For a long time I bought into the myth that tension on a team is bad. So my goal was to simply try to avoid it. It seems to make sense. If we can get everyone to work together in a non debative, stress-free, harmonious environment, then we can do great things together. Somewhere along the way, I learned to not only respect, but to invite the kind of tension that pushes us to make better decisions, and to clarify what really matters. Think about the points of tension in your ministry or organization. Isn’t it true that some of the most clarifying moments for your team were the result of tension?
- There is not one aspect of life where tension doesn’t have critical value.
- Tension between the parties and branches of a government creates a needed system of checks and balances.
- Tension in science can lead to remarkable insights and discoveries.
- Tension in a family provides an opportunity to demonstrate commitment and unconditional love.
- Tension within a team pushes them to better perspectives and deeper relationships.
If you want a good example of the potential tension has to affect your team, think about the relationship Jesus had with His disciples. A close study of the New Testament recognizes that it was packed with tension. Too many Christians have an image of twelve best friends sitting in circle on a peaceful hillside listening to their teacher tell inspirational stories. It’s just too easy to miss the point that Jesus almost always made His point in the middle of some extremely tense moments. He actually leveraged tension to mold His disciples into the kind of men who would change the world. Think about it.
- He partied with tax-collectors and prostitutes — to challenge the disciples’ deep-rooted prejudices.
- He broke sacred traditions — so they would value people.
- He led them into a stormy sea — to take away their fear.
- He angrily interrupted a church service — to expose how greed can corrupt leaders.
- He let one of his best friends die — to show them the power of resurrection.
- He publically debated religious leaders — so he could clarify what really mattered.
- He didn’t always explain what he said — so they would wrestle with what he meant.
- He let them argue and have power struggles — to teach them how to serve each other.
- He refused to defend himself to an enraged mob — so they would know god’s mission was more important than their own lives.
- He died a violent death — to show them how to forgive and be forgiven.
- Then he left them standing on a hillside after he disappeared into the sky with no clear indicator of where he was going or when he was coming back.
Jesus never avoided tension. He did just the opposite. He led his disciples right into the middle of some of the most dangerous and stressful situations imaginable to stretch their faith. No wonder they were ready to confront a broken world with a message of restoration and redemption. They had been trained for three years to trust God’s provision and power against impossible odds. Those lessons learned during the stressful and difficult moments gave them the determination and passion to show a world God’s love and grace. Jesus used tension to deepen their message and anchor their hearts to discoveries about God and themselves forever.
- Tension is good.
- It is absolutely required if you want to have an authentic faith.
- It is critical if you hope to engage in God’s story of restoration and redemption.
- Tension compels us to respond to a higher calling.
- Tension helps us face our doubts.
- Tension challenges who we think we are.
- Tension clarifies what we believe about God.
- Tension prepares us to live our lives with a deeper message as a part of a bigger story.
So invite it. Create it if necessary. If you avoid tension as a leader, you are potentially robbing your team of the kind of defining moments that shape their character, stretch their faith, and clarify powerful insights. So choose to embrace it, even pursue it. By doing so you add an essential ingredient to your team that will give them the potential to change the world around them.
is the founder and CEO of Orange, a nonprofit organization providing resources and training for churches to maximize their influence on the spiritual growth of the next generation. He also leads the creative efforts behind the Orange Conference and Orange Tour. He is the author of several books including Think Orange, Slow Fade, The Orange Leaders Handbook, and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. He and his wife, Debbie, live in Cumming, Georgia, and have four grown children: Reggie Paul, Hannah, Sarah, and Rebekah