Getting the ‘Dys’ Out of Our Function
Dysfunction has become a popular buzzword in our society. Some hear the word and think of a medical abnormality—some organ or body part is not working correctly. Others think of an unhealthy family situation where trust and peace have been badly eroded. Yet others hear dysfunction and think of a business or government setting where communication is poor and incompetency abounds.
For the purpose of this article, I am simply using the word function to describe when something works the way it is supposed to, and dysfunction to describe something not working the way it is intended. God himself is a God who functions. In my book, Your Place on God’s Dream Team, I share that the Father plans, the Son performs, and the Spirit perfects. The Trinity functions in perfection because there is perfect purpose, unity, and teamwork.
Being created in God’s image, we also have been designed to function. God functions in the context of teamwork (the Trinity), and we are to function in a teamwork environment as well. Romans 12:4 (NKJV) reads, “We have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function.” Notice Paul writes that we don’t all have the same function. This implies that every believer has a function, just not the same as everyone else. Likewise, Romans 12:5 in the Message version states that, “Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body.”
To what degree and extent did Jesus see us functioning? The following statement reveals just how high he was setting the bar:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Some may find that hard to believe, but Jesus was completely serious in his intentions for the Church to function just as he said. As a matter of fact, I propose that while we always have room for improvement and increase, the Church has been doing his works and even great works since Jesus went to the Father. I can’t say that we’ve done greater quality of works than him; I don’t know how we could do that. However, I believe:
- The Body of Christ has been doing greater works than Jesus geographically.
Everything Jesus did while on this earth was in the limited context of the land of Israel. From the first century, Jesus’ followers have been taking his Gospel to the ends of the earth.
- The Body of Christ has been doing greater works than Jesus numerically.
Jesus was One Man, and God worked mightily through him (Acts 10:38). When he ascended, and since he has ascended, millions of believers have been anointed by the same Holy Spirit to speak God’s Word and to minister his love and power in their own spheres of influence.
- The Body of Christ has been doing greater works than Jesus spiritually.
That may sound hard to believe, but keep mind that until Jesus ascended (which is the key to us doing the greater works) no one had been born again or Spirit-filled (in the sense of what happened on the day of Pentecost). Every time a member of the Body of Christ gets someone born again or filled with the Holy Spirit, we are doing something that Jesus did not do while he was on the earth (although he certainly made it possible for us to do these things after his ascension).
- The Body of Christ has been doing greater works than Jesus in scope. For example, Jesus ministered limitedly to children, but he never built an orphanage, nor did he ever run a full-fledged children’s program with a thorough curriculum, as multitudes of churches do. Jesus taught the Word, but he never wrote books, had radio or television ministry, or made ministry materials available to multiple nations via Internet. Jesus fed a few thousand people on a couple of occasions, but the Body of Christ feeds millions of people around the world every year.
Whatever the Church has accomplished, it has accomplished by the grace of God. When I state that the Church has done and is doing greater works than Jesus, this is not to imply that the Church is superior to Jesus in any way; rather, Jesus commissioned us to do greater works than he did, and gave us the Holy Spirit to empower our work.
Further, when I state that the Church has done and is doing greater works than Jesus, this is not to imply that we as believers are doing as much as we could or should do. Certainly more could be done, and what we do could always be done more effectively. While increased vision and obedience could increase our productivity, another way to be more functional is to identify and eradicate our dysfunctions, those elements that are undermining and subverting our effectiveness.
Consider the case of Naaman, the Syrian commander. “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.” (2 King 5:1).
Notice the good traits—he was a commander, he was great and honorable, he was responsible for victories, and he was a mighty man of valor. Those are all outstanding. But after we read of those, we read the final words: “But he was a leper.” That put a damper on everything.
I realize I’m spiritualizing this, but how many times has this type of thing been repeated in the lives of people with great spiritual potential
- Mike was a charismatic leader and a popular preacher, but he had a bad temper (or, but he lived immorally, or but he was a narcissist).
- John was a really committed, dedicated, and hard-working assistant pastor, but he had bad people skills.
- Mary was a gifted vocalist and powerful worship leader, but she was territorial and felt threatened by others.
- Tim was a dynamic youth leader who loved the kids, but he was disorganized and didn’t communicate well with other staff members.
When these types of things are going on, what God intended to be function can quickly degrade into dysfunction. Dys is a simple prefix that means: diseased, abnormal, faulty, difficult, painful, unfavorable, bad, impaired, or unhealthy. Let’s look at two types of dysfunction in particular.
By intrapersonal, I am referring to things within oneself as an individual. The Apostle Paul expressed concern that he could undermine his effectiveness (become disqualified) if he did not maintain purpose, discipline and keep his “body under” (1 Cor 9:24-27). A person can excel in certain areas of his or her life, but a problematic issue can create limitations at the least, or cause shipwreck at worst, in one’s ministry.
It is important that I ask myself and see if there are any issues in my life that are keeping me from functioning well. Paul writes, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups… Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it” (2 Cor 13:5, MSG). Some “checkup questions” I might ask myself include:
- How is my attitude?
- My diligence?
- My dependability?
- Do I show up on time?
- Do I keep my word?
- Do I finish what I start?
- Am I easily offended?
These are just a few of the items that I want to look at when I’m checking my life for issues that would diminish my level of personal functioning. D. L. Moody rightly said, “I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than with any other man I have ever met.” It is important to remember that before I can manage ministry, I must be able to manage myself (with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course).
Not only can dysfunction happen internally and individually, but it can also happen relationally and corporately. How many teams are operating at far less than their optimum potential due to poor communication, lack of trust, or an absence of shared goals? One of my great joys in traveling is to see many good teams who have established a good stride in their work for God. They have subjugated their personal, individualistic agendas and seek the good of the entire church. They endeavor to excel in their individual areas, but they celebrate the victories of other departments as well. They communicate well, and they learn to honestly and respectfully resolve any conflicts that might arise.
Good teams have made progress in implement what Paul taught in Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT):
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The Message version states in the third verse that we are to be “alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” In extreme cases, when a person is unable or unwilling to adapt to a team environment, another principles comes into play. Proverbs 22:10 (MSG) instructs, “Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down; you need a break from bickering and griping!”
God wants us to function and to do so effectively! There is much to be done in evangelizing the world and building the Church. May God help us to eradicate both personal and corporate dysfunction so that we can serve the Master in a way that is worthy of him.