The Circles Jesus Drew

As churches endeavor to find more effective and fulfilling ways to engage people in ministry, the team approach is one that also fits the renewed clamoring for community within churches today. Such an approach seems more conducive to experiencing church as an organism as opposed to an organization. Gilbert Bilzekian describes it this way:

“In our day, there is a clamor for the church to rediscover its identity as community. Many Christian leaders bemoan the fact that the church has lost its basic biblical definition as (a) divinely designed community. Lay people and clergy alike express dissatisfaction with churches conducting their business as if it were a business. They compare the stilted and stultifying routines of their church life to the effervescent explosion of Holy-Spirit-generated vitality that enabled the church of Pentecost to conquer the ancient world for Christ. They wonder with nostalgia where the power has gone. They realize that they have often become lost in a jungle-growth of unbiblical traditions that choke the life out of their churches and stifle their ministries. They yearn to rediscover the biblical tradition that preceded their various ecclesiastical traditions. They demand a radical return to the basics of biblical teachings about the church as community.”

While the Holy Spirit was the source of the early church’s effectiveness, teams and teaming efforts were arguably the strategy from the disciples of Christ to the missionary journeys of Paul, and beyond.  The circles of community and honor within the church provide a place for people to be “built up” spiritually, emotionally and relationally; as a result, the church is built up. Jack Hayford, after pastoring for several decades, has come to this conclusion about the role of a pastor: “None of us are called to our success, but to the success of our people. We are not called to build big churches, but to build big people.”

A Fatal Error

One of the worst mistakes a team leader can make is when they allow their team to feel UNDERVALUED. A key part of a team leader’s or facilitator’s role is to remind the team of how valuable and important they are to each other, to the church, to the leadership and, most of all, to God himself and to his high purposes on earth.

what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

You . . . crowned him with glory and honor.

(Psalm 8:4-5)

Jesus drew circles. He drew circles of honor and called people into them. He built teams and communities in ways that people found absolutely compelling and frequently irresistible. He honored others everywhere he went. During his earthly ministry he constantly crowned people with honor, in particularly and uniquely those who had been dishonored and disenfranchised by the world around them. Think of all the “crowns” he placed on several unsuspecting heads, among them: the Woman at the Well, the 10 Lepers, a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, a woman taken in adultery, little children and even a widow who barely had two pennies to rub together; to each of them, he gave a crown of honor.

Christ was the ultimate teaming leader.

Jesus Drew Circles

When Jesus left heaven and came to earth, he stepped beyond the Trinity’s circle of honor in which he dwelt and he drew a new one; a new circle. The first circle of honor he formed included all those who followed Him, especially his twelve disciples. He drew them into a tight team, this fellowship of honor and community, only to send them out to draw other circles of their own, communities of faith, vibrant teams, as well. On one occasion, Jesus prayed to the Father about these other “circles” he had drawn:

… [My prayer is that they] are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23).

There is a dramatic tension as Jesus intercedes between the two great “circles” in which God, the Father, allowed him to be a part. He looks at one circle in light of another. He asks that the circle of disciples be brought into a relational unity that reflects the same one he experienced within the Divine Circle, the Trinity. Here’s what he prayed: “that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me (John 17:22-23).

This is an excerpt from my newest book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration. Read another excerpt from the book. You can order a copy here.


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