God has given you vision for the church so why are you running up against so many obstacles? You are preaching your heart out each week about reaching the unchurched—why aren’t your people engaging with people outside of the church? The role of a pastor is to build a community of people functioning as the body of Christ. Building a healthy and cohesive community of believers is no easy task, and one of the essential abilities in any senior pastor.
Building Body Cohesiveness
For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, building body cohesiveness is defined as gathering a diversity of people in a unified expression of Christ’s love and mission.
The body of Christ is a complex organic system, with everyone playing different roles, yet working together harmoniously toward the same end: the mission of Jesus. As Paul described out of many, one:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
And that means dealing with conflicts and divisions as they arise as well:
1 Corinthians 1:10-15
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.
Read 1 Corinthians 12 for the classic passage on the body of Christ, but remember that it stems from a desire to be united and on mission as a community of faith.
5 Habits that Demonstrate Building Body Cohesiveness
What does it look like for someone to build body cohesiveness? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Sets an example of collaboration
You have a specific vision and you know how you want to get it done. It’s easier just to do it yourself. I get it. But that strategy will only get you so far. If you want people to work toward a common goal, you have to show them how to do it. In ministry, you have a beautiful mixed bag of strengths and talents. Where one person lacks another will shine. Setting an example of collaboration demonstrates value for kinds of people and empowers others to use the gifts that God has given them.
2. Helps people to work toward common goals
Speaking of beautiful mixed bags… in your congregation there are passionate people. They have a heart for children, foreign missions, unhoused in the local community, hospitality, women, men… the list is endless. Each one believes that their ministry is the most important. How do you get them working toward common goals? If you don’t see, communicate, and develop commonality as a core value, you will find competition where unity is needed.
3. Resolves overt and covert conflicts
Your church is made up of people with different personalities, passions, and politics. Conflict is brewing. How are your peacemaking skills? Hoping the inevitable conflicts will resolve themselves or better yet just go away isn’t going to serve you or your church in the long run. Scars from old wounds build walls of fear that resist even healthy change.
4. Helps the group adapt to unplanned events and disruptions
After the pandemic, this one might seem self-explanatory. Adapting is overcoming obstacles while continuing to move forward toward your goals. Truth is, if your mission/vision was derailed by all the “pandemic pivots,” you didn’t adapt—you compromised. Senior pastors need to develop the ability to adapt themselves and to help others keep moving forward so that the urgent doesn’t derail the mission.
5. Promotes respect for individual and cultural differences
Revelation 7 describes a great multitude of people from every tribe and nation worshiping God. They don’t look the same, sound the same, or do things the same, but they come together with thankful hearts in worship. When the church fails to honor differences in other people and cultures, it has strayed away from God’s vision for the church.
How well are you building body cohesiveness?
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- In what ways do you set an example of collaboration for your congregation?
- When have you worked to resolve conflicts and find common ground?
- How have you cast vision for a common mission and goal?
- How have you helped people navigate unplanned events and disruptions?
- When have you promoted respect for individual and cultural differences?
Building body cohesiveness is one of the twelve qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
You encounter conflict all the time. Sometimes it’s simple and others it’s complex with high stakes. If handled properly, conflict can highlight problems that need to be rectified, lead to new ideas and behavior, enhance communication, and foster better long-term relationships between individuals and groups. Intentionally grow in your ability to navigate conflict with the Conflict Resolution Skills Builder. Coach or develop others using the Conflict Resolution Coaching Guide with Storyboard.
Do you find yourself needing to explain again and again? Effective communication skills can save you a lot of time and heart ache. Research has shown that empathizing, receiving, clarifying, understanding, reading non-verbal cues, giving and receiving feedback, and transmitting your message all contribute to effective communication. Use the Effective Communication Profile to discover how well you do in these areas. Work with a coach or help others develop their communication skills with the Effective Communication Coaching Guide and Storyboard.