Are you a lone-ranger Christian—or one who has discovered the challenge and reward of being bound together with others in the worlds most noble cause?
In his book Disciples in Action (NavPress), popular discipleship author and speaker LeRoy Eims explores the dynamic ministry of the apostles as recorded in the book of Acts.
This excerpt from Disciples in Action identifies the simple core that gives vitality to teamwork.
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed (Acts 14:1).
Paul and Barnabas functioned as a team. They were united in heart, vision, and purpose.
We see this principle of teamwork throughout the Scriptures. Sometimes there were two men, at other times there were small bands of men, and occasionally we observe large groups. God is pleased when his children work together. The Bible teaches, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
This unity took many forms in the Bible. In the Old Testament there were many family units such as those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Men like Moses, Solomon, and Nehemiah formed bands of coworkers around themselves. There were battle units for secular and spiritual warfare—such as the teams led by David, Gideon, Jesus, and Paul.
The principle is included in 1 Samuel 10:26—”And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (KJV). We see it in Mark 6:7—”Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits”—and also in Mark 6:30—”The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught”
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines teamwork as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” Uzziah had a “host of men that went out to war by bands” (2 Chronicles 26:11). But teamwork includes more than that. Teamwork does not just describe men who are united with the same leader, but men who are linked to each other as well. Paul used the idea of being yoked together like a team of oxen when he referred to one of his comrades as his “loyal yokefellow” (Philippians 4:3).
This goes contrary to man’s natural spirit. We resist uniting our hearts with others in order to accomplish some common goal. I am not speaking of a hastily formed posse, or an arbitrarily selected house-to-house visitation group. The concept I am describing is the kind of teamwork which includes at least five elements:
1. An accepted leader
2. A common objective
3. Basic agreement on activities
4. A strong, God-given love and loyalty among team members
5. A certain division of labor within the team.
What is true spiritual unity? Some talk as if it were a kind of perfume which descends on people standing together holding hands. But spiritual unity cannot be absorbed passively. It comes to people who are engaged in the same battle together, and who serve together. Spiritual unity is forged in action.
There are several reasons for this. Only in action can the true value of things be known. Sameness of opinion is not unity. True unity is an identity of spirit.
We all know how participation in some great cause or noble enterprise—especially when there is a hint of danger or some element of sacrifice—draws people together as nothing else can. When we are striving toward the same heroic goal, all else is forgotten and our hearts are knit as one.
Identity of purpose, if we are in earnest, always leads to a unity of spirit. Godly men and women who join together with one purpose and one spirit to accomplish a great task requiring love and sacrifice acquire for themselves spiritual forces they have never felt before. They are carried along by a power and enthusiasm that is beyond themselves.
Some years ago our Navigator staff in the Netherlands was studying teamwork. Gert Doornenbal, the leader of the Dutch ministry, sent me a copy of their conclusions. They identified the purpose, the function, and the spirit embodied in a team committed to the work of Christ.
Here are the guidelines they were led to follow:
1. We must give ourselves to helping fulfill Christ’s Great Commission.
2. We will do this by applying ourselves to equipping and multiplying laborers.
3. We will view every Christian as an important individual.
4. We will give ourselves to serving others.
5. We will strive for excellence in everything.
We will know we have a functioning team when five things are true in our ministry:
1. When we have the same objective Jesus had—taking the gospel to every creature.
2. When we use the same method Jesus employed—multiplying laborers.
3. When we have the same vision Jesus had regarding people—the importance of every individual.
4. When we have the same attitude toward people that Jesus had—he viewed himself as the servant of all.
5. When we are striving for the same standard Jesus had—excellence in everything.
To apply guidelines to any particular task we must ask five questions:
1. Does it help to make disciples?
2. Does it give us the most laborers?
3. Does it show the worth of the individual?
4. Are we truly serving the body of Christ?
5. Can it be done in a better way?
Remember, all of this happens in action, not in a dreamy atmosphere or while we have—a relaxed discussion about all things bright and beautiful. People must be challenged to lay down their lives.
As we strive together toward a big, exciting, meaningful goal, our hearts will be knit as one.