Most effective ministry is done in teams


PEORIA – Rev. Jorge Acevedo remembers the wakeup call he received from his wife 18 years ago.

As a United Methodist pastor, Acevedo was very busy in ministry. But the busy-ness came at a great personal price and a high cost to his family.  Finally, Acevedo said his wife confronted him one day and said, "We need to talk. It’s hard to be mad at your mistress when your mistress is the church." That moment became a turning point in seeing ministry shift from a solo act to a team effort.
Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Cape Coral, Fla., shared some of the concepts of ministry that has led to taking a congregation from 400 to more than 2,600 with the congregation continuing to grow a second campus in North Fort Myers and a new storefront. But the inner transformation led to an outer transformation. 

Acevedo identifies the Heroic Solo Leader Syndrome as one of the greatest impediments toward fruitful ministry and effective, risk-taking mission. He said healthy teams get the best results.

The Heroic Solo Leader model has the following characteristics:
  • Chronic fatigue – success is dependent on the competence and heroics of an individual or a few individuals working independently
  • Little innovation in making disciples – fruitfulness is in “pockets” with processes are usually isolated, disconnected, ad-hoc and chaotic.
  • A tendency to over-commit and an inability to repeat past successes
  • Solo, command and control leadership with the attitude of “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
“If you need a contemporary example, I offer the Crystal Cathedral and Robert Schuller,” Acevedo said. “A charismatic leader that built a ministry that lasted one generation, but because it centered on a heroic solo leader, the Cathedral was recently sold to the Catholic Church. We think Heroic Solo Leadership works but it burns out the leader. No one leader is omnicompetent.”
Acevedo said there are four reasons that teams are the most effective:
  • The Bible teaches team ministry through the experience of David and mighty men; Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall; Jesus and the disciples and Paul and his missionary team
  • Our heritage modeled team ministry. Acevedo challenged the notion of the solitary circuit rider, noting that these riders were formed in community and persons were invited to be a part of a class meeting.
  • Our checkbooks demand team ministry. The Apex Report, which guided many of the Call to Action proposals at the recent General Conference noted that churches in 2008 were spending nearly $2,000 per worshipper per year to carry out the work of the church. “The actual cost is higher at both the smallest churches where more is spent to keep the church doors open and among the largest churches were additional ministries and programs are rolled out to meet demands of its worshippers,” Acevedo said. “These are four year old totals and as we shrink, the per capita cost continues to increase.
  • The world desperately needs team ministry. Quoting Dr. George Hunter, Acevedo noted, “Today, there are 180 million functionally secular people in the United States.  They have no understanding of the Bible.  The U.S. is the third largest mission field on earth.  It is the largest in the Western Hemisphere.  Apostolic teams (and churches) are needed to reach them!”
Acevedo said the fundamental reason for the absence of teams is an absence of trust. “Two words: General Conference,” he said. “We saw it play out in the work around restructure of the church. And we have this lack of trust because we don’t love and know each other.”
In order to build teams, one must create environments of high trust, build great unity and have commitment to the mission.
“It’s hard to fight with someone you are praying for,” Acevedo said. “But stupid plans done with great unity and with a great mission accomplishes great things.” He pointed to Joshua and the Battle of Jericho as an example.