Choosing teams on the playground during elementary school recess is essentially a childhood rite of passage. There are two team captains, typically the kids who have the appearance of being natural leaders (i.e. they're bigger and louder) while the rest of the potential players line up and the ritual begins. If I ever found myself in the rare position of being the captain, I typically took a posture well-known by the other kids: I would pick my friends first. It didn't matter if they were good at the game or not; they were my friends. Some captains picked the strategy of choosing the biggest, most athletic kids, regardless of relational equity or quality of character. They just wanted to get the most points. But I found myself drawn to the people I liked, the people I knew I would have fun playing the game with, the people who gave me joy, the people I trusted. Even if we didn't win, we'd have a blast doing it together.
We choose the teammates we love to do games with.
Now as a pastor, I have the task of hiring for three different positions for my church's youth ministries leadership team, including a full-time young adults pastor. It's been an enlightening, exciting, and daunting endeavor as a leader. Choosing a leadership team requires a great deal of discernment, humility, patience, and a knowledge of one's vision and values. Finding the right team chemistry is vital, and I've been blessed to be a part of some incredible church leadership teams where the team dynamic is defined by mutual trust and shared values. I know what I want in a team because I've experienced it before.
A few weeks ago, I attended an evening lecture at Regent College featuring author and pastor Mark Buchanan. He shared that he would choose leaders based on what he called the "Numbers 11 Principle." In Numbers 11, the people of Israel are complaining to Moses so strongly that he eventually pleads with the Lord to kill him at once rather than continue to face the criticism and whininess of the people. Instead of killing Moses, God gives him the following command:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. (Numbers 11:16-17, ESV, emphasis mine)God takes some of the Spirit on Moses and places it on these trusted leaders. It's interesting that God doesn't just give His Spirit directly; He gives it through Moses, a sharing of His Spirit that mingles with Moses's spirit. This is more than just team chemistry or synergy or alike personalities--these are kindred spirits, shared hearts, what Buchanan called "deep calling to deep." There is something mysterious and beautiful and complex here, a sharing of the Spirit of God to stand together and bear the burden of the people. Buchanan encouraged his listeners to seek out these kindred spirits and do ministry together.
One of my ministry friends, Brian Berry, uses the language of locking arms or stacking hands together. I love the image of interlocking limbs as teammates, the intertwining partnership it embodies. And when people on the same team or project aren't kindred spirits, there is an underlying tension behind every decision, a fumbling of locked arms and an awkward de-stacking of hands. It's akin to the feeling of going for a high-five with someone and completely missing; we're not fully with each other in this.
Kindred spirits. Stacked hands. Locked arms. Partners in the Gospel. Whatever the phrasing, these capture something I've experienced in the past decade of ministry: there are certain people you just love doing ministry with. It goes beyond personalities or interests--this is the experience of shared values, shared hearts, shared minds, and a spiritual connection permeating it all. It's the reason I moved to Arizona years ago--I was following the call of a kindred spirit, someone I loved and trusted. It's the reason I came to British Columbia--I found kindred spirits here that I didn't even know existed until the Spirit of God brought us together. It's the reason I married my wife--she is a kindred spirit, a person I eagerly want to do life with, no matter where God leads us together.
We choose the people we love to do (fill in the blank) with.
As I'm hiring for positions and looking to build a team, I'm looking for kindred spirits. I'm looking for people to do ministry with for the long haul. That withness is essential for any team, whether on the playground, together as parents, or a pastoral team.
Who are the kindred spirits in your life? How do you know?