Great things can be done by individuals, but greater things are accomplished by teams. Even a great man like Galileo, when asked the source of his genius, replied, “I stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was a giant step for mankind because talented specialists combined their gifts in a superb display of united teamwork. No individual could have achieved that. John Maxwell, noted business consultant writes, ”Well-coached teams can accomplish far more than gifted individuals.” Yet we idolize individuals in politics, sports, entertainment and even in the church. “Come hear our pastor preach,” is often how we try to attract people to church. Should that be our attraction or the genuine love and fellowship of the body?
Bill Bradley, who was at Princeton when I was, became a US senator and played for the N.Y. Knicks. He kicked off an NCAA final once saying, “The best players are not here tonight. What we have are the best teams coached by the best coaches.” He should know. Those Knicks teams he played on were considered a classic example of great team work. The 6th man on that team, Phil Jackson took “the team is everything” formula and turned Michael Jordan from a superstar into a world champion. Which does Jordan cherish more—his individual stats or those six world championship rings?
God’s Team The sports world didn’t invent teams. It’s a very old and powerful idea.
Jesus formed the greatest team the world has ever seen—men and women he trained, filled with his Spirit and turned loose on the world. What did they do? They turned their world upside down for him. The Apostle Paul may be the first in history to articulate what a team is. “We are many people, but in Christ we are all one body. We are each parts of that body, and each of us belongs to all the others.”
Paul taught the church is one body with many members who each love, honor and serve the rest. He also lived it. Called to ministry by a team of church leaders in Antioch, he always traveled with others. He relied on their companionship and gifts to plant and grow churches. Our individuality finds its greatest significance while serving the His objectives on his team with others.
We’ve reframed his great “teamwork” passage using the more modern example of a football team.
… the team needs many positions, not just one. If the center were to say, “Because I am not a fullback, I don’t belong on the team,” that would not keep him from being a team member. And if the defensive end were to say, “Because I am not a safety, I don’t belong to this team,” that wouldn’t hold water. If the whole team were a quarterback, who would protect him from the blitz? And if all the players were running backs, who would open up the holes for him? As it is, however, the coach needs all kinds of different talents if he expects to play and win the game. There could be no team or game if everyone wanted to play the same position. If one player fumbles the ball, the team suffers, the other players suffer and it could cost the game. If one player scores a touchdown, the other players meet him in the end zone, pat him on the helmet and celebrate with him. (I Corinthians 12)
Our greatest allegiance is to Christ and one another, then the world. Would an Olympic volley ball player say his greatest allegiance is to the people watching his performance? “No man; my loyalty is to my team mates, otherwise we won’t win games and gain the respect of our fans.”
For the church, winning the prize means attaining the goal of our leader and coach, Jesus.
We best love and serve our neighbors, by coming together as God’s team to be a witness to them of God’s love.
God of mercy and grace, shine upon your church today. Forgive our divisions. Make us great again by our true obedience to your law of love for you, one another and our neighbor.
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