Find your Dream Team in a ‘Mixed Bag’ – Dr Annetta Tsang

A team is like the body – every member matters


From Luke’s Journal May 2023  |  Vol.28 No.2  |  Unity in Diversity 

“The quiet members, by not speaking up, will compromise the team.”

“The quiet members of the team lack personal and academic confidence.”

I felt disturbed.

The topic being discussed was ‘problems in teams’. In my experience, these statements are biased views – common perspectives perhaps, but not necessarily accurate.

The topic being discussed was ‘problems in teams’. In my experience, these statements are biased views – common perspectives perhaps, but not necessarily accurate.

Teams are important. In healthcare, effective and efficient teams are crucial to optimal patient care. No one would argue against that. In recent years, team and collaborative skills have received increasing attention as the most sought-after non-technical skills of a healthcare professional, especially in medicine.1,2 In the university setting, most health professional degrees are embracing collaborative learning, team-based learning, and small group learning.3-5 Very generally speaking, team skills in these settings seem to emphasize ‘communication’, ‘contributions’ and ‘leadership’. Those who are more comfortable with externalizing their ideas seem to be praised, while others who are more introspective and less outspoken seem to be overlooked or disapproved.3,6

Teams are embraced at church too. After all, ministry evolves around teams.7

I reflected on the many teams I have worked with over the years. Interestingly, the teams that I remembered as the best teams, were not the ones with the most knowledgeable and most experienced individuals, the ones with the most extroverted personalities, or the ones where everyone contributed equally. Rather, the best teams were often a ‘mixed bag’ of different personalities and abilities, each contributing their uniqueness to a common purpose.

“… the best teams were often a ‘mixed bag’ of different personalities and abilities, each contributing their uniqueness to a common purpose.”

Effective vs. ineffective teams are most obvious to me when I work in the operating theatre to provide dental treatment to very young children or those with special needs under general anaesthesia. For example, I once worked with a team in which my scrub nurse and dental assistant were both new to their jobs and had never been part of a dental list. Despite their professionalism and intentions to collaborate and be of help, it was challenging and frustrating for them and for me. The list ran overtime as everything took longer and seemed harder. By the end, we were all exhausted. It made me realize how much I relied on my teammates to complement what I do. To complement each other in a team, requires time and deliberate effort – to build trust, develop understanding, and coordinate different strengths and weaknesses.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about teams and teamwork, although these terms are not used explicitly. We need to look no further than to God Himself. The Holy Trinity is the ultimate ‘dream team’, the perfect ‘all-star’ combination. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have unique characteristics and different responsibilities but work together seamlessly to fulfill God’s purposes. Biblically, it would seem, working as a team trump working solo.

Open the Bible to its first book and we read in Genesis 1, that God created Adam and Eve to be the very first team on earth (Genesis 1:18). God made them, male and female. To most of us, that meant Adam and Eve had fundamental biological and psychological differences (If you are my age, you might remember the once popular book by John Gray, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”?).  If teamwork works best when all team members are alike, wouldn’t God have made the first team more similar?

And what about Moses? Moses did not lead the Israelites by himself. In Exodus 4, Moses insisted he was “slow of speech and tongue” and asked God to “Please send someone else”. God teamed up Moses with the “well-spoken” Aaron, so that Aaron could tell the Israelites what God told Moses, on behalf of Moses. Later in Exodus 17, we read that Moses, Joshua, Aaron and Hur worked as a team to defeat the Amalekites. Joshua fought, while Moses held up his hands, and when Moses became tired, Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands because “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Exodus 17:11 TNIV). The Amalekites were defeated by this ‘mixed bag’ team under the Lord’s guidance. Each person contributed their uniqueness to strengthen the team. The ability of one complemented the weakness of another on the team. They trusted each other and worked humbly together, for one purpose and for one God.

Solomon, as wise as he was, did not think being alone was a good idea either. In Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 TNIV, Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If they fall down, they can help each other up. But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up!… A cord of three strands Is not quickly broken.”

Then there’s Jesus, who called 12 disciplines to help Him with His ministry while on earth. They were a ‘mixed bag’ team with a common purpose. Each discipline had unique abilities and deficiencies. Jesus did not select the best looking, the richest, or the most intelligent. Nor did Jesus select one personality over another. Jesus chose 12 ordinary men to help him do extraordinary deeds, healing the sick, casting out demons, and reviving the dead (Matthew 10:1). Jesus sent the disciplines out to minister in pairs (Mark 6:7). The disciplines’ differences meant they had complementary skills and multiple perspectives to draw upon. To accomplish what Jesus asked of them, the disciples had to work together, trust each other, be adaptable, and in so doing, they also grew as individuals. As Proverbs 27:17 TNIV puts it, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

“To accomplish what Jesus asked of them, the disciples had to work together, trust each other, be adaptable, and in so doing, they also grew as individuals.”

