Humility: The Understated Ingredient of a Healthy Team

The nature of team dynamics directly influences our behaviour and performance as we build from and work as part of a group. There will be those who are much more strategic or those who are creatively minded. Teams are unique environments where there is an orbiting around one goal and yet various personalities, giftings, and experiences which can make such an endeavour both challenging and greatly valuable in our understanding of others and ourselves. Engaging with such a mixture of individuals is one of the key ways that God will refine us and our churches; He will teach us that in order to make a team work we need a Christ-like heart, since it is not about us but Him. It's a beautiful journey where we choose to sacrifice time, limelight and some big ideas in order to serve the need of those around us and to love the church well.

By working as part of a team it means you are striving together to give something glory, or the more apt Hebrew translation of 'weight'; this is no different in the secular world. It is therefore tempting to shift the dynamic of such a group so that much of our concern is in fact the glorification of the self. How do we look? Are we being appreciated? Are we getting the thanks we deserve? It is therefore an environment where the 'self' can be heavily projected. Since there is no greater catalyst for decaying a team than pride, in this article I want to talk about humility. Rather than the projection and upholding of the self, humility is thinking of yourself less. Only through humility can we truly serve and honour the church, and reveal the beauty of God to others.

Last year Forbes conducted an interview with Patrick Lencioni, president of The Table Group, a bestselling author and international speaker, on the most indispensable virtues to a successful team. Lencioni named three, but the first and most important of these was humility. I was shocked to see a secular magazine project such an emphasis on this virtue, since it is greatly understated and wrongly viewed as counter-productive. We can interpret humble people as those who speak themselves down, shy away from possessing strong opinions and not someone who would drive a team forward. Maybe they'd sit on the outskirts. And yet God is humility. God did not sit on the outskirts when something had to be done about the chasm which separated Him and His creation. Humility is in no way a shying away from reality or big issues, it is a virtue that describes what our Father is like and what we are called to be.

In order to reveal how fundamental humility is in our team engagement I want to discuss how humility creates a team that is like Jesus, how it reflects the Trinity and that it will strengthen church culture.

Humility Creates a Team Like Jesus

Christ called together the first team that would lay the foundations for the future church, and so He is our model for what perfect team leadership and engagement looks like. Nearing the end of Jesus' ministry on earth, one of His teachings was still to be drawn out. Amid arguments over which of the disciples would be the greatest in heaven (Luke 9:46), Jesus was about to show them what true greatness looks like. He did this in two ways. Immediately, He called to them a child and placed them in full view amongst the disciples. In doing so He declared that unless they humble themselves and become like little children there is no other way to even enter the Kingdom, let alone to be the greatest within it (Matt 18:3). Jesus was to show this in a much more tangible way very close to His crucifixion. During the Feast of the Passover, the disciples had sat to eat supper with Jesus. As they finished Jesus got up, took a towel, filled a bowl with water, and went to each of them one by one to wash their feet. The Saviour of the world, the One who was there at the creation of the universe, was kneeling on a grubby floor and washing dirty feet. What does this kind of humility mean? It means laying aside one's ego, prestige and standing in order to serve the team you're in. In fact, Jesus was to show how far His humility would go right there on the cross. Imagine it, a King who if asked to show their handiwork brings forth the mountains, the expanse of ocean, scattered galaxies and deep forests, is also a King who was obedient to death on a tree that He had created. When Jesus tells us to be like children He is telling us to depart from our scurried way of gathering up a name for ourselves, and instead lean into the only thing we can boast in: Himself. Jesus humbly taught His disciples, served them and ultimately died for them. Do we have this heart for our team? Would we lay aside things we see as our right and due in order to see the group served out of our sacrifice? The more we do the more we will know Christ.

Humility Reflects the Trinity

Secondly, humility reflects the Trinity. I love the way C. S. Lewis described the Trinity as a 'dance'. Tim Keller, a great admirer of Lewis, unpicks this grand description of the Trinity in his book Kings Cross. He says: 'No person in the Trinity insists that the others revolve around him; rather each of them voluntarily circles and orbits around the others.' This notion of a dance, revolving around the other instead of claiming centre-stage, is an attitude for us to mimic when taking part in a team. This invitation for us to mirror the Trinity is extended further in Jesus' prayer to the Father in John. He prays that the church 'may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us' (John 17:21). The unity and oneness experienced within the Trinity is what Christ wants expressed in us and our teams. Although multiple persons exist within one unit, our behaviour and performance is to echo that which is holy. The only way to truly see this practiced amongst us is of course humility, the great endeavour of considering our teammates higher than us, and to regard their interests and honour of greater value to us than our own. A recent Broadcast with Andy McCullough was crucial in understanding this holy manner of team working which reflects the Trinity's humility. McCullough described teamwork in the culture of Japan, one in which individualism is greatly frowned upon, one man's excelling beyond the rest for personal gain and leaving the community behind is counter-cultural. Instead, a collective which sacrifices and pursues for one another to see everyone reach the same point is upheld. Where Japan has organically picked up this appreciation for the cooperative and team as a whole, we in our churches must do the same in light of the oneness of the Trinity. This insight leads us well onto my last point.

Humility Strengthens Church Culture

Culture is taking the 'raw material' that we have been given and in partnership with God and His desire for human flourishing, we make something creative and wholesome for society. We do this through music, art, literature and technology for example. Every team will have a culture of what is significant and meaningful to them, intentionally or unintentionally. For Christians, we are highly intentional about the way we want to see Christ glorified amongst us, and that is part of our culture. In this way, our teams must be displayers of humble serving hearts so that the whole congregation, when witnessing such, is gladly led into the same. Church culture-making is done through a mirroring of the nature of the Trinity and a proclaiming of Christ's work. The struggle for every team, however, is allowing worldly aspects of our geographical cultures to creep in whilst we endeavour to reflect the heavenly. If we uphold elements of our society over God or too highly we thus distort their rightful purpose and meaning within our church cultural expression, like money or numbers. What we need in this challenge is of course, humility. Humility will strengthen our team culture by clearing our eyes to see that certain things we're upholding, like individualism for example, may not be what God upholds. We can cling too tightly onto our nation's culture since it can easily become our identity to use as a pedestal over others. Humility will help sieve out the things of our culture which does not honour God, and solidify that which does.


Humility opens wide the ability to rejoice in, affirm and love others whilst removing the fear of losing face or standing. Humility takes joy in seeing teammates honoured and use their giftings for the purpose of glorifying our Father. We are able to sit and look upon someone else's masterpiece and be pleased as though we had done it ourselves, because we have been bestowed with the greatest affirmation and identity from a throne like no other.