Defining Unity for Your Leadership Team

Pastor Mark Driscoll writes, “Unity is gained slowly and lost quickly and therefore must be labored for continually. Unity is so important that Jesus often prayed for it and Paul repeatedly commands it.”[1] Along with laboring for unity and praying for it, Driscoll also states that teams must define unity. He writes, “Unity must be defined because people have varied ideas of what it means to lead a church or ministry in unity.” Below I list, picking from Driscoll’s work, the things that must define unity for any leadership team.

1)      Theological agreement about what doctrines you will and will not fight over –>This does not mean that your leadership team has to all believe exactly the same about every point of doctrine. I have served on leadership teams that worked very well together where there was disagreement over Gifts of the Spirit, the scope of the Atonement, and Eschatology. The key is not complete uniformity on all doctrines, but uniformity on essential doctrines and freedom on secondary issues. You must agree to allow freedom and not hold contentious debates (though there should always be a willingness to discuss and learn from varying views). Make sure, above all else, that your team is in agreement on what the gospel is.

2)      Relational warmth and sincere friendship that includes spouses and children –> The leadership team cannot be simply ministry acquaintances’ or colleagues. For true unity to come there must be real friendship that permeates the group. If the team does not believe in and trust the other members of the group then there will be no willingness to sacrifice your agenda and your strategy for group consensus. I worked in a church where this was not a reality and the consequences were serious.  It is important for families to be included because leadership is incredibly lonely and it can be especially lonely for spouses and children who do not experience the immediate joys of ministry. It is important for them to have relationship with other members of the leadership team. This also leads to solid accountability in the home. As other leaders watch you interact with your family they can see first hand where you are growing and where you need help at home.

3)      Philosophical agreement regarding what ministry methods will and will not be used –> It is important for the team to establish a general philosophy of ministry, but as churches and contexts change there will need to be variations in your methodology and it is important early on to set general guidelines for your methods. If these guidelines are not in place before change occurs conflict will usually happen among the leadership team as change becomes more pressing.

4)      Missional partnership that agrees to stay on task to fulfill God’s mission for that church or ministry in that culture –> Though it may seem strange at first glance that the leadership team should have an agreement to stay on task it is of the utmost importance. You should never assume anything, and it is very easy to stray. I recently served in a church where focus very quickly shifted from the mission to internal maintenance as the priority of existence. If you don’t have a commitment from the leadership team to stay on task, as well as an official statement of what it means to stay on task, then you will find your church being pulled in different directions by the personal priorities and missions of each leader. The reality is that your leadership team must all be on the same page about the mission and must all possess a strong commitment to that mission, otherwise what are they doing on the leadership team in the first place?

[1] Mark Driscoll, A Book You’ll Actually Read On Church Leadership. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008. 61.

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