The writer of Proverbs encourages us to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV). Several years ago I read a book written by Patrick Lencioni entitled, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Later I read several of his books including one entitled, Death by Meeting. I sometimes tell people it is a “Baptist” book. He is an interesting author of leadership books. He calls them “leadership fables.” I like to think of them as modern day parables. They are stories about people like you and me.
I was particularly intrigued by his book about the dysfunctions of teams. The first dysfunction is the absence of trust. While the author discusses the other “dysfunctions” that make teamwork difficult—fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results—I am convinced he correctly identified trust as the foundation for real teamwork. Without trust it is impossible to form a real team, partnership, or collaborative effort. I believe trust is the foundation for Kingdom work. In the parable of the trustworthy servant in Luke 19:17 (NIV), the master said, 'Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.' We are to be worthy of trust. Our relationship with God, who is completely trustworthy, should enable us to become trustworthy as we learn to trust each other.
I have many opportunities to work with churches and church leaders. It amazes me how often I meet with congregations where it is obvious the members do not trust each other. Sometimes members do not trust their pastor or other church staff. Sometimes staff members do not trust church leaders. Sometimes we have misunderstood the meaning of trust or misused the term. It certainly does not mean we always agree with each other. Lencioni’s book says in the context of building a team, trust is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. This confidence in the intentions of others allows us to be genuine, honest, and transparent in our relationships with each other. It allows us to accept each other with all our flaws and weaknesses as children of God saved by his grace.
I have learned in my own life to trust God more and more as I have come to know him better. The better I get to know God, the more I trust him. One of the tragedies in many of our churches is that we do not “know” each other. Our failure to invest ourselves and genuinely share ourselves with each other has kept us from getting to know each other and that has prevented us from developing relationships of trust within the family of God. Do you really know the people who are a part of your Bible study class? Have you been willing to be vulnerable with those who are a part of your committee assignment? Are you willing to invest the time to get to know those who sit near you in worship services? Real relationships build trust within the body of Christ and enable us to serve together more effectively in Christ’s Kingdom. Building relationships of trust is a Christian discipline. Let’s start building trust.
This article was written for the "Message" page in this week's Word&Way.