Insight: Lean In or Lean Out? How to Be a Team When Facing a Threat

Insights are short, biblical truths to equip you to lead from your strengths.

When your team faces a threat, do they lean into each other for help to navigate the uncertain waters – or lean out and away from each other in fear?

Image: Psychology Today

Image: Psychology Today

All of you may be anxious … but each of you has helpful strengths to call upon during a time of uncertainty. Some may simply take the next step. Some may charge ahead.

A strong team can use both of these approaches to successfully navigate growth. That’s what happened in the early church.

Here’s an Insight

Your strengths and other team members’ strengths can combine to successfully navigate threats.

Such was the case when God expanded the original congregation of believers in Jerusalem into the first multi-site church.

Jewish leaders threatened the believers in Jerusalem and stoned Stephen. Christ-followers, apart from the twelve disciples, scattered.

Philip the Evangelist (not to be confused with Apostle Philip) fled to Samaria.  There he launched the early church’s first satellite campus by preaching, healing, performing miracles, conducting exorcisms, inviting the Samaritans to faith, and baptizing many (Acts 8:4-25).

Peter and John traveled to Samaria to provide additional staff and get the church off the ground. The disciples’ lives had been threatened, but now Philip, Peter, and John faced a different threat: heresy. Simon Magus, a magician in Samaria, claimed he believed the good news presented by Philip. Yet once the Holy Spirit fell upon the new Christ-followers, Simon Magus sought to make the movement of God into a commercial enterprise (Acts 8:18-24).

Lean In to Be Stronger Together in a threat

Here is where this team recognized their different strengths and worked together to quash the threat.

Philip had been recruited in Jerusalem as one of the church’s first seven deacons – well-respected, responsible men tasked with running the church’s food program. Once the Jerusalem persecution began, Philip was flexible (he moved to Samaria, which had been long despised by Jews) and purposeful (he shared the good news rather than keep it to himself). His social skills allowed him to form relationships easily, yet he was diplomatic enough to diffuse the potentially-explosive Simon Magus situation until help arrived from Jerusalem. When it came to strengths, Philip was neutral.

Meanwhile, Peter’s fearless charisma is legendary. A dynamic change agent and uninhibited risk-taker, Peter recognized the threat posed by Simon Magus and got into the magician’s face: “You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours” (Acts 8:21-22, ESV).

Philip could have resented Peter’s aggressiveness. Peter could have resented Philip’s patient tact. They could have leaned out.

Instead, both leaned in. Neither let the other flounder on their own. Instead, they combined their strengths to confront the threat to the truth.

You’ve seen teams that lean out during a crisis. That approach adds even more conflict to the uncertainty. When you lean in, your team is stronger. You can be used by God to build His kingdom.

Lean in or lean out? The choice is yours.

Now How Shall I Live?

Read the account of Philip in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25).

  • Identify the strengths exhibited by Philip.
  • Identify the strengths exhibited by Peter.
  • How did God use this team to build the early church?

Discover your strengths when you take the Leading From Your Strengths profile.

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Conflict: Must Two Similar Personalities Always Lead to Conflict?

Conflict: Diffuse Jealousy By Blending Strengths

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