It’s recess on the blacktop back in elementary school and all the kids are lined up eagerly awaiting your finger to point in their direction. While their self-esteem hangs delicately in the balance, the only thing on your mind is winning. That’s the job of the captain recruiting a team for kickball, right? You scan for the athletic, the strong, the gifted kid with the golden leg, the slightly older mean girl that repeated 3rd grade. You nervously wait as the other team starts picking off your prospects, as reality sets in that you will inevitably end up with several “less-desirables.” These are the “weak” kids, and although you’d never say that out-loud, the unspoken truth of being picked last only meant one thing.
Now you are all grown up, leading a church or a ministry, and if you’re anything like me…
You don’t want to lose.
As you build your teams, recruit your volunteers, and empower your leaders – your endgame, like mine, is to expand the Kingdom, elevate the name of Jesus, and grow a healthy ministry. So what feels natural is to find the best, the cream of the crop, the top of the gene pool to build upon. I certainly have that bias. Team captains should, right? If we have a team of incredibly gifted leaders, what could possibly go wrong?
The problem with the kickball mindset in ministry, is that it seems that God never did it that way. Let your mind cruise over the mountain tops of the biblical narrative and how time and time again God took the weak things and made them mighty. Moses, David, Gideon, Peter – just to name a few. Moses was a terrible communicator, David got lost in Goliath’s shadow, Gideon was admittedly the weakling of his weak tribe, and Peter’s quick tongue and hot temper would have him frequenting the principal’s office. God even took the cross, a most despised tool of war, and turned into the greatest symbol of love the world has ever known.
Does this mean you can’t have blue chippers on your team?
No, of course not – sometimes it’s really helpful to have the kid who can bend it like Beckham. But it does mean that when we have successes in our ministries and churches, it will not be the result of simply making the right picks, but instead from a complete dependance on God to bring about the fruit from your labor. God takes the weak things and makes them mighty, so that He gets the honor and the glory. The right team that you need, might not be the team that makes sense on paper.
Recall the story from Judges 6-7, when Gideon is tasked to drive out the Midianites.
Although he was able to recruit 32,000 men, God began to whittle that force down to an impossible number. Gideon ended up with a JV squad of 300 men. Those odds were impossible, and that was just the way God wanted it. He wanted his children to know that when the victory was won, it was God who fought their battles.
While there’s nothing wrong with best practices and having a savvy leadership mind, as you pick your teams don’t let your finger quickly pass over those who may not look the part. Don’t dismiss the JV team – because God loves to provide against all odds.
Pastor Patrick Linnell is the author of Grace Bomb: The Surprising Impact of Loving Your Neighbors 2021, David C. Cook, and founder of Grace Bomb, a movement and ministry that equips churches around the country.