Do You Have to Like the People You Work With – Part 2?

Rev. Tony Cooke

Last week, I introduced this topic by sharing how a pastor-friend, Dennis Cummins was rescued after a serious accident by a number of first responders. Their coordinated effort was not based on common personalities (that may or may not have existed), but on a common purpose.

As members of the Body of Christ, we are “many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:5 NLT). Further, we all have a part to play, a gift to contribute, and a function to carry out. To achieve maximum effectiveness, this has to be done, in large part, in a team context. Think about the team you are a part of? How much is this happening? How much of the potential of your team is taking place?

  • If those who should be participating are not, the potential is not being met.
  • If some are participating half-heartedly and limitedly, the potential is not being met.
  • If personality conflicts keep people from working together, the potential is not being met.
  • If personal preferences supersede divine purpose, the potential is not being met.

I believe we can do better! Here are some additional thoughts along the lines, “Do You Have to Like the People You Work With?”

John Wooden, considered by many to be the ultimate basketball coach, wrote the following in his book, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life.

“Cooperation is working with others for the benefit of all. Working with others makes us much more than we could ever become alone. A team can accomplish much more when it works together than individuals can when they work alone. My first national championship team (1964) probably operated as a team as much as any team I have ever seen.

Ironically, my players that year weren’t that close off the floor. They certainly varied in how much they liked one another. After a game or practice they all went their separate ways, but they were completely loyal to each other on the court. No one tried to be a star. They were each non-assuming and accomplished far more than anyone expected.”

In his excellent book, The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller shares about partnership and how couples need to work together and establish a loving bond in spite of differences that surface. To illustrate, he refers to various “buddy movies” that have been produced over the years. He writes:

“In each story, a disparate group of people are brought together. They may come from different races and classes and may hate one another, but because some common goal and mission is thrust on them, they become a team, a unit. They rescue each other, push, provoke, and exhort each other and win through because their common mission turns them into friends and their differences become their strengths.”

I shared the following in my book, Your Place on God’s Dream Team.

Your Place on God's Dream TeamRemember the Titans is a great movie that portrays the story of a high school football team struggling to unify after two schools (one comprised of African American students, and one comprised of white students) merged. In the movie, the team goes for a week of pre-season training at Gettysburg College, and Coach Herman Boone (played by Denzel Washington) takes the team out to one of the battlefields.

Boone shares with his bitterly divided team about the hatred and strife that caused so many Civil War deaths on that battlefield and then says, ‘…take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other. And maybe…I don’t know, maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.’

Early in the movie, it’s obvious that the racially split team members are not moving toward collaboration or cohesion in the slightest. Two of the star players, Gary Bierteer, the best white player, and Julius Campbell, the best African American player, have an intense exchange during a face-to-face confrontation.

Some understandably shy away from this type of confrontation, but we need to realize that the only thing worse than a dysfunctional team is a dysfunctional team that pretends everything is okay. When it comes to denial, it’s been said that you can’t fix a problem you don’t have. Often, it’s only through open and honest discussions that Proverbs 27:17 can be fulfilled: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend’ (NLT).

For a team to become the best it can be, players cannot ignore glaring problems or fail to be accountable to one another. There is a reason why the Apostle Paul told us to speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15). An important lesson from Remember the Titans is that it doesn’t matter where a team starts, but it does matter that team members move in the right direction, that they identify and remove hindrances, and that they move together toward the right goal.”

Even when a group of people does not have a godly purpose, the power of unity and teamwork is undeniable. God acknowledged this after the flood when the people established a common goal and began building a tower for their own glory. God said:

“Look! The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!” (Genesis 11:6 NLT).

Understanding this principle, it is no wonder the apostle Paul admonished believers:

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose” (1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT).

Unity is not just sitting around, holding hands, and having warm feelings toward one another. Unity means that we embrace a common cause and work together toward common goals. If we rally around a personality, we have a shaky foundation indeed; the person you like today may not be as likable tomorrow. However, if we embrace and focus on a common purpose—a divine mission—we can remain strong in our unity.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21 NKJV). If we really lay hold of this mandate, purpose becomes so much bigger than personalities and preferences. Yes, we love each other; that is a given. It is great when we like each other, but we understand that sometimes friction and differences exist in relationships. However, having a governing sense of divine purpose enables us to encourage each other, partner with each other, and help each other as we seek to carry out the will of God in the earth.