The most effective churches and ministries today are the ones that work hard at developing teams.
The concept of teams is not new. Since creation, men have formed groups of various kinds to accomplish various purposes. We are born into groups (families), we are educated in groups (classes), we play sports in groups (sports teams), we work in groups (companies), we fight in groups (armies), and we worship and serve God in groups (churches).
This should come as no surprise to us. The very nature of teams is biblically-based: in the nature of God, the creation of man, the building of Jesus’ disciples, and the establishment of the church as one body.
The Triune Nature of God
God is three and yet God is one. The eternal nature of God provides a wonderful picture of the perfect team.
- Each member of the Godhead is equal.
Jesus and the Father are equal:
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equal:
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth … I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)
Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal.
… baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matt. 28:19)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4-6)
- There are clear distinctions of responsibility and function within the Godhead.
… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood … (1 Pet. 1:2)
According to Peter, these are the distinct roles of the Members of the Godhead: the Father elected us (origin of salvation), the Son came and died for us (means of salvation), and now the Holy Spirit applies both our election and salvation through His power in conversion (effecting of salvation). Thus, the entire triune Godhead is involved in salvation: the Father chooses, the Son atones, and the Spirit applies.
- The Godhead always acts as One in perfect unity.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26)
Come, let Us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. (Gen. 11:7)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” (Is. 6:8)
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. (1 Cor. 12:4-6)
This is the eternal nature of God. God has always been triune. God has always existed and acted in community.
The Creation of Man as Male and Female
