How To Build A Winning Team. Serving God Together
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
Word of Life church is Local Religious Organization Word of Life Bible Centre of Christians of Evangelical Faith
© Published in English language by Golden Pages Private Institution Publishing Centre
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MATTS-OLA ISHOEL is the senior pastor and president of Word of Life Bible Center in Moscow, and the president of Churches of Faith Russian Association. Under his leadership, Word of Life church has grown every year and now has over 4,000 members. The church is active in social, charitable, youth, publishing and missionary ministries. Matts-Ola Ishoel is married and has four children adopted from Russia.
One of the greatest blessings God has given me is the privilege to serve Him together with a great team of leaders in Word of Life Moscow. The men and women of this team have become my best friends. Together we have experienced both victories and setbacks, but most of all we have seen God’s protecting and guiding hand over the work we are a part of.
I believe that in some way, every leader should continuously build a team of other leaders with whom he serves God. Whatever we are called to do, we are called to do it together with other people. No one serves God alone. His church is a body consisting of different members, and teamwork is built into the very essence of the church. When leaders develop teams that minister together, they build strength and stability into the church, and they give opportunity for growth and training.
A church can be organized in many ways, with different interpretations of leadership positions. But whether you belong to an Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Congregational organization, I believe this book can be equally helpful. Teams can function everywhere, we just need to adapt to the order of the church we are a part of.
Leaders who are skilled in team building will accomplish so much more than those who work alone. Wisdom will increase and gifts and talents will thrive when people of different personalities serve God in unity.
Though many see and understand this, there is often a lack of clear understanding about how this should be done. I believe many pastors and leaders work too spontaneously, and could be much more effective with a clearer plan of how to create, develop and work in a team.
It is my prayer that this book will help you to understand the dynamics of a great team and inspire you to focus more on team development – whether or not you are in a leadership position right now. Very often we are in fact both; we serve under some authority together with others, and at the same time we are also leaders in a ministry, branch or cell group in the church.
The principles I share in this book are the result of what The Holy Spirit has shown me during almost 30 years of pastoring. As the years have passed, I have realized more and more, the importance of creating the best possible relationships with my closest co-workers, and continuously investing time into leadership training. Almost all of the examples I will mention come out of the work in Word of Life Moscow.
This book is therefore dedicated to this team, the best men and women I know, who have so faithfully, generously and sacrificially served God with me for many years, to Randi, Oleg and Julia, Sergei and Valja, Alexander and Zhanna, Ilya and Zhenja, Nikolay and Lena, Alexei and Katja, Pjotr and Tanja, Volodja and Olga, Alexei and Ira, Andrei and Larissa – and many, many others.
At the very end of His time on the Earth, Jesus spoke to The Father about the twelve disciples:
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost…”John 17:12
Jesus watched over His closest men, every one was precious to Him, and He rejoiced to see them continue doing God’s work.
That joy should also be yours. In this book, I want to remind you that besides being a fisher of man, a giver, and a worshiper – you can also be a team builder!
The book can function as study material for team building. You can read chapter by chapter together with your co-workers, and at the end of every chapter there will be questions and exercises that you can work with together.
May God bless you in all that you do for Him,Matts-Ola IshoelWord of Life Moscow
The quest for leaders
About the greatest need in the church
At the very end of May 1988, I mounted my motorcycle and after two wonderful years at the Bible School in Uppsala, I set off toward my hometown in Norway. The 700 km trip was a sheer joy. As I made my way through Swedish forests and Norwegian mountain plateaus, I had so much to be thankful for. The Bible School had given me an entirely new start in life, and I had accepted a calling from my church to begin working as a youth pastor.
I was very eager to get started. I knew I was inexperienced, but did not think so much about that. The youth group was not so big, and I trusted that God would lead me. But little did I know about what was waiting for me.
The church I belonged to was not very big, but it was very influential. For years it had been one of the centers of the Charismatic revival that swept through Scandinavia during the 1980s. The church arranged several charismatic conferences every year. In the beginning people came from all over Norway to these conferences, but soon they started to come also from other countries.
The senior pastor of the church was a national authority, and one of the most known preachers in the country. But very unexpectedly, because of personal problems he left his position more or less at the same time I arrived home from Uppsala. So when I came, the church was quite bewildered because the senior pastor was gone. Then the board of elders gathered, and I was invited to join. In this meeting the leader of the board looked at me and said something like this: “We do not have a pastor, but you Matts-Ola have been in Bible School. Now you have to take over the spiritual leadership of the church.”
I almost fainted. This was like a bolt from heaven. Churches all over Norway looked to this congregation for inspiration, and I was without any experience as a pastor. I had prepared to work with the youth, but now I was additionally supposed to preach every Sunday and plan the further development of the whole work. I truly felt like David standing in front of Goliath.
