Asa speaker and a trainer, I often use a projector for the slides or items I want to display on the screen. I wonder how many of you have ever considered how that graphic gets on the screen in the first place? Why did the first projectors we used have three different coloured lamps?
Have you ever realized what the connecting cable from the computer to the projector is called? Before it was a HDMI cable, it was called a RGB cable. The RGB stands for Red, Green and Blue. These three colours, for those who do not know this, make a white light which is what inevitably causes you to see the graphic or picture on the screen. If one of the colours is missing, you do not get the full picture.
A team needs all the participants working together correctly for the team to be successful and achieve the team objectives.
In the book of the prophet Hosea chapter 10 from verse 11 and 12 God tells the prophet that “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; so, I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plough, and Jacob must harrow the ground. Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” (NIV) Even though God is referring to Israel and Judah and how He will punish them for their sins, this reminds me of how a team should operate continuously.
Ephraim in the passage refers to the new and unseasoned members of the team. They have not been taught all the skills and they do just enough to stay under the radar and out of trouble. I don’t know whether you have ever observed cattle at a threshing wheel. They are tied to the wheel and walk around in a circle all daylong just going round and round with their head down. They may bend forward and eat some of the wheat they are threshing. They have no ambition and no desire to get ahead, they simply do what they are required to.
If we want to develop these team members where they become larger contributors to the team, we need to ensure they are taught new skills. We need to apply the SALT method I described during my November 2021 TEDx talk, but especially the L of SALT which refers to the process of learning through continued practice. We refer to this as mentors or coaching. This is what the in the passage that states that God will put a yoke on Ephraim’s neck and drive her. A yoke is often attached to two animals that are side by side and are required to work alongside each other. So as Ephraim will be yoked to Judah, so you must “yoke” the inexperienced team members to those who have mastered the skills and are able to mentor or coach the Ephraims.
The passage says Judah will plough which implies that Judah will be pulling harder on the yoke in order to plough and all Ephraim has to do is walk alongside Judah. Judah is the mentor or the coach who has the experience and is showing the Ephraim the way. In this way the inexperienced team member will be guided and mentored by the more experienced team member and will in time learn the task well enough to be yoked to the next inexperienced team member and then become a mentor or guide themselves.
In this way you are allowing the entire team, no matter at what level of experience they are, to not only learn new skills, but to practice them under guidance until they become so good at it that they can in turn guide others.
The next part of the passage says that Jacob must harrow the ground. For those of you who either farmed, grown up on a farm or have had experience of farming methods, you will know that when you plough the ground, you cut deep furrows and turn up all the sods, stones and other things such as branches or rocks. You cannot sow anything in the ground that has only been ploughed, it must first be harrowed.
Harrowing removes all the rocks, clods or other things to allow the farmer to sow seeds and have a great field for harvesting. This harrowing process is a smoothing over of the ploughed ground and the farmer must first harrow one way across the field and then in a 900 direction to the first time. So, the field must be harrowed twice before it is ready for planting.
The leader of the team is the one responsible for harrowing the ground. This means that the leader should be identifying who needs coaching or mentoring and arranging it. The leader should be arranging whatever resources either the mentor or the inexperienced team member requires. As harrowing requires a double action of first one direction and then a perpendicular direction, this could relate to the leader being the one that might have to sometimes go the extra mile for the team.
The last part of the passage speaks about breaking up unploughed ground. This is along-term process for a farmer and requires a lot of preparation and determination. This ground is sometimes covered in trees, or bushes or other objects that need to be removed before any ploughing can even begin.
For a leader this would imply that you look to the future for others grounds your team could get involved in or other projects that may need training and mentoring and prepare in advance for the ploughing. Look to the future and anticipate change so you don’t get caught unawares. Most times we cannot predict the things that will happen, like Covid-19, but if we are constantly prepared and looking for new unploughed ground, we could soften the blow somewhat when unexpected things happen to the team.
Put a yoke on the Ephraims in your team and yoke them to the Judahs in the team. But remember your job is to harrow the ground and make it smoother for the team to sows and achieve the objectives.