Friday, October 17, 2008

The Gathering of Teams of Laborers

Here are my notes from Chapter 12, "The Gathering of Teams of Laborers" in From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices, and Emerging Issues Among Muslims by Andrew and Rachel Chard who have this to say about teams involved in church planting among Muslims:

"Teams of church planters are better equipped than 'lone rangers' to reach remote people in difficult places, no matter how committed people on their own might be. The overwhelming witness of the Consultation's research is that in the bringing together of people with different gifts for the appointed task, there are numerous benefits that both bear fruit and lighten the load on individuals. In this chapter we will look at significant factors in the formation and the life of fellowship or church-planting teams amongst Muslims, keeping the goal of church-planting movements in mind."

(FP = Fruitful Practice)

FP 1: Identifying the right leadership for the team

"Across the regions represented at the Consultation, it was agreed that team leaders need to be wisely chosen, not left to fall into positions by default."

The Qualities Practitioners Said They Wanted in a Leader:
• An evangelistic heart • Experience • Vision • Passion • Faith • Ability to delegate • Prayerfulness • Servanthood • Ability to recognize gifts in others • Love of people • Praiseworthy character • Availability

FP 2: Aiming for a large enough team

"This implies that team size matters, and it does."

  • Teams with fewer than four adults showed a greater probability of not planting even one fellowship or church.
  • Teams with eight or more adults had a greater probability of planting at least one fellowship.
  • Teams with twelve adults showed a greater probability of planting multiple fellowships.
"It would seem, therefore, that if our desire is to see church-planting movements, we need to be aiming for larger numbers of laborers in each team, supporting the strategy of sowing widely. Research suggests that five or six team members should be the lower limit of a team size."

FP 3: Having members with a variety of gifts for the task

"From the Arab World, a worker reports that a combination of spiritual and practical gifts was critical to team unity and functioning in their ministry setting. This is echoed by many presently serving in Muslim fields. Team leaders and members of church-planting teams should be prepared to embrace a wide variety of ministry within one team, freeing team members up to work where their gifts and passions lie, but keeping all that the team does connected to the vision. There needs to be recognition that working within one's skill set will energize workers, while working outside one's skill set often leads to early attrition."

FP 4: Recognizing that women are essential members of the team and serve effectively

"Not only do women have significant roles in the team structure, but in the Muslim world, they have access to women and children even while men are restricted in this area. Also, women team members are usually able to talk at a deeper level with Muslim women much sooner than male team members are able to with Muslim men."

FP 5: Valuing language learning proficiency and culture adaptation

"The reality is that the attrition rate in workers who do not learn the language well is faster than for those who do. One vulnerable group are mothers with young children, who frequently struggle to get out and learn language well. Having said that, those who are not good with languages should not lose heart, for within fellowship planting teams there needs to be an acceptance that different people have different aptitudes. The mutual accountability must still be there, but tempered by this understanding and driven by a strong desire for each team member to succeed by reaching their potential."

FP 6: Valuing prayer and a growing walk with God

This was expressed in various ways:
  • Practicing an intimate walk with God
  • Involvement in sustained prayer, fasting, and spiritual warfare
  • Mobilizing extensive international, focused prayer
"Godliness is more important than striving to reach ministry goals."

FP 7: Having a vision and focused intention

"A Memorandum of Understanding or similar document lessens the myriad of potential distractions. A worker from East Africa said, "As an ongoing team, we have a Memorandum of Understanding, which states our vision and our goals. We have written down our core values and our commitment to one another as team members. All these things help us to hang together when there are struggles within the team or when there are discouragements in ministry that might otherwise entice us to give up.""

FP 8: Being flexible in strategy and willing to adapt and modify

FP 9: Surveying and assessing the needs of the people, profiling their identity and the status of the Gospel

FP 10: Building a team mentality

"Getting to know one another well and learning to care deeply for one other needs to be worked on consistently… Time needs to be invested in orientation and in learning how team members think and feel, how they express themselves (or do not), and how they react to different personalities. This will be largely the job of the team leaders who will often find their team members to be ready and willing but also sensitive to being hurt while perhaps being insensitive to hurting others, the common combination of people in culture shock."

FP 11: Demonstrating love for the people

"The team needs to be put together for love; leadership must be servant-like; all of the team's ministry must arise out of love. Our love must show the uniqueness of God's love through Christ. Showing the love of God through acts of kindness, community development projects, or in the day-to-day shared living with Muslim people does not go unnoticed."

FP 12: Partnering with others for fruitfulness:

  • Partnering with Muslim leaders, such as a "man or woman of peace"
"One strategy that some see as very effective for church-planting teams involves finding a 'man or a woman of peace' (based on the principle in Matthew 10:11) or someone in the locality who might be called a 're-starter', that is, one who is well respected and has the ear of the people or one who has the ability to get things going in their communities."

"One participant wrote, "We had a Muslim man who was intensely interested in Jesus. He loved Jesus and had the respect of many people in the community. He started telling people about the Injil (Gospel). We did not seek him; God gave him to us.""

  • Partnering with same-culture or near-culture evangelists who share the vision

  • Partnering with other agencies
"A field worker writes that someone from each agency in his or her locality would get together and swap information and materials, bring news of projects, and give testimonies of what was happening in his or her ministry. It was a very positive relationship with encouragement for everybody involved."

  • Partnering with local churches
"There is agreement that 'local' national pastors like to be involved alongside expatriate efforts, able to advise and assist where possible, but this issue is also fraught with problems and questions. Where there are big cultural differences between the believers of existing churches and the Muslims to whom a witness is occurring, a point of healthy contact can be hard to find. Unless those very churches themselves become charged with passion for Muslims, there often seems little chance of being able to integrate MBBs into the existing congregations/cell groups."


"We believe that after the significance of having the Word of God to teach us and being indwelt by the Spirit of God as our counselor and guide, the next greatest provision for us as 'workers in God's vineyard' is the concept of teamwork. Have we not seen in this chapter how working as a team brings strength and ability for the task? Can we not see how much good sense it makes to work in teams whenever possible? No, it will not be problem-free, and team members will not always feel that their team is the best they could have. However, what better way is there to combine strength and skills, passion and wisdom, to blend differentness with grace, in order to bring fruitfulness—in order to bring in the harvest?"

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