“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)  

Last year, I encountered just such a tree. Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve. The island is dominated by old-growth marine live oaks that have thrived on the island for hundreds of years. Each one of these giants provides a sprawling canopy of shade and habitat for dozens of plant and animal species. A closer inspection of the branches of just one tree revealed a lush habitat of vines, ferns, flowers, and air plants growing in complex symbiotic relationships where all of them flourish together. 

Marveling at this giant live oak, I saw a picture of something I desire to cultivate: an inter-dependent staff team with a variety of gifts, talents, strengths and personalities flourishing in their work together. Perhaps you can envision the volunteer team that you lead or your entire congregation.

How can we nourish those we lead so that they can flourish together?

Understanding the meaning of four key Hebrew words from Jeremiah 17:8 will better equip us… 

PLANTED (“shathal”): to transplant, plant.

I like the context of the word in Psalm 92:12-13 “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.” As we lead, it’s tempting to dive immediately into meetings, discussions, decisions and tasks on a regular basis.

What intentional rhythms can you establish that would plant your team in the Lord’s presence each week or each time you meet? 

ROOTS (“shoresh”): bottom, deep, heel, root.

In Psalm 80:8-9, we see God actively planting a vine so that it will take root. “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.” Many times, the “tyranny of the urgent” can keep our teams operating at the surface level, rather than growing deep roots.

What “urgencies” are frequently distracting your team and what intentional steps can you take to clear them away? 

GREEN (“raanan”): green, flourishing.

In Song of Songs 1:16, it’s clear that the bride is describing more than just the color of their sofa when she says, “Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful. Our couch is green.” (Song of Songs 1:16 ESV) The NIV translates that same phrase as, “Our bed is verdant.” As a leader, it’s important to recognize that environment and atmosphere can have a significant impact on people.

What intentional changes can you make to your work and meeting spaces, locations or times–or any of your many other routines–that might help your team engage more fully? 

FRUIT (“peri”): bough, first fruit, reward.

This word occurs over one hundred times in the Old Testament referring to both good and bad results. Isaiah 30:10 states, “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” How often does your team savor the results of their hard work?

What intentional forms of appreciation, celebration, awards and rewards can you create for your team to enjoy together? 

Jeremiah describes how this flourishing tree survives and even thrives through heat and drought. We are all well aware of the heat (disagreements, personality clashes) and the drought (drudgery, diminished resources) that affect our teams on a regular basis. But like Jeremiah’s tree, a well-nourished team CAN weather those assaults AND continue to flourish together! 

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Tim Ryan

Executive Pastor at West Shore Free Church
Jesus captured Tim's heart at age 17 through the Father’s faithful love and the Spirit's relentless pursuit. Since then, God has opened many doors of rewarding ministry through short-term mission trips and ministry to children, students and men. Tim loves travel, adventure and the outdoors—especially hiking, camping and anything on the water. Tim and Amy are celebrating over 25 years of marriage and are currently launching their four girls into adult life. They have been actively involved at West Shore Free Church since 2002 and Tim has been on staff since 2014.

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