Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Team and Transformation

I'm a huge fan of team sports because I love studying how teams are put together. I listen to endless hours of debate and rhetoric about what drafted or acquired player might turn into an all-star or high-functioning leader for his team; and who might be a better fit in terms of role or character on which team. I'm intrigued by the phrase "intangible qualities" team officials use during interviews to justify the selection of a specific player ahead of another individual.

What I've discovered in all of my observation and involvement as a fan is that there are two major components of team building that exist in the world of professional sports: the draft (player development) and the sign or trade (the acquisition). Imitation is often the predominant pattern to sh a team. When one team wins a championship, other teams begin to adopt principles of the championship squad. Players are analyzed, graded, ranked and selected based on different sets of needs for each individual organization, and other emerging trends or patterns they see more successful teams demonstrating. I often wonder what makes one person more valuable to an organization than another? As teams are built, players are changed, elevated, developed or removed depending on their overall value to the team and the long term goals of the organization. Players become assets and commodities in environments like this.

Thankfully when it comes to the family of God we don't function like that...or do we?
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul writes about the development of the church, speaking to both the unity and diversity that is found in a living and breathing organism such as the human body. He goes into great detail to highlight the value that every individual body part plays in the overall development of the entire body as a whole. In Paul’s understanding of the Christian community, while there are different roles to be played there are no favorites. We essentially function together as a team, working together towards the common goal of transformation.

Transformation is discipleship and discipleship is most easily defined as becoming who we were created to be. It takes time, effort, investment and intentionality. We leaders help to shape the culture of transformation in our community.  And although transformation should be the goal for every community or team, many communities give way to three most common temptations.

1. Spiritual development is the most important part of transformation.
Earlier we defined transformation in terms of holistic development or discipleship, referring to becoming who we were intended to be. There are four basic elements that define what a human being is: the spiritual self, the physical self, the emotional self and the intellectual self. Paul’s description of the human anatomy functioning in diverse unity shows how all four of these elements of an individual and/or entire community must work together in the transformative process.

If we fail to exercise one set of muscles and overuse another set, we will end up with a lopsided figure. There are seasons where we may elevate the development of one of these facets ahead of another, but unless there is a long term balanced approached to the transformative process between all four of these elements, the process itself will be stunted. Does our pursuit of transformation overemphasize spiritual development or appropriately emphasize spiritual transformation under the auspice of the holistic transformative process we know as discipleship? 

2. Transformation is exclusively individual.
Thinking back to our team analogy, no one individual is greater than the entire team. A culture of transformation is developed in a communal setting that benefits individuals. The greatest sports teams understand this principle. While individuals contribute to the over all goal of the community, they also reap individual benefits of communal growth.

Here in the western world, we are just beginning to rediscover the communal reality of the Christian faith. You may have heard before that it takes a village to raise a child. The same can be said for the process of transformation. We are relational beings designed for connection. Individuals void of a communal expression of faith will experience a stunted transformative process. A team requires a full compliment of players in order to compete effectively. Transformation requires a community of individuals to do the same. No single individual will rise above the development of the broader community alone. We need each other to survive, to grow and to find stability. How is your current community valuing holistic transformation that invites individuals into a long-term development process?

3. The loudest ones are the brightest stars.
It’s easy to assume that the squeaky wheel always needs the oil. If its true that every human being is created to function as a part of a broader living breathing organism known as the body of Christ as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, and that no part is greater than the other, the parts that are louder aren’t necessarily better.
My Grandma used to tell me that the reason God created humans with two ears and only one mouth was so that we could learn there is greater value in disciplining ourselves to listen than creating the space the be heard.

The extroverted and naturally gifted teens and families are usually the easiest to notice and sometimes even get along with. But there may be thousands of diamonds in the rough among those who are less noticeable or desirable to be around. Do our communities make room for the so-called misfits? Do we value every part of the living community we represent, or are we some sort of genetically engineered nightmare growing a dozen limbs but missing a heart?

We grow together, we move together, we breathe together. How are you cultivating a team in the process of transformation?

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A Little Something from Psalm 8

 Had a lot of fun with this one.