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Archive for the ‘Teamwork’ Category

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV)

Until recently ballet performances weren’t part of my everyday life experience. That changed when my six-year-old granddaugher began taking ballet lessons within the past year.

A couple of weeks ago we (my wife, daughter and son-in-law) attended a performance from The Metropolitan School of Dance in Dublin which involved ballet dancers from around the greater Dublin area. The performance, “Alice,” was a musical ballet version of the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll’s classic.  Even though our granddaugher had only a small role in the grand scheme of things I was struck by several noteworthy reflections after experiencing what was a stunning, well-coordinated and executed production.

First of all, the dancers in the production, of which there were many, were obviously performing ballet. Along the way there were various other dance steps used, but the primary focus was on the art and skill of ballet. Everyone was on the same page!

Having said this, the dancers were primarily and largely female, but several male dancers were performing and all were participating at various levels of skill and experience. Some were mature and well-seasoned dancers. Others were just small children and, like my granddaugher were just developing their skills.

The leadership and coordination of the performance was second to none. The production was in two Acts and several Scenes within each act. At every juncture the dancers, performing in their various groups, came on stage, executed their routine and then exited the stage in grand fashion. Knowing what it’s like to lead a group of people of various ages and skill levels, I know what a daunting task this must have been for those leaders working behind the scenes.

Being mainly a female production, I could easily see how the older, more mature girls were developing and caring for the younger girls. Some of the lead dancers came out and mirrored the dance steps for the young ones, modeling what they were meant to be doing. The older ones led the younger ones on and offstage by hand with the utmost care and tenderness.

I admit I’m not in the dance business, however, the entire production gave me much to ponder when thinking about the ways in which we lead, develop and care for others in the church, the Body of Christ. Rather than expounding on my own thoughts I would rather raise some questions to consider for anyone reading this essay.  

Am I, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, as focused on Jesus and His mission of making other disciples as these ballet dancers were in their individual and coordinated efforts? Am I devoting my energy, talents and abilities to perform at the highest level possible for the sake of a common cause? Am I willing to set the pace and lead the way in modeling for others who a disciple is and what following Jesus looks like in everyday life?

It’s all too tempting to be distracted by everyday tasks and engaged in many worthwhile projects but without intention and the focus necessary to be a disciple of Jesus who is making and developing other disciples and leaders of disciples.  

On a broader scale, is the church of Jesus Christ, particularly the local church, willing to develop the gifts and abilities of its people for greater impact and effectiveness in this needy world? How, as a leader, am I contributing to that in ever more intentional ways?

In the verse quoted above, the apostle Paul is writing to the Ephesians in the context of the church being given gifts that build up (mature) the body of Christ. He adds, “From Him (Jesus) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  

No one ever said that being a disciple of Jesus would be easy, much less being a church leader, but no one ever said ballet was easy, yet I saw many skilled performers doing an excellent job of it.

I’m still pondering that wonderful production of “Alice” but more importantly I’m praying that the church of Jesus Christ, both locally and world-wide, will mature in breath and depth of influence.

We have much more growth and development that needs to take place. At least occasionally it’s a blessing to witness an event that reminds us that God still has a plan for our local communities and for our world so desperately in need. And, in my view, we need what I believe only disciples of Jesus and His Church can and should be.  

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“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

When it comes to winning formulas we can often overlook the obvious.

Since Team USA was soundly defeated by the Europeans at this year’s Ryder Cup there’s been a lot of speculation as to why this was the case. The simple answer is that Europe’s Ryder Cup team simply played better golf. I suppose that’s the bottom line.

There’s also been a great deal of discussion as to why the Europeans outperformed the Americans when both teams had the talent to win. We can always point to the momentum of Team Europe who won the past several events and the advantage of being on home turf. But often in golf, as in other sports, it’s much more difficult to maintain a lead than it is to overtake a leader.

Watching the event there was no doubt that the Europeans were an inspired group of men but most sports commentators point to the fact that the Irishman Paul McGinley was a far superior team leader for the Europeans than Tom Watson was for the Americans.

Having lived in Ireland for the past thirty-one years, learning the culture that Paul McGinley grew up in and having observed his career over the years I have a better understanding of why the Europeans outperformed the Americans.

Quite simply the Europeans under McGinley’s direction played as a cohesive team.

One thing that Americans can often overlook about the Irish and several other European cultures is that by nature it’s relational. By and large people matter more than “projects.”

Close and key relationships often have significant ramifications when it comes to results.

McGinley lived out his relational strengths, won the confidence of his players over time, and drew them into a cohesive unit that proved unbeatable. After the Europeans won at Gleneagles Shane Ryan of Golf Digest noted that earlier this year Paul McGinley came alongside young Victor Dubuisson of France, a seemingly complex young man, knowing that he might play a significant role on the team.

Ryan wrote, “McGinley, who treated his captain’s role with an obsessive, conscientious zeal since being named in January 2013, made it his business to understand the young Frenchman . . . But with time and persistence, by showing up at tournaments and corporate functions where he knew Victor would be present, he broke through the barriers, earned Victor’s trust, and conveyed everything he learned to Graeme McDowell.”

As it turned out it was time well spent.

When it comes to sports and to life we often look too closely at individual achievement and neglect the relational aspects of teamwork and camaraderie. The Sky Sports commentators I watched such as Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomery made a strong case, one very apparent to the viewer, that the Europeans were much more committed to each other as a team than were the Americans. McGinley was the embodiment of these strong, relational values.

I also see this very clearly in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ who drew a group of men around Him, invested His life in them and then released them into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. The result was that they literally changed the world.

In western culture we can fall into the trap of thinking that it’s our individual performance that makes the difference when it’s our relationships with God and each other that usually determines our success or failure in life, in sports, in church or business.

What came across very clear at the Ryder Cup was that the Europeans were already ahead in terms of their support for Paul McGinley and each other before the first ball was ever teed up. That’s a winning formula that will bear fruit regardless of the final score.

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