One of the 13 core competencies of a church planter is “building body cohesiveness.” Dr. Charles Ridley, developer of the church planter profile, refers to this one as “the glue.” This competency highlights that hard-to-put -your-finger-on quality of being able to orchestrate widely differing people to function as a unified group. I would argue that even churches that are not diverse culturally or generationally will contain “widely differing people”. Consider even matters of personality or communication style, spiritual gifts, different ways people have of engaging with God. The body of Christ is by its very nature diverse, which is wonderful, yet presents certain challenges to the church planter.
The invisible “glue”
Building body cohesiveness is one of those qualities that we can often recognize by its fruit, but we can’t always see what’s driving those results. There is a certain quality some planters have that makes it possible for people who are diverse in their thinking and direction to come together and work together. What is the planter actually doing to bring people together as a unified whole?
- Harmonizes people despite their differences
- Facilitates cooperation to attain group goals
- Resolves group conflicts and division
- Monitors and maintains the morale of people
- Assimilates new people into the life of the church
- Celebrates milestones in ministry
Let’s take a deeper look at conflict resolution particularly. Resolving conflict doesn’t always mean agreement, of course, but rather a coming to a place of mutual understanding, respect, and allowing for diversity. Conflict in any community is inevitable; it’s how you handle conflict as a leader that makes the difference.
I have found that many conflicts stem from disagreements about method, implementation, or approach: we should do it this way. In those cases, it can be helpful to drill down to find the underlying core values—often things people do hold in common, or aspire to hold in common—and then engage them in a process to sort through how we can live those values out.
Let’s take for example, a value on worship and the Holy Spirit. A church I led had a divergence of opinion on the outward expression of charismatic gifts. Both sides of that camp had a value on worship and on the Holy Spirit, but their interpretation led them to different expressions of what they felt that should look like. There was need to built body cohesiveness. First, we gave people opportunities to express their opinions and we listened. Then, to provide a look at the bigger picture, we talked about other core values like unity among believers and respecting diversity. Additionally, we cast vision by talking about where we wanted to go with making disciples and our core mission.
What we eventually came down to was a broad-tent approach that allowed for different interpretations and differing expressions of the charismatic gifts. Essentially, you could do what you wanted as long as you weren’t either 1) trying to get everyone else to experience God the way you do and communicating that certain manifestations of the Spirit were essential to the Christian experience, or 2) trying to stamp out certain practices in others. As long as you weren’t going to make this your agenda and fight about getting it implemented, all views and expressions were welcome. As a result, we had enough diversity in our ministry to please and offend everyone, yet we were affirming our relationship with one another and our sense of belonging in the body of Christ.
Embrace the larger vision
That’s how we built cohesiveness and held a fairly diverse group of people together and still got along. I recommend keeping your list of non-negotiables as short as possible, focusing on loving Jesus and loving each other, while maintaining a posture of learning and growing. We don’t all have to agree, and we don’t all have to like everything. But we do all need to embrace the larger vision, love each other along the journey, and keep our lines of communication open.
More on Church Planting and Leadership
The Church Planting Journey- This newly released book is a comprehensive guide for the church planter. It is the culmination of experience that includes being a church planter myself, and coaching and consulting church planters for more than 40 years. Within the pages, you will find wisdom, systems, and processes that can help you launch well as well as sustain your unique vision and call. NOW AVAILABLE FOR KINDLE!
The Church Planter Assessment- How do you rate in Building Body Cohesiveness? Whether you are thinking about church planting, are already in the process the Church Planter Behavioral Assessment is a valuable tool. To learn more about how you can be assessed email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Leadership Difference– If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, The Leadership Difference is for you. Whether you are leading a church, a team, or a small group, these skills and strategies will result in lightening your own load, developing the skills of others, and getting the job done effectively.
Leadership Skills Guide– Looking for Leadership Development Tools? Get an overview of our program to guide upcoming leaders in their development of 37 essential leadership skills. Download now, for FREE!