In the book of Acts and Romans, the apostle Paul worked with many others to spread the gospel and grow the church. Of the many who Paul worked with, his relationship with Barnabas is probably among the most well-known. Barnabas trusted and accepted Paul despite his history of persecuting Christians (Acts 9:26-30) and they worked together for many years. At one point, when Peter went to Antioch, Paul confronted him and Barnabas for being hypocrites. They were eating with the Gentile Christians but separated themselves when some strict conservative Jews disapproved. Paul condemned the two of them saying, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (Galatians 2:11-21 TNIV). Paul was right to rebuke Peter and Barnabas. Later, Paul and Barnabas brought John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, back from Antioch (Acts 12:25). The three of them became a team (Acts 13:5). When the team of three left Cyprus for Pamphylia, John Mark suddenly left and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). A couple of years later, Paul told Barnabas he wanted to go on a missionary journey again and Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul thought that would be unwise given what happened the first time (Acts 15:36). This created conflict within the team, leading to Barnabas and John Mark going to Cyprus and Paul and Silas going elsewhere. Barnabas, an encourager had wanted to give John Mark a second chance, but Paul, a stern man of principle, did not want someone like John Mark on his team. After some time, Paul and Barnabas reconciled (1 Corinthians 9:6) and continued to serve together. It seemed Paul and John Mark also later reconciled. Paul even referred to John Mark as being “helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11 TNIV). These incidents highlight that even a ‘dream team’ is not without conflicts. Wholesome rebuke is important for building up each other, but so is a forgiving and encouraging attitude. Even in his writing, Paul emphasized the importance of unity amidst individual differences.

“Wholesome rebuke is important for building up each other, but so is a forgiving and encouraging attitude.”

For example, in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 TNIV, Paul wrote,

“There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body… If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.”

When I read this passage, I am reminded of the Luke’s Journal editorial team. In the team are brothers and sisters in Christ working towards the common goal of engaging and encouraging Christian health professionals (and others in the helping professions) to integrate faith in practice through thoughtful reflections and discussions, and support CMDFA’s vision, “to be transformed by Christ, transforming healthcare.”

The team is certainly a ‘mixed bag’. We come from different areas of health, such as nursing, dentistry, and medicine, and work in various sectors including public and private, clinical and non-clinical. We range across the ages, from those in their 20s to those in their 50s and beyond. Some are just starting out, others are jumping the hoops towards specialisation, while still others are close to or have retired.

Image Elizabeth Iris, Pexels

We are spread across Australia and come from very different backgrounds. Some of us are outspoken, while others are much more introspective. Some of us are visionary and enjoy figuring out the ‘big picture’ and some of us are organised and highly efficient, while others love details and are meticulous. The roles we take in the editorial team also vary greatly from brainstorming ideas, inviting authors, proofreading, reviewing, and editing, to engaging through social media, interviewing for vlogs, coordinating sponsorships, curating artwork and photos, and overseeing an entire publication.

In the LJ editorial team, no one is considered better than another. We all have unique abilities and gifts that strengthen the team and compensate for each other’s deficiencies. For example, I was trusted with coordinating a recent issue of Luke’s Journal. It was not too difficult to come up with ideas for the issue, but I needed help sourcing and inviting writers. Those with connections and the sociable members of the team quickly got to work and generated much interest from potential writers. Along the way, we encouraged each other and prayed. After scrutinising several drafts of the issue, I got to a point when I was just glazing over copies and not making much progress with finalising them. Thankfully, another member stepped in with ‘fresh eyes’ when I reached out. The technology-social media dynamites on our team digitised and promoted the issue, and someone else developed a vlog with one of the authors. That’s our team – unity in diversity. But not always…We were blessed with so many articles in the end that one member of the team suggested cutting some out and publishing them in a future issue. This led to conflict. A normally quiet member pointed out that the writers have been kept waiting for longer than usual already. An experienced member highlighted how too many articles may mean some would not be read. A discerning member who was asked to take sides very wisely kept her silence. In the end, we were able to resolve the dilemma graciously.

I am so blessed to be part of this ‘mixed bag’ team! I see different teammates exemplifying different strengths in their character, which together, makes for a ‘dream team’:

  • Humility Philippians 2:3-4 (TNIV), “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.
  • Encouragement 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (TNIV), “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.
  • Gentleness, Patience and Love Ephesians 4:2 (TNIV), “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.
  • Forgiveness Proverbs 19:11 (The Message), “Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget”.

I am also reminded of how God created each of us in His image, but we are also uniquely individual. More than that, we are made for relationships. Humans need each other. The quiet members are not ‘problems in teams’. They are indispensable, just as the outspoken members are also. A team is indeed like the body, every member matters and has a function. And, just as well-selected words can save a team, so can a well-executed moment of silence!

As Christians, our common purpose under one God, our love for God, together with our God-given diverse abilities and gifts, humility, trust, love for one another, and a forgiving, encouraging and thankful attitude, are the key elements in the ‘mixed bag’ that lead to team synergy and harmonious collaborative team dynamics. Unity in diversity is without a doubt fundamental to building up the body of Christ in healthcare. To integrate our faith into our practice, let’s be the “spark that sets the fire going”8, be the first ones to put others before self and use our strengths to generously help others, while humbly accept help in our areas of weaknesses. Imagine the impact, if every Christian of every team, did that?

Dr Annetta Tsang
Dr Annetta Tsang is a member of the Luke’s Journal editorial team and is involved in children’s ministry at her church. She is a paediatric dentist and an academic editor. Annetta is also a sessional staff at Bond University. Spending time with her family, art, books, desserts and coffee are some of her favourite things.


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Bible passages were taken from Today’s New International Version (TTNIV)/The Message REMIX Parallel Bible. USA: Zondervan, 2005.


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