On the Importance of the Parts

Following is a message I recently shared with the Frontline staff, at our monthly community gathering.

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John Maxwell has built an international ministry focusing on leadership skills and teamwork. He has long said that behind every great accomplishment in human history, you will find that -even if it appears to to be the work of a single, talented superstar- it never really is. In all great achievements and accomplishments, he says, there are always numerous people involved. No one ever accomplished anything great… alone.

I’ve been in team ministry for over 35 years. For reasons I am unaware of, it’s never been difficult for me to see the need for good teamwork to accomplish great things. And it’s never been hard for me to understand how my work contributes to objectives greater than my specific role or work focus.

At one time the Frontline was a traveling team of gospel workers or as many as 75 people. We travelled together nomadically for over 20 years throughout the Philippine provincial areas conducting gospel tent crusades. At one time we had dozens of trailer and tents, and a large tent that would seat some 3000 people. In the “big tent” we would present the gospel through music, films, drama skits, puppet shows, and preaching for up to thirty nights straight in some locations. While people seemed to be in awe of the leaders, or of those preaching each night across the pulpit, or the lead singers of the band, consider for a moment some of what we needed to do what we did:

  • electricians
  • carpenters
  • drivers
  • mechanics
  • musicians & singers
  • drama teams
  • sound technicians
  • cooks & dishwashers
  • preachers & teachers
  • leaders & administrators
  • representation and fundraisers
  • office workers

While none of these people had the same jobs or positions, and many of those in the team performed only specific routines, none of the individual people in the team served a different mission or vision than anyone else. The mission of all was to reach as many of the Filipino people as possible with Gospel, and we did that though what was once called a “well-oiled gospel machine”. And throughout nearly 25 years of crusade ministry outreach, millions of people were reached through the collective work of the Frontline.

I think we all know that no “machine” is ever made up of a single piece. Paul talked of the body of Christ as being many parts, and that no part can or should consider itself more or less important than the other parts. I found early on in ministry that human beings tend to look at leadership positions as if those are the greatest roles, and particularly the roles that require speaking. While this is human tendency, I believe it reveals a lack of understanding. I’ve said for years now that my team members make me appear a lot better than I actually am, and that is not merely a joke. Leadership is important, but it is still just part of the whole picture.

When it came time for the drama team to perform a skit on our platform, they alway hoped that those handling the sound system and lights were well prepared and did their job well. They also hoped that those who built the platform had reinforced it well (yes, one time the stage actually collapsed). When it came time to eat we all hoped the cooks had done their jobs well, because nothing hurts team morale worse than bad meals. And when we moved our camp to the next city, we all hoped the mechanics had checked and maintained the vehicles and trailer connections well. We even hoped our welders had done a good job.

The point of all is that no one person could ever have pulled off a single Frontline tent crusade. The preacher on the platform in the evenings may have preached a great message and seen hundreds or even thousands of people respond to the gospel, but it would never have been possible without the efforts of every individual involved.

Frontline today is not the same as it was then. Our ministry has changed and expanded in dramatic and significant ways. We’ve transformed into a much more multi-faceted, holistic, integral ministry. We now reach and help people find their way back to God through 1)church planting, 2)Christian education, 3)compassionate care ministries, and 4)social enterprise (business as ministry). But this dynamic of teamwork still remain true; that is, the impact we are having as an organization today could never be done by any of the individuals involved, nor even by any single one of these ministries. And our impact will always be governed by the degree that we are united by a culture of positive synergy.

In these four ministries we have a wide array of personality types and skill sets. Here’s a quick list of some of them:

  • pastors
  • social media experts
  • bookkeepers & accountants
  • computer techs
  • web developers
  • child care workers
  • social workers
  • singers & worship leaders
  • Musicians
  • teachers
  • administrators
  • drivers
  • grounds-keepers
  • construction workers
  • cooks
  • schedulers
  • welders
  • communications personnel
  • photography and graphic artists
  • idea people
  • those who make ideas work!

While many of these skill sets and roles are all very different, what we are all doing together is not; we are all engaging the world around us for good, and doing it because of and in the name of Jesus Christ.

As an organization it is important to remember that our first and primary calling is to be Christians, citizens of the Kingdom of God. We are in this world, even though we are not of it. But while we are here in this world, we have been told to “occupy” until he comes again. And while we occupy, we are told to go into all of this world and make disciples. A disciple is someone who has placed Jesus Christ at the first and foremost place of his/her life.

At the core of all we do at Frontline is always Jesus, God’s Word, God’s love and compassion, and even God’s wisdom. In this way, we show forth the goodness and love of God to the world around us in a wide array of ways. And through all these things, together, we are impacting our city, our region, the nation, and one day other parts of the world.

Our reproducing church dream has put us in a strategic partnership with NewThing Global. We have hundreds of churches already being impacted in the Philippines by the concepts of apprenticing, partnering, collaboration, and sharing of resources. We have 17 churches in San Pablo City (and its various Barangays).

Because of our global partnership with NewThing, we will soon receive four people from Kenya for a 6 month residency with Frontline, to see and learn with and from us. We have two functioning businesses, one that is profitable (and a model business in San Pablo City) and another (sewing factory) that is becoming profitable. These enterprises ar not only providing jobs to people in a godly, exciting and honoring environment, but also generating revenues for sustaining and expanding ministry to more people.

I have personally become one of the board members of the Chamber of Commerce. I often wonder about how weird this is! I still view myself as primarily a Pastor and missionary, but our involvement in business initiatives is real. And soon many of the Chamber members will come and do an official tour of the Frontline.

Our child care facility is the largest, and arguable among the most successful in our region. Our growing school is a wonderful place where children are being taught, trained, mentored, and most especially cared for and loved. FCA has an amazingly united and loving staff.

What does all this mean? Each ministry of Frontline is having an impact in its own right; but it also means that we are doing together what none of us could do alone… engaging and impacting our surrounding society though a truly holistic, integral way.

Recently we hosted hundred of high school and college school students from our city schools at Frontline Worship Center. We were asked by several school to come and speak weekly to the students on good life values. The doors have been opened to reach and touch their lives. How exciting! What a blessing!

We’ve entered into an official partnership with other schools in our city for students to come to Frontline Business Solutions for their work immersion experience. We’ve had dozens and dozens of young people come through our program, and all of them have gone away blessed and touched by the love, the joy, the respect and the professionalism of our business ministry; and by the impact of the program we’ve developed for them.

It’s easy for me to connect the dots between the business providing funds to help the school and sponsor kids into FCA or FTC. It’s easy for me to see how FCA serves the educational and caring needs of the FTC program. It’s easy for me to see how the churches of Frontline serve the needs of a Sunday gathering experience for our families, and our youth and children. It’s easy for me to see how the compassionate care ministries serve all of us in keeping our heart open and involved in the needs of the less fortunate or suffering.

But, we don’t merely serve each other internally. Frontline has a bigger, broader mission than simply meeting the needs of our own internal programs. Frontline is engaging the world around us in a holistic and integral way, and due to that, making an impact in our city.

None of us could do this alone. We should never think we can, or try. We should all see the value of team work, and be proud of the contribution of each person involved, and of the contribution of each one of our ministries. More than that, the body of Christ should probably do a better job at elevating and escalating the issue of unity, or —perhaps a better term today— positive synergy.

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