With so many issues swirling around, it would be helpful if we could learn to set aside our individualistic and competitive tendencies and learn to work together without thinking we need to be in charge or take the credit for every idea we toss out there.
It would mean we would need to do more of that upstream thinking I wrote about recently after reading Dan Heath’s book, Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen. He devotes a whole chapter on the subject of “How Will You Unite the Right People?”
Sounds like a great idea, right? With the rampant amount of division in every area we see today, that would be an incredible accomplishment.
Dan Heath suggests the place to start:
“Each one of them gets a role. Given that your progress may hinge on people’s voluntary effort, it’s smart to maintain a big tent.”
But it isn’t just that more people are better.
“To succeed in upstream efforts, you need to surround the problem. Meaning you need to attract people who can address all the key dimensions of the issue.”
“Once you’ve surrounded the problem, then you need to organize all those people’s efforts. And you need an aim that’s compelling and important – a shared goal that keeps them contributing even in stressful situations…” Dan Heath
Can you imagine what would happen if we lay aside all our territorialism in just about every aspect of our lives in such a way? What all might be accomplished in medicine, engineering, government, missions, and more.
I think Paul of New Testament fame understood that without ever reading Dan Heath’s informative book. He makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 12:
“12 Just as the human body is one, though it has many parts that together form one body, so too is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we all were immersed and mingled into one single body. And no matter our status—whether we are Jews or non-Jews, oppressed or free—we are all privileged to drink deeply of the same Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (TPT)
And then he adds this great metaphor:
“17 Think of it this way. If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds? And if the whole body were just an ear, how could it smell different fragrances? 18 But God has carefully designed each member and placed it in the body to function as he desires. 19 A diversity is required, for if the body consisted of one single part, there wouldn’t be a body at all! 20 So now we see that there are many differing parts and functions, but one body.”
1 Corinthians 12: 17-19 (TPT)
Paul then shows how well he understands mankind by exhorting them not to compete about which parts are most needed or valuable. He certainly had all that right, but whether in the world or the church it often seems we didn’t get that message (at least we didn’t apply it if we heard or taught it).
One big obstacle deals with how little humility is evident in most of our lives and the kind of thinking and team building that Dan Heath talks about requires humility.
There’s that sticky issue again that we all too often stumble over. Every Christian author since the canon of scripture was closed has written on the subject to remind us of that essential quality of character.
“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”
“Every Christian has a choice between being humble or being humbled.”
So, what if?
What if we each stopped looking at that other person, organization, business, club, politician, pastor, etc. as not pulling us together in unity and looked first at ourselves and how we play a part in disunity?