I don’t follow the NBA like I did when I was in high school. In those days the players and teams to watch were the LA Lakers with Magic Johnson, Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, and the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan. Today it is LeBron James (now) with the LA Lakers, Anthony Davis with the New Orleans Pelicans, and Stephen Curry with the Golden State Warriors. With regard to the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry, what has been impressive to watch is how they’ve been to the last three NBA finals—winning two of them. And it seems by the start of this season it could be trip number four.
How do teams like the Golden State Warriors and others make it to the top? It’s not just on talent. That’s clear with the struggling LA Lakers who acquired LeBron James in the off season. Just because there are five talented players on the court doesn’t necessarily equal victory. In sports, people talk about team chemistry.
It takes the right chemistry to concoct a team victory.
In other organizational realms like businesses, nonprofits, and churches, the word that it used most often—rather than chemistry—is unity. Without unity, teams are weak. Without unity, teams do not maximize results. In fact, according to Jesus—in the context of praying for His followers and future followers—unity was quintessential to what He and the Father were aiming to accomplish. Jesus prays, “Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus prays something very similar later, but in regard to future followers (John 17:20–23).
Why did Jesus pray for oneness, or unity? So that the world may know Jesus! In other words, missional effectiveness is tied to corporate oneness. This truth applies across the board to any organization or team.
Without corporate oneness, churches will not experience missional effectiveness.
So, what does unity look like? I created an acrostic to help us think through unity and the various elements of unity that come together to create corporate oneness.
U— Understand your Purpose
If a team is going to embody unity, they need to unite around a common purpose. Without a common purpose, goal, or mission the team is left with the potential of moving in various directions. When a team moves in various directions no movement or traction is made.
N— Note that it’s not about me, but we
If a team is going to embody unity, they need to check their egos at the door. Team isn’t about me, it’s about we! In Christian circles, church isn’t about me or necessarily we, it’s about HE! Thus, we don’t waltz into a locker room, conference room, or church belting out commands about what we want to see, what we want to do.
I— Identify roles and responsibility to fulfill purpose
If a team is going to embody unity, they need to identify the various roles and responsibilities of the players and team members that will come together and fulfill the mission of the team or organization. This is more vital than it may come across. Scripture teaches about how the church is one body with many members. Thus, if the feet, hands, and eyes don’t understand their role and responsibilities you have one jacked up body that’s dysfunctional. With sports teams the identification of roles and responsibilities are called the playbook; in business circles it’s called the by-laws and policy manuals, along with organizational charts; in church circles it’s called the Bible along with documentation (by-laws and org charts) that describes how the church is organized around the truth of Scripture to fulfill the mandate of making disciples of all nations. If you don’t identify roles and responsibilities to fulfill your purpose, you’re winging it. Those who wing it, [typically] don’t win!
T— Trust the process
If a team is going to embody unity and corporate oneness, they will need to trust the process. Everything up until this point—uniting around a purpose or mission; noting that it’s not about me, but we; and identifying the roles and responsibilities to fulfill the purpose—is part of creating clarity and alignment for your team or organization. Once you’ve secured those, then you institute a process of moving towards the desired goal. Sure, you will have to make tweaks here and there, but overall you must trust the process. This is especially true for churches. Churches are notorious for trying something for only a few months and then changing because they didn’t see the desired results. The truth of the matter is that clarity and consistency over time lead to celebratory or cultural change.
Y— Yield to the movement of the Spirit
If a team is going to embody unity, they will need to yield to the movement of the Spirit. In sports and business environments we call it riding the waves of success. This is where teams and businesses hit their stride and they do all they can to stay in their prime at the top. This requires great commitment and effort. Slacking and goofing off is prohibited—especially if they want to stay in the zone and on top. In the church world, riding the waves of success is really the movement of the Spirit in the vein of multiplying and making disciples. It is in this zone where churches can either choose to move at the speed of committee or move at the speed of the Spirit. In other words, they can choose to stifle the movement and momentum of the Spirit of God and where He wants to take a church, or they can choose to fan the movement and momentum of the Spirit. But this will require commitment, effort, a release of control, and a lot of faith.
In closing, Acts 2 gives us a glimpse of what churches can experience when they embody U.N.I.T.Y. As the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to one another; as they lived a life centered around He and we—not me; as they moved and operated within the confines of their roles and responsibilities in the body of Christ, serving the needs of one another; and as they trusted the process and movement of God’s Spirit among them; “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b). Dear church leaders, we too can experience a sort of NBA final-like environment with regard to missional effectiveness, but it will require corporate oneness, aka—U.N.I.T.Y.!