One of the frequent sayings in leadership seminars regarding teams is, “You are only as strong as your weakest member or link.” This statement is even heard at Christian leadership conferences. This may appear to be true in military teams, business-related teams, and sports teams, but from Biblical and ministry teaming perspectives this statement falls short of truth and reality. All teams are only as strong as their ability to work with their weakest member(s) and see success. This applies even when every team member is highly qualified, highly prepared and highly motivated.
In military conflict or operations, a man may become injured and ineffective. He has become a weak link. The true test of a team is not that it has no weak links, but that even when it has weak links it can still stay on mission and succeed. “No man left behind” is not just a statement. It is a commitment to those who have become weak to finish the task and get them home regardless of circumstances. This builds esprit de corps and allows men and women to do supernatural feats in the face of death or tremendous opposition.
Some would say that the military weeds out the weak. This is not the case. The military allows everyone to strive for strength, and those who make it protect our shores and serve our nation. They should not be forgotten or ignored when they have fallen or become weak in the performance of their duties. To forget the weak is the path to weakness.
There are certainly circumstances where individuals have no capacity to become strong. In these situations the person must accept opportunities for other life ventures that provide the possibility of success related to teams with different requirements.
As a team leader, I recruit and build my team based on my weaknesses, not my strengths. If I look for people just like me, then we will all be weak in the same area and assure failure. By knowing my weaknesses and recruiting team members who have strengths where I am weak, I assure the potential success of the team.
Successful business teams require people with different strengths. Not all can be accountants, or marketing experts, or engineers, or designers. By definition this means they are weak in other areas of business. Even if you are working with the top ten in every field of endeavor, there will be unseen and unknown weaknesses that must be adapted to by the team in order to see success.
Any successful sports team has members who are strong in certain areas of the sport. This means they are probably weak in other areas. Most baseball pitchers are not strong hitters. Most American football quarterbacks are not strong blockers. Most basketball centers don’t shoot 3 point goals. And even All-Star teams lose games. Look at the Olympic Basketball Team the USA fielded in 2004, who lost more games in a single year that any other USA Olympic Basketball Team in history.
Teaming is about more than the strengths of the team members. It is about how the team members support each others’ weaknesses so that the team will be strong.
From a Biblical perspective there are several counter-intuitives when compared to modern teaming concepts:
1. We need the weak. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-30) I have learned more life lessons in hospitals, nursing homes, homes for people with handicaps, and from working with so-called disadvantaged people, than I ever learned in the high-powered business meeting, gym or sporting event. We often become more creative when we have to work around weaknesses in ourselves and/or team members. We get the opportunity to see life from a different perspective and solve problems when making concessions to any weakness.
2. Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Without the weak or our own weaknesses, we are unable to see the power of Christ. It is in the weak and in our own weaknesses that we have the opportunity to see Christ show up and make a difference when we could not. Success in the face of weakness makes it clear that we are not responsible for the ultimate outcome.
3. God has chosen to reveal Himself in the weak things of the earth. (See 1 Corinthians 1:27-29) So that we cannot boast, God has chosen to work through the weak things of the earth. This is done to shame the strong, meaning that no one is strong enough to live without God. When we exclude the weak from our teams, we basically exclude the way God works from our teams. Some will say, “But we are all weak.” This is true, but how often do we act as if we are weak and acknowledge that God works through our weaknesses.
4. We are responsible to help the weak. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:14) We should not cast the weak out, or ignore the weak. We are supposed to help the weak. How can we expect others to develop if we exclude them because they don’t measure up to our standards of strength? How often have we seen people who were rejected in their early lives become incredible leaders as they mature? How often do we step around fallen, weak brothers as we go on about our business? We have a responsibility to incorporate those who are weaker on our teams in order to help them grow. This is not easy, but can be fulfilling for all if we assign tasks to the weaker person that he or she can handle, and listen to him or her perspective that may be closer to those we are trying to serve. Teams don’t exist for the sake of themselves. They exist to do the will of God, accomplish tasks, and expand the Kingdom of God.
5. We are to bear the failings of the weak. (See Romans 15:1) The only way we can bear the failings of the weak is to include them on our teams. The moment we exclude them, force them away from us, or simply ignore them, we make it impossible to bear their failings. What is interesting is that we become failures in love and obedience when we behave this way.
Christian Ministry Teams must not be built on the philosophies of the business world. Our teams must be built on Biblical principles that build up the Body of Christ, the team, and each team member. How we do things is at least as important as what we do. Unbiblical, immoral, unethical practices make us a failure even if we succeed by worldly standards.
We must not forget who we are, and Whose we are.