.
Andrew: Spending extra time, more time in the forming stage, probably pays off. Taking it slower, taking it longer, being more thorough, is probably very beneficial.
But I think in the storming stage, learning to not fear the storm is important. A lot of us, probably all of us, really do hate conflict, really do not enjoy conflict. But conflict is actually a healthy part of relationships because there are differences. And just learning to embrace that there are differences and not to fear those conflicts will actually help us walk through them more quickly, I think. Because if we’re fearing conflict, we’re going to be avoiding conflict, and if we’re avoiding those things that are causing conflict, we’re really not solving the problem. So, spend the time upfront, embrace the conflict, and hopefully, you can move quickly through to a place a peace.
Think about Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee, when He’s there sleeping in the boat. So, they were doing ministry on one side of the sea and they’re like, hey, let’s take this ministry to the other side, you know. Let’s go over to the land of the Gadarenes there. And no sooner do they get in the boat, (you know, transplanting their ministry) when there’s a storm, and Jesus is asleep. And they come to Him saying, like, “Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing?” And the solution to the storm was Jesus speaking His peace into the storm. So, I think for any storm that we’re in, that’s always the solution – is for Jesus to speak His peace into it.
Kevin: I just have a simple practical solution that sometimes helps when you have a conflict, and you’re in the storming stage, and that is to write it down. When people put it on paper, sometimes it helps bring clarity to what the issue actually is, and then you can start to address that. So, that’s just a small practical thing that I found helpful.
Ernest: So, writing it down, repeating it back to the person. Is this what you’re saying? That kind of thing. Asking clarifying questions to make sure you understand what it is that the problem is.
I used to live in the Midwest in the state of Arkansas, and our elder/bishop brother there was a great model for bringing peace to conflict, and I always appreciated various things that I learned from him. At one time there was an element in the church that thought that the church was not on a good path and they wanted to start another church of a different flavor, and he was like, “Well, sure. Let us know where you want to go. We’ll help build your building. The last thing we want to do is work against the work of the Lord, and if we’re doing it wrong, we might all end up over at your church after a while.” And there was never a church division. That just took care of it right there. They could never get enough of a consensus together to pull out and do this. How could you do that if your leader is saying he’s going to help you build the building and might come to your church someday. So that was one story from his life.
I also remember him saying or else his son, I forget, but they were saying that in a conflict or in a conflict in a relationship, the more spiritual person in the conflict or in the relationship is going to need to lead the way in making peace. So generally, you think the person who needs to grow up, should be the one taking steps in this, but actually it needs to be the person who is more spiritual that takes the lead in this. An example we have from the Bible on this would be the story of Abraham and Lot when there was dissension, conflict, and there was strife between their employees, Abraham says, “Well, here’s the solution,” and he led the way in that. And so, I’ve noticed people that have done that over the years, and they’ve always been a blessing to me.
Okay. Another question here from the audience: Reaching the Amish who already have the Gospel – for a person who’s in the Amish church, should he leave for a church that has more of an outreach mentality? Should he not be making disciples outside of Amish circles as well as staying Amish? What if evangelism outside Amish is not permitted, and the church leadership discourages it? Should he stay and try to make a difference?
Dwight: I think of the apostle Paul. He grew up within the Jewish culture, and the Jewish culture really actually held out the most critical part of Christianity, and the very thing that he himself opposed until his Damascus experience. I find it so fascinating how Paul – the path out of the synagogues for Paul – it seemed like he didn’t feel like just because they were on the wrong path that he should automatically leave his roots, and take his new and liberated path. I find it fascinating how he would make actually his first stop the synagogues. And he would be in the synagogues, but that wouldn’t shut his mouth to the truth. And so, he would in the synagogues speak the truth, and those who heard it were converted. Frequently, eventually he would be run out. And when he was run out, then obviously, I think that put the burden on the Jews then. They couldn’t say, “Ah, he wanted to leave us,” and instead they would have to realize, “We chased him out.” I think that can often be the case. I wouldn’t want to present that as the only way, but I am inspired by Paul’s ability to reach his own roots by just continuing to say the truth in their settings of worship until they sent him on his way. I know that’s hard. I know that’s terribly hard, and I’m not saying everybody needs to do that or should do that. That’s just an example I see from scripture that I think was probably one of the most powerful movements in causing his people to reconsider the path they were on.
