As an educator I have noticed there are two words that prompt a general widespread panic in a classroom faster than any others. Those two words: group project. From middle school to graduate school the majority of students seem to loathe working with a group of classmates assigned to them by their instructor. Why is that?
Certainly there are a number of possible contributors to this common anxiety. First, it can be difficult to work with others. It requires dealing with different personalities, values, and perspectives. It takes time to wade through different people’s ideas, and it is often a struggle to finally settle on a plan of action. Second, when we open ourselves up to a group project we lose control of the project. It feels easier to us if we are able to make all of the decisions and not have to stop and discuss options with others. We do not have to worry about how to respond to ideas that we do not agree with.
Our spiritual journey is really no different. If there is an issue in our life we would prefer to work it out through a private conversation with God. The problem is that God has designed us in a way that we grow best in the context of community. Each of us has blind spots. That is, there are things about each of us that are quite clear to everyone else, but completely unknown to us. Some of those things God will reveal to us through others if we are willing to hear them. So the Proverb states: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Of course, that too requires us to lose control. There is a terrible sense of vulnerability in allowing others to speak into our lives. However, those fears are ultimately empty threats from the enemy. The truth is that there is far more to be gained from being a part of a community than there is to be lost. True community is bound together by authentic love. And true love drives away all of our fears (see 1 John 4:18). Once we open ourselves up to others we begin to see that teamwork has even more benefits than mere personal growth. The strength of a team grows exponentially with the addition of team members. If one man can chase a thousand, then two men can put ten thousand to flight (Deut. 32:30). Great fulfillment and satisfaction comes from being a member of a strong and healthy team.
But it is important that you understand this. As a Christian, being a part of the team called the Church is more than you being able to belong to something bigger than yourself (though that certainly is true). Your spiritual formation is actually part of the group project. You cannot be fully formed outside of the Church, and the Church cannot be fully formed without you. I know that it is more comfortable to keep your baggage to yourself. But you cannot become the person that God created you to be without the input of others. In a very real sense a critical part of what God wants to do in your life requires the work of the team. In that sense, teamwork is more than you volunteering to be a part of a group project. It is the willingness to become the group project. Teamwork. Give it a try.