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Water is a beautiful and descriptive metaphor of great teams.  Just like effective teams, water is both healthy and powerful.

Water is absolutely essential for our health and survival. It is literally life-giving.  It refreshes, replenishes, and restores.  At least 60% of the adult body is made of water and every living cell in the body needs it to keep functioning. Water lubricates our joints, carries nutrients to our cells, regulates our body temperature, and helps to flush toxins out of our system.  The maximum time an individual can go without water is about a week. 

But water is also powerful and useful beyond sustaining life and health in the human body.  Its potential uses are limitless.  It can move a massive aircraft carrier from one continent to another.  Underground aquifers can turn a barren dessert into a lush oasis.  When put under enough pressure it can cut through steel or rock. About 7% of the total energy production in the U.S. comes from hydroelectric power plants that take flowing water and turn it into electricity.

Water at 211 degrees is really hot.  But just add one degree of heat and water begins to transform.  It starts to boil and with boiling water, comes steam.  And with steam, you can power a locomotive.  Adding just one degree of heat has exponential results.

So, water becomes a descriptive metaphor for teams that are both healthy and high-performing.  I have a conviction that you can’t have a truly great team without both.  Therefore, we need a bi-focal perspective.  We need to be focused on the health of the team and we also need to be focused on the performance and productivity of the team.

It is likely that one part of the bi-focal lens is more comfortable and easier for us than the other.  For some of us, the dominant skill is building health.  Our nature is to be caring and nurturing toward our teammates.  We find it easy to care for our team, but we may find it hard to manage toward results.  People who are wired this way don’t have any trouble having a “caring conversation” but avoid like the plague having “courageous conversations”.   For others of us, organizational leadership comes easy.  We are usually driven and achievement oriented.  We love reading business books about leadership and we naturally drive toward results, but we may find it more challenging to provide personal care and development for those on our team.  

No matter how big your church, each of us has a team that we do the ministry with and through.

If you have ever been part of a great team, you know it is something special.  When there is good chemistry, and everyone is operating from their sweet spot, and the objectives are clear, and kingdom progress is being made… it is incredibly fulfilling and fun.  

On the flip side, we are also painfully aware what happens when there is dysfunction in the team…

  • there is stress and tension and frustration

  • we have high turnover

  • rather than focusing on kingdom priorities, there is a lot of sideways energy spent on trying to manage the dynamics and dysfunction of the team.

  • We end up squandering opportunity, time, resources, and talent.

  • Bottom line… it’s not much fun for anybody on the team and it distracts us from our mission.

I love the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)…

He (God) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

When you think about it, this verse is a beautiful portrait of a great team.  

  • Each part does its own special work

There is clarity around what people are supposed to do.  Everybody knows their job and they actually execute.  Each part “DOES” it’s special work.  They are getting stuff done and making progress.  

  • it helps the other parts grow

There is synergy and partnership.  There is not a silo mentality.  On a great team, people are not solely focused on themselves and their job or department.  All great teams possess a collaborative and unselfish spirit.

Then he wraps up the verse by identifying the end result.

  • so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

The result is health and growth and love.  It’s not just health.  And it’s not just growth.  The end result is health and growth, in an environment full of love.

It is interesting to me that Paul doesn’t make any reference to the size of the church.  He doesn’t make any comment about the gifting of the church’s leader.  There is no discussion about the church’s location or budget.  He simply gives us timeless principles that transcend culture, geography, gifting or finances.

Spend a few moments thinking about the kinds of teams you have been a part of.   Think of the best team you’ve ever been on.  What qualities made it a great team?  What were some of the intangibles?  And then think of the worst team you’ve ever been on or led.  What made it unhealthy?  Unproductive?

But I don’t want you to linger too long over the past.  Make note of the lessons and then turn your eyes toward the future.  Do a little blue sky dreaming and ponder what could be.   If you are part of a team or church that is unhealthy, it might be hard to even let your heart dream of what could be.  It might seem too unrealistic or with a sense of resignation, you might say “I don’t have any control over the health of our team.  I’m too far down the food chain to have any influence.”

I understand.  I really do.  But what you do control is how you function as a team member.  And, you do control how you influence the part of the church you serve in.  

So, I want to ask you to pull up from the day to day grind of “what is” and have a vision for “what could be”.

I would challenge you to write down some of your thoughts.  Create a few bullet points that would flesh out the kind of team you would dream of.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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