Kevin: Obviously, that is probably a personal question to someone here. And my thought is, the counselor that’s counseling you, if they’re telling you to leave quickly, I would find another counselor, because I agree with Dwight – just the wisdom of learning to move slowly. I was involved with an Amish family that left the Amish several years back, and this is back when I was, you know, 20 years old, and I thought that was the way, and I learned a lot from that. It would not be my counsel to leave quickly anymore. But to take your time, but yet get good counsel. There may be a place for it, but do it slowly. Grow. You have lots of opportunity to grow your own character within that framework more than you realize.
Andrew: Yeah, not a lot to add. I appreciate the answers of the brothers here. But one thing in our own journey, in the fellowship there in coming out of a former setting and being where we are now, one thing I learned from a brother there – he drove this point home hard, I would say, and that is, Don’t trample on the faith of another. And he was referring to where we left – the home setting, like, don’t trample on the faith that they do have. I think that was really, really valuable. And I think that would be true, even to someone within the Amish, that’s leaving the Amish. Even amongst the problems that exist there, there are people of faith. And there are some that are probably being consistent to what they know and what they understand. Don’t trample that faith. So, while it doesn’t answer the question directly, I think it is wise advice to someone in that situation.
Ernest: Yes, I agree that this is a personal question. The answer for one person may be different from the answer for another. And I appreciate what you all said there about taking time to go do this. You may have read the story of Saint Patrick who wanted to be a missionary in Ireland, and he was 50 years old before he finally got his church’s permission to go to Ireland. He would ask them periodically, and they would always tell him, “No.” And between 50 years old and 80 years old is when he did his work. And some people, some historians say that there was no missionary who was more successful than the apostle Paul than Saint Patrick. And so, by 50 years of preparation, he learned the language (he knew the language, but he kept working on it); he kept preparing, because he knew that God was someday going to take him to Ireland, or he expected God would do that. And so, he kept preparing for that until God finally opened the door. And then he had been praying all those years, and he had the spiritual forces behind him as well from God, and so it had an effective work. So, I just give that as an example.
If a person leaves a setting before they’ve learned everything God wants them to learn in that setting, they will probably walk with a limp the rest of their life, unless they can correct that in the next place that they go. And sometimes that happens; sometimes a person leaves, and they’re not ready to leave, and they get to the next setting and then they learn the lesson, and they can grow and go on from there. So, God has different ways of doing this, and I just encourage you to follow the Lord in that.
And then as far as the mission work, this question came up some years ago – I believe it was at an Anabaptist Identity Conference. And somebody asked this question, and one of the panelists said, “If your bishop doesn’t allow you to pass out Martyrs’ Mirrors at the bus stop, you tell him to come talk to me” (chuckle). So sometimes we have to be a little creative in figuring out how we can share the Gospel in our settings, in a way that the church would be okay with it. So, I just give that as an illustration.
Alright, next question here from the audience: “How important is it to realize that we are only conduit in which spirits flow? Are we prepared to work together if we don’t understand this?” I’m not sure if I get the full meeting of the question. If you think you do, go ahead. If whoever wrote this wants to give any further clarification or thoughts, go ahead. Do we have another mic back here? Okay, we have another mic back here if somebody wants to comment on this.
Unknown person: Basically, everything in our lives has a spiritual value, whether for good or bad. And if we don’t realize when we’re in conflict with somebody, either, the conflict can be — the devil can use even spiritual conflict to destroy us. I don’t know, do I convey the message there or not? But so many times we see people as objects. So, because he’s not doing something the way I think, he is now an object to me that I want to work out of my way, rather than recognizing the devil is actually using that to divide our relationship and work against the work of God. So, do we realize that everything that we do in life has spiritual value of whether good or bad? That’s my thought.
Ernest: Interesting thought. Anybody want to comment on that?
So yes, there’s a there’s a force of darkness and a force of goodness at work in all these relationships that we have, and I think that’s a good point. It’s not just me and him. We don’t “wrestle against flesh and blood.” There is a spiritual component that’s at work there as well. Especially if we’re doing something that God wants us to do, then the devil is going to be even more interested in trying to destroy that. So just knowing whether we’re up against that element as well is good to recognize when we get into any kind of teams, whether it’s teams within the church or starting a new church.
Okay. Are there any questions from the audience here that you’d like to just give? We have a mic back here. Raise your hand, and you can ask your question.
In the meantime, you brothers can be thinking of your closing comments on relationships and teamwork.