Well, what should I do? The challenge seemed overwhelming. To lead a church with a national influence and to start preaching to a congregation that for years had been listening to one of the best preachers I knew, was more than I ever had thought of. But this is very often the way God calls a man. The task is so much bigger than us, that either we turn away, or we completely surrender ourselves to God’s grace.
I chose to throw myself on God, and I told the church I was willing to take on whatever responsibility they wanted to give me. My helplessness drove me into the prayer chamber, and there I found the confidence I needed. The Holy Spirit started to guide me step by step. I felt an amazing joy in what I was doing, and I discovered that I actually could cope with the responsibility I had been given. Some very joyful and fruitful years followed, and I learned a lesson for life: When God calls, don’t look at yourself – look at Him who gave the calling!
When God says go – go!
This book is about team building and leadership training. I believe that you who read are called to some kind of leadership, and it is my prayer that you will understand how important it is that you do not step back when God calls. Maybe you have fought the same battle as I, doubting if you really are up to what God asks you to do. We can all feel that we lack both worth and talent. But that is not a problem with God! When He finds a willing heart, He can add all abilities we need to fulfill His will.
YOU ARE THE ONE WHOM GOD HAS BEEN LOOKING FOR.
God wants you to discover that you are just the one whom He has been looking for. This is your time! Do not be afraid of failure; rather be afraid of never trying. God will lead you according to your willingness, it is His work, His kingdom – He will give the fruit. There are great teams waiting to be built, and people who wait for you to start training them.
Just as I discovered that God’s grace matches the calling He gives, I believe you will discover that God will never put a mountain in front of you that you cannot climb. And whenever a leader reaches the top, he will discover there are plenty of people right behind him.
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF FAILURE; RATHER BE AFRAID OF NEVER TRYING.
When a leader appears
The sixth chapter of the book of Judges opens with these words:
“Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years.”
In other words, there was trouble in the land. The Midianites were a powerful Arabian tribe that lived on the Eastern side of the Sinai Peninsula. They were descendants of Abraham’s son Midian, and this was not the first time Israel was in conflict with them. During the time in the desert, Moses and Israel waged war against the Midianites and defeated them. But at this time in history, Midian had grown stronger and discovered that the land of Israel was a suitable prey to plunder. Every year the Midianites raided the countryside, stealing and destroying. The book of Judges tells us that “Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites…” (Jud 6:6) In desperation, the people started to cry out to God.
And as so many other times in history, God’s answer was to raise up a leader. He sent one of his angles to a young, inexperienced, and timid man living in Ophrah in the territory of the tribe of Manasseh, saying to him:
“Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”Judges 6:14
The name of the man was Gideon. After overcoming his own intimidations and doubts, he finally rose to be a national leader who broke the yoke of the Midianites and delivered his nation from the occupation. The story of Gideon is one of the most vibrant and exciting stories in the Old Testament, still inspiring us to believe that God can deliver, even from the most wicked oppressor.
Reading this tale, there is one particular thing that strikes me. And that is, even though the whole nation was spiritually broken and in chaos, when a leader appeared, he was able to rally them and bring back their faith in victory.
“But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, who also gathered behind him. He also sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.”Judges 6:34–35
Gideon gathered tens of thousands of men, and even if God later reduced this number to only 300, we see that there was a great potential in Israel to take up the fight – as soon as a leader stepped forward!
The battle of Midian became one of the greatest victories in Old Testament history. And after the battle, as long as Gideon was alive, the nation thrived and experienced a period of peace.
“Thus Midian was subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted their heads no more. And the country was quiet for forty years in the days of Gideon.”Judges 8:28
That things went so well for Israel during the days of Gideon, makes it even sadder to read about what happened after his death. What could have become a permanent change in history, only lasted for one generation.
“So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.”Judges 8:33–34
This is unfortunately not a unique story in the Bible. There are many examples of how the nation stayed sound and obedient to God, as long as there were God-fearing leaders who ruled the land. But there are too many other stories about how Israel broke His covenant when these leaders were gone. After Joshua died, Israel left The Lord to worship the gods of Canaan. The same happened after the deaths of godly kings like Hezekiah and Josiah.
All these stories point to one spiritual principle: the great need for godly leaders. When there were leaders in Israel who went first and wholeheartedly sought God, the people usually followed them. And in the same way, there are people all around us who possess innumerable talents and qualities, people who want to serve God, but cannot seem to get started. There are many who want to change the world and do something meaningful with their lives – if only someone would rally them, train them, inspire them and show them what they can do for God.
And that is why I believe that the quest for leaders is still the greatest need in God’s kingdom.