The subject of this article reminds me of that night in the summer of 1969 I sat with awe watching that grainy picture on a small television screen of Buzz Aldrin and Neal Armstrong landing on the moon. I am sure you remember with me those famous words, “That’s one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.”
We tend to revere special people for their accomplishments, especially heroes like Armstrong and Aldrin. However, they would never have made it to the moon by independence. Neither would we have eradicated typhoid, small pox or polio without cooperative effort. No championship sports team ever succeeded without teamwork. They got to the moon, stamped out those diseases or made it onto the champion’s stage only through the teamwork of thousands whose names we will never know. The secret of their success was interdependence.
Likewise, the secret of a successful church or any efforts in God’s work is everyone holding hands for the same cause. While written long before the church age, the Old Testament sage was on target when he wrote that well known verse, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17.
Teamwork may be the most undervalued commodity of the church’s role in the world today. For far too many, church has become something to attend like a club you joined or an organization whose purpose is to meet your needs, not the other way around. Churches build buildings and hire ministers to do much of the work which the Bible describes as those things designed for individuals to accomplish. Ministers I know without question have a servant heart. Yet we must also remember the Bible teaches that one of the primary tasks of ministers is “equipping the saints” to be servants.
As Christians we are part of a team. Paul described the teamwork in a variety of ways. We described it as a race we are running together. He also compared the church to the work of a body. All the parts of our bodies function for the good of the whole, not for themselves. He reminds us the hands can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” He helps us to see that when one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are blessed.
“The Apostle Paul was a very gifted individual. He was a leader, a scholar, an influential man. But in his letters he mentions over 100 people by name. He viewed his ministry as teamwork. He viewed their help as a “partnership” (Philippians 1:5). He associated with all social classes: he traveled with a trained physician, he ministered to those in Caesar’s household, but he also share ministry with a slave who most likely had run away.”
The noted Christian researcher, George Barna, wrote, “Had the church relied upon a single, incredibly gifted, magnetic individual...the church would surely have collapsed. What the disciples discovered was that none of them had the complete package of gifts, abilities, and insights necessary to facilitate the growth of the Christian church, but each had a very significant and defined role to play in that revolutionary undertaking.” So the church must be about the business today of teamwork.
As Christians we are not only a part of a team, we must support our team. A man who worked on the railroad years ago recalled his experience. He said, “When I worked for a company repairing railroad track, one of the jobs we had to do was haul track. We would get six guys and pair up two by two by two to pick up and carry these long pieces of iron. I don’t know what they weighed, but they were heavy. However, we had one man on the crew named Slim. I could tell you stories about Slim but let’s just say he could spot the break truck a mile away. The last thing you wanted was to be paired up with Slim. He never carried his share of the weight. If you dropped your arm, Slim would go even lower.” What would it be like to be paired up in God’s work with a partner like Slim? Maybe we should make sure our reputation in the Lord’s work did not end up like Slim.
Not only are we on a team and should support our team, as Christians we also have a role in cheering on our team. I love watching how teammates on the sidelines get into the game jumping up and down while shouting encouragement to their mates on the field. In a sense, that is what I think we ought to be doing for one another as Christians.
We live in a world of curses, insults, ridicule, put-downs. We hear it wherever we go. But in the church, we need to be lifting each other up! Affirm the positives you see in their lives, encourage them in ministry and spur them on to godly living. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The strong are not always vigorous; the wise not always ready; the brave not always courageous; the joyous not always happy.” Sometimes we look around and assume everyone is a stronger Christian than I am and wouldn’t gain any blessing from me.” But that’s not true.
Everyone loves encouragement. Pats on the back, expressions of gratitude, smiles on faces are what will keep people active in God’s work. I heard of a church that had a “three minute rule.” After the service, everyone is to spend three minutes greeting others around them - welcoming visitors, building new friendships, getting to know others better that they don’t have a good friendship with , and then after those three minutes, they can go on to greeting their friends and catching up about their week. Remember, while you are getting sharpened by the iron of others, you are doing the same for them in return.
A missionary used to recite the following poem as he visited churches.
Three things the Master hath to do, and we who serve Him here below
And long to see His kingdom come, can pray, and give, and go.
He needs them all, the open hand, the willing feet, the asking heart,
To work together and to weave the threefold cord that shall not part.
Nor shall the giver count his gift as greater than the worker's deed,
Nor he in turn his service boast above the prayers that voice the need.
Not all can go; not all can give to arm the others for the fray;
But young or old, or rich or poor or strong or weak - we all can pray.
Fellow believers, I hope you see yourself as part of a team, that you are viewed by others as one who supports the team and that you are faithful to cheer on your team in advancing the Kingdom of our Lord.