Model teamwork

“When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed” (Acts 20:36). Much of Acts chapter 20 describes the relationship Paul had with the elders at Ephesus (particularly from verse 17 to the end of the chapter). I am inspired by the cooperation and teamwork of Paul and the elders. This section serves as a model for how I want to be a cooperative teammate with elders in church leadership.

Playing As A Team

“…so also in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12:5).

Super Bowl XXXVI was played in the Louisiana Superdome on February 3, 2002. The New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 on a last second field goal.

The game was memorable for a number of reasons in addition to the last second heroics of kicker Adam Vinatieri. The New England Patriots were establishing themselves as an NFL dynasty. The game was played just months after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and featured a lot of patriotic music.

And this game is remembered because of the player introductions.

Super Bowl tradition included the players being introduced by name before the start of the game. But the Patriots bucked tradition, refusing to have players introduced individually, instead choosing to run out on the field as a team and have a team introduction. They wanted to emphasize they were a team. Their strength was not as individuals, but as a team.

Now, enough about football, let me state the obvious. God can do great things when his people play as a team. Unselfish ministry of all, regardless of their giftedness, will result in the body of Christ working in a way that reveals God to who see.

God in heaven,
All praise to You.
You are one.
You are revealed as Father, Son, and Spirit.
Yet You are one.
Help me learn from You.
Help me be like You.
May my ministry be unselfish.
Make my desire to be one with others who serve.
Bring Your people together, O God.
And use us for Your glory.
In Jesus’ name,

Mozart and Butch Cassidy

“I have been Michael’s number two guy for about five years, and we make a great team. We’re like one of those classic famous teams. He’s like Mozart and I’m like Mozart’s friend. No, I’m like Butch Cassidy and Michael is like Mozart. You try and hurt Mozart, you’re gonna get a bullet in your head, courtesy of Butch Cassidy.” — Dwight Schrute from The Office

Who but Dwight Shrute could possibly list Butch Cassidy and Mozart as “one of those classic famous teams?” While Dwight has the names all wrong, he’s on to something significant. There are a lot of people who just go together. You don’t think about one without thinking of the other. In the music world there was the team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In cartoons there is Batman and Robin. In television there was the Lone Ranger (a most interesting name considering he really had a partner) and Tonto. In the Old Testament there was Moses and Aaron. In the New Testament there was Paul and Silas.

Sometimes people just work well when they can partner with someone. It’s always better when you can share your hopes and dreams, your victories and struggles, your thoughts and labors. Throughout scripture we see the emphasis on God’s people being in community. From the opening pages of Genesis we realize God recognized the need for companionship.

In Deuteronomy 3:12-20 there’s a great example of the community spirit God’s wants for His people. The Israelites were about to take possession of the promised land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were given land on one side of the Jordan River, while the other tribes were to cross the Jordan for their share of the promised land. The two and a half tribes would receive their land first. But, they were not to be interested only in what affected them.

In fact, the fighting men from the two and a half tribes were told to go across the river in order to help their fellow Israelites take possession of their land in Canaan. Then they could return home and begin settling in. It would have been easy for them to say, “Hey we’ve got our land, you guys are on your own now!” But they didn’t. There was no attitude of “every-man-for-himself.” The tribes considered what was best for the whole of Israel, not just themselves. They had a sense of solidarity. They were bound together as a people. There was a sense of community. A spirit of interdependence rather than independence.

Jesus could have chosen to be a prophet who operated in isolation. Instead, he went to great lengths to maintain His fellowship with God, often rising early in the morning to spend quiet time with God. And then, of course, there is the community of disciples that Jesus called to follow Him. He was not a loner. Jesus chose to experience community throughout His ministry.

Mark 3:13-19
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

In a mountain setting that reminds us of the time when Israel was legally recognized as the people of God (see Exodus 18-19), Jesus designates His apostles, 12 of them, which again identifies His disciples with the twelve tribes of God’s community of faith. Jesus chooses two, perhaps three, sets of brothers to be apostles. Could this be a deliberate attempt to make the group more of a family? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing I am comfortable affirming is that these apostles provided Jesus with fellowship and support.

Maybe Dwight Schrute isn’t as stupid as we think. After all, some of those chosen by Jesus were about as unlikely to be together as Mozart and Butch. Think about it — fishermen and those that collected their despised taxes. People who worked for the oppressive government and those who worked to overthrow the oppressors, even if it took violent means. What a diverse group.

Jesus did not operate as a loner, and neither should we. God wants us to experience community in the church. He wants us to be supportive partners. He wants us to experience with our fellow believers a sense of together being the family of God. We are living stones rising together into a temple fit for God.

1 Peter 2:4-5
“As you come to him, the living Stone–rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him– you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

1 Peter 2:9-10
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Thank God for the church, the community of faith He has provided for us!