The Divine Wisdom of Collaboration

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When a team wins the Super Bowl, we still feel a need to single out the Most Valuable Player. Our culture emphasizes individual accomplishments over teamwork. Experience tells us not much happens in "committee" so we believe, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

But teamwork is important, especially in our relationships. When solutions do not come quickly in an organization, we are too quick to blame the team concept. We say it hinders productivity and decisive action. Collaboration appears to be far too time-consuming and perhaps more trouble than it is worth.

Abraham Lincoln was strongly advised to remove certain members of his cabinet because they had opposing views to the President. Lincoln’s genius was that he recognized the value of these individual contributions and found them helpful as he dealt with a country in severe conflict.

At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus called out twelve disciples. Instead of going from town to town in isolation, he gathered a group of diverse individuals to put into practice his proclamation. "The Kingdom of God is near," he said. And it is people gathering around one table, not individuals experiencing God in splendid isolation.

Consider Paul’s primary mission to the Gentiles. He was creating communities of faith. For example, he helped the church in Corinth through great conflicts. This church is far richer in diversity than homogeneity, he reminded them, for “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord . . .” (1 Cor. 12:4-5).

The early church was in danger of splitting into factions. In Jerusalem, Paul and Peter spent many nights debating what to do with Gentile Christians (Acts 15, Gal. 2:1-14). It must have been a heated atmosphere, but “the whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:12).

Teamwork becomes a reality when leaders practice humility. A leader does not have all the answers and needs the contribution of others when facing a great challenge. In collaboration, the leader loses a bit of the spotlight but gains far more creativity in the process. The beginning of wisdom is simple—teams outperform individuals. But such wisdom comes only with humility, patience, commitment, and mutual accountability.

The leader must allow the team to be the hero. Instead of working to command and control, the leader should provide the right balance of guidance and space for the group to think new and creative thoughts.

If we can see one another as cocreators, we will discover newer and deeper levels of understanding. True collaboration occurs when we overcome our fear of telling the truth and create a group with more depth and breadth of spirit. Our creator God honored us with the freedom to be cocreators. According to Paul we are “coworkers with God” (I Cor. 3:9). Perhaps this honor is a hint that human beings "made in the image of God" are called to work together.