Larry Davies is pastor of Mineral United Methodist and Mt. Pleasant Methodist churches in Louisa County.
Years ago, before becoming a pastor, I was perilously close to being fired. My job as a manager began with such promise, moving the family from Richmond to Virginia Beach for what seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime. I oversaw a thriving metropolitan automobile dealership. At first, everything seemed fine, but it wasn’t long before sales declined and problems appeared. I was working harder than ever. What was wrong?
My boss would be justified in finding someone else to run the business, but instead he chose to have a meeting with me. Our talk became a turning point that changed my philosophy of leadership and helped me understand the importance of becoming a tough encourager.
At one point, he said: “You are usually on the sales floor talking to customers.”
“Yes, sir,” I answered, thinking he would be pleased. “I try to meet everyone personally and be involved in every sale.”
He paused for a moment and then said: “So, why do I pay the salaries of 12 salespeople when you are doing most of the work? Unless something changes, I will either have to fire all of them or I’m going to have to fire you!”
What could I say? The boss discovered my critical weakness. By insisting on doing most of the selling I was limiting our efforts to my capabilities and my energy. One individual, no matter how talented, can only do so much. However, one person leading a team can accomplish miracles!
One person leading a team can accomplish miracles. This is true in business, sports and churches.
In a letter in the Bible, Hebrews says: “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” — Hebrews 10:23-25
Building good teams is based on our ability to think of ways to motivate and encourage one another.
To encourage is more than merely giving a compliment. To encourage means: “To inspire with courage, hope or resolution.” The message from my boss was not a compliment but what he said inspired me. I call it tough encouragement. I left his office that day determined to be a team builder and an encourager. A valuable lesson.
“How good is your team?” is the recognition you were not meant to work alone. Dreams seldom bear fruit unless others share your passion. Good teams depend upon God’s guidance. Good teams need creative and organized leadership. Good teams require a willingness to serve and sacrifice and good teams must receive the constant nourishment of praise and encouragement.
Within a church, your team can be a committee, a Sunday school class, a choir, or any group formed to help you or the church. As a pastor, I can only accomplish so much by myself, but when I put a team together and then seek the will and guidance of God? Miracles happen.
The enormous challenge for our churches today is how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. When returning to our church buildings there are serious obstacles and concerns to deal with:
How to worship together yet still practice social distancing guidelines?
What about those who do not feel comfortable attending in person?
Is it possible to have food or coffee, greet people with a hug, sing in a choir?
More importantly: How do we respond as a church to a community in significant crisis?
Instead of trying to answer the questions myself, we are gathering teams to help us understand and respond together to the obstacles and needs around us.
No important dream is accomplished without help. Anyone who plays team sports or sings in a choir or works in a restaurant understands that one person, no matter how talented, cannot do it all. No pastor can be successful without a church full of people filled with passion. No dream succeeds without help.
As a manager, I learned to spend more time encouraging employees to treat people honestly and fairly. I still enjoyed meeting customers, but our work became a team effort utilizing the best of our gifts and talents for the good of the business. Being an encourager helped me succeed and stay employed.
As a church leader, it is important to foster teamwork and offer encouragement. Like most organizations, churches have plenty of hard workers, but they need more people to encourage others to outbursts of love and good deeds. Only then will we begin to act as a team filled with the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
For me, it is exciting to see so many in our community already serving with passion. So many already have big dreams and good teams in action. In many ways, our churches are able and ready to come out of the coronavirus pandemic stronger and looking for opportunities to serve in the name of Jesus.
My daily prayer has been: Lord, help me be the church today and believe that I can shine a light in someone’s darkness. Today, we are immersed in a worldwide crisis of immense proportions: May we be the church our community needs today and may we shine our light in someone’s darkness tomorrow.