Unknown person: Yes, I have a question. So, let’s say someone has a burden or a vision, let’s say, for the country of Somalia, for example. And so, they’re like, “I want to bring together a team to go and complete this vision.” Right? But as they were forming the team, they were kind of like the spearhead of it, they’re the first person that birthed that vision. So how much authority — does that mean they have an extra level of authority over the rest of the team, because they kind of were instrumental in forming the team? (especially if they have had years of prior missions experience.) And how much should it be – We’re all equals and how can we do this together?
Ernest: Okay, I think that’s a good question. Let me see if I can summarize it. So, you have somebody with a vision, somebody with experience, somebody that wants to make something happen. How much should that person be in charge and leading out? And how much should it be – we’re all equals on the same level until we appoint someone to be a leader? Maybe? Is that right? Okay.
I know lots of situations like this (chuckle).
Andrew: It is a question of leadership. That is the question. And naturally, a person that’s stepping forward with a vision, is naturally a leader, right? So, he’s putting forth his vision. Others are buying into it. But then you have others that come along and are like supporting, filling in the roles, and that type of thing. And conflict can happen if the person who is the initial visionary is not a great leader. Let’s say on his leadership scale of 1 to 5, let’s say he’s a 2, and they pull somebody in that’s a better leader who is a 3 or 4. It’s going to cause conflict because the person coming in joining the team is actually a better leader than the original. And that has happened. In church plant teams that has happened over and over again. So, it’s a really, really good question, and I’m not sure that I have the answer for it.
Dwight: Yeah, I think that’s something that is really difficult and often happens. My mind goes back to the conflict of the original church planting team that Jesus put together, and it kind of happened on two fronts. First of all, it seemed like there were several who really felt they qualified to be at the helm next to Jesus in the leadership of this new frontier. And somehow, it seemed like they got their mom in on it, and their mom came to Jesus to work this out. What I find fascinating, is the degree of frustration and anger this created in the other disciples, which suggests to me that they secretly were wishing for the same thing. It seemed like Jesus gave an answer that addressed everyone. It didn’t just address the ones that took the initiative first to get that position, but also the ones who jealously reacted. And He gave them a purpose much bigger than being at the helm, and that was that ambition of being the servant of all. And I just don’t know of anyone who argues with the person who is the servant of all. I don’t know – if somehow in every kingdom endeavor, we can really believe and live that, maybe it helps with this challenge.
Andrew: One of the beauties of the church is the tension between the visionaries and the builders (for lack of a better term, I’m using the term “builder.”) The visionary does plant a big picture, but the builder helps make it much better, and when the two can blend their strong points, it is a thing of beauty. It’s also a thing of tension, but it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable tension. It can actually be a good balancing factor. So, in your hypothetical scenario there of going to Somalia, we would hope that there would be visionaries and builders within that team, and they can learn to respect each other, and like Dwight said, serve each other.
Ernest: Many of us have multiple qualities, multiple things we have to offer the Kingdom. So, there’s a variety of visionaries. You have some visionaries like Daniel Boone, who is out there blazing a road through the Cumberland Gap, and just tearing up the place and not wanting to spend more than one night at a camp, that kind of thing. Then you have other visionaries like James Madison, who is spending four months in a hot stuffy room in Philadelphia, drafting the US Constitution, and pulling people together. And two months into it, they still hadn’t made any progress. It was after two months of wrangling that they started making some progress. And at the end, as I understand it, after four months, they had the US Constitution as we know it today, and it passed by one vote! (chuckle)
So, there are different kinds of visionaries, and some have leadership as their second quality. All visionaries are leaders, like they were saying, but some have administrative giftings in addition to visionary things. Others might not have that part. They might just be really good at blasting holes through mountains and things like that. And so, sitting down together as a team and working with others who maybe know you. We’ve done that with a few teams already – sitting down, just talking about things, helping them understand each other and trying to figure out some of these leadership questions. Often, it’s good if there’s somebody appointed to be in charge at the beginning, with an understanding that this may not continue forever. A couple years down the road, we’ll look at this again and decide whether this person should stay there in the leadership position as the head leader or whether somebody else should take up that role.
Okay, thank you. That was a good question. Any other questions from the audience?
Unknown person: My church has done evangelism and we’ve had maybe four or five guys that have been interested in the Gospel and come for a little bit, and it seems like after not very long, they decide that they really don’t want to deal with their sin as thoroughly as they need to, and they end up just walking away from it all. And so, I was wondering if we maybe weren’t upfront with them enough (my congregation) or if that – what is a good thing to address that?
Kevin: First of all, I think that will happen – that people will decide not to. So, I think there is an element of learning to be okay with that. But then I do think you’re onto something of not being upfront with people. Like, I think it’s important to present the Gospel in a clear way of what the cost is, that the cost is high in order to be a disciple of Christ. And there are effective ways to do that and ineffective ways. I think it’s really important to learn the skill of what that effective way is of communicating that to them. And what I think that does, then, it actually opens the door to attract people that are actually more open to that cost versus the other way around. So, I think how we present the Gospel actually decides the kind of people that’s going to show up at our door. So, I think put some time into that. I think you’re probably at a good place, but put some time into that quality.
Ernest: Hmm-mm. So, if you asked professing Christians in America what the Gospel is, the majority of them would probably say something along the lines of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and how that affects us as humans. And if that’s what you’re helping people to grasp so that they can be saved, then that’s probably insufficient. I would look at the Gospel as being all of the New Testament. That’s the Good News. And so, there are, I think, somewhere around 800 commands in the New Testament that were told to do. And so, you have to start with some and end up with others at the end. I understand that there are things that are weightier matters of the law, and things that are less weighty, but it’s good to be upfront.
Andrew: Our fellowship formed five and a half years ago, and we had what we thought was some early success bringing people in, baptizing them and so forth, only to have the majority of them then turn away. Very very disappointing at the time, but ultimately realizing that God brought us those people to show us who we were. I think there’s an aspect in the early days we were very self-centered; it was a lot about us. And God brought people to us, who were just like that, and ultimately God had to do some incredible breaking down, in order to put us in a place where we’re healthy enough to disciple healthy people. And in a lot of ways, we’re not even there yet. I think we haven’t really come into that performing stage of ministry yet, though I think we’re on the verge, I do believe and I do hope. But I’m not saying that that’s the situation in your case, but it is something to think about: “Who are the people we are attracting? and why is that? And ultimately, what can God teach us through those things?” A young man that I discipled, and I baptized a year ago was arrested for attempted murder and it’s just – you know, that was probably one of the most sanctifying processes that I’ve ever walked through in my life.
Unknown person: For a team to work well together, how often should they get together? And how much time should they spend together? And to what level should they be involved in each other’s lives?
Ernest: I worked at a non-profit discipling organization in Indiana for a couple years called Fresh Start. And there we had weekly staff meetings; we also had daily staff meetings with the men that we worked with on a staff level; and then we had weekly staff meetings for men and ladies together. I look back on that as just being a really good thing. So, it does depend somewhat on what kind of work you’re involved in, but if you’re involved in spiritual work, I think you want to have as many as possible. I know you can be “meeting-ed out” and that kind of thing. You can get together and pray if you don’t have anything to talk about, but I look at that as being really important.
Dwight: I was interacting with someone who from our church birthed a church plant in the Bronx, and that journey has been a really really hard one. I just got some input from them this morning, and one of the really big pieces of advice was that there was a two-word sentence mentioned three times. It said, “Pray together. Pray together. Pray together.” I think sometimes we rely so much on human strategy, whether it’s what the larger Christian Circle, the Evangelical Circle, the Protestant Circle, or our own Circle might advocate, and there is certainly a really good place for that. But sometimes we do a lot of talking and very little praying. And it seems like praying does really bring people together like no amount of talking can. So, I think of that advice that was just given to me this morning from that church plant that is facing some huge challenges of just advising that a significant part of meeting together is praying together.
Ernest: Okay, thank you for your attention. We’re going to give these three brothers a chance to make any final comments they want. And then I think the Kingdom Fellowship staff will be up here for announcements.
Kevin: My closing comment is this: The most effective leadership team in the world was the Twelve Apostles. And when they chose to put the first bishop in Jerusalem, they chose someone outside of their circle.
Andrew: If there are a number of aspiring starry-eyed church planters here, just know that the journey is going to be a lot longer, it’s going to be a lot harder, and there are going to be challenges that you can’t even think of right now. But at the same time, I think the rewards are equally greater, and the blessings more enjoyable than what one expects. So, if it’s something the Lord lays on your heart, God bless you, and move forward with His grace.
Dwight: I think of the words that Jesus gave His own team about impacting the world. He said, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: by your love for one another.” And perhaps the greatest impact that our team can make is in an interpersonal relationship of love. And they may hear that message louder than anything we say to them one-on-one. And so, if we can hear the words of Jesus and realize how much maybe our primary message to those we’re wanting to reach is a relationship of mutual love, that may – I think Jesus was seeing that as that number one thing that’s going to convince the world that we are His disciples, and that they have something that is worth receiving.
Ernest: Okay, thank you for your participation.