Ron Quint is a great minister and a close friend of mine. At a recent leadership conference, he taught an incredibly insightful class entitled Working Together. Below are some of his thoughts as well as concepts he shared from the book Polarity Management, which was written by Barry Johnson, PH.D.
Working Together: Diversity, Dysfunction, and Transformation
- USA Pre-911 Intelligence Reports – The stakes are high in working or not working together.
- Working together is not easy and must often be done in the context of great complexity.
- Working together will demand that we all grow.
I. Defining Moment
a. Described in Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council was one of the truly great moments in church history. It averted what could have been a movement destroying rift and produced an amazing plan to move forward that unified the church at this formative and fragile moment. It fostered unity in a faith community characterized by diversity. It was a victory for teamwork, for what can happen when God’s people work together to handle powerful forces that surge through the church.
b. Paul and Barnabus were key leaders in the above mentioned process. It was they who ventured into and really pushed the envelope into the Gentile world. It was they who converted large number of Gentiles and shifted the conversation. It was they who pioneered the sensibility that there would be a different way of thinking about Gentiles who were converted as compared to Jews who were converted. What an amazing partnership and what a testimony to unity and teamwork.
II. Sharp Disagreement
a. “36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.'” Acts 15:36-41 (NIV)
b. Their conflict that grew out of a genuine desire to serve God. It came out of the context of two powerful personalities with passionate convictions trying to work together and reaching an impasse.
c. You’ve got to appreciate how real the Holy Spirit keeps things in His record of God’s people.
III. The Paul and Barnabas Conflict
1. Different views of how to get the work done
a. Barnabas – about the person… take time, be patient, help Mark grow … let’s listen to the person.
b. Paul – about the plan… be urgent, cover more ground faster, reach more souls quickly… let’s listen to God.
IV. Polarity Management
a. Barnabas’ desire to slow down and help Mark grow…Paul’s desire to speed up and cover more ground… an example of a polarity… not a problem to solve but a tension to manage… different aspects of a bot h/and situation… not an either/or dilemma.
b. Other examples of polarities we face: local ministry focus/collective ministry and collaboration and partnership between churches in a region, reach new people/help disciples mature, work together as a team/enable individuals to find their gifts and dreams…keeping our doctrine pure and being true to our heritage/learning from other groups, growing and staying relevant to an ever changing world.
c. Polarities bring forth two kinds of leaders: Tradition Bearers and Crusaders… Tradition Bearers emphasis the good of how we have always done things….Crusaders tap in to the desire and need for change.
d. They need to learn to talk to each other… the need to appreciate the convictions and/or fears that drive their perspective…the vision that they are seeking to fulfill.
e. They need to open both/and scenarios rather than either/or challenges.
1. It is a sign of immaturity among God’s people when we cannot appreciate the different range of perspectives in ministry and value them all and make room for them all.
2. The great overall, non-negotiable, preeminent quality we must have in dealing with each other is love. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
3. “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV). Isn’t this what Barnabas wanted Paul to see so many years before? Let’s take Mark with us because he will be useful to the mission. But Paul couldn’t see it then. Now he sees it.
Mark it down. Some things you are resisting now you will grow to appreciate over time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could close the loop a bit on the learning curve on these things, take the edge off our differences, and bless God’s people with the benefit of the divergent perspectives we all bring to the table.
What had taken place in Paul’s life for him to change so much in his view of Mark. In Acts 15 he was so strong in his position about Mark that he broke with Barnabas over it. Now, lonely, isolated, and broken, he sees his need for Mark. In this need we see the true strength of the church.
How was it that Mark would have been useful to Paul? What did he have to bring? Well, all he did was give us one of the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. All he did was preserve the very stories, words, and actions of Jesus! Yes, I’d say that he proved pretty useful.
4. So it is with our working together. We may have situations that we just need to accept that we are not yet ready to work together. We need to allow some distance. Unity in these situations looks like space and room to work at ministry with different sensibilities. But we need to know that this is not where God’ wants us to stay. He wants us to get to the place where, even with the people we are in the most “sharp disagreement” with, we can say, “you are useful to me; I need you; let’s work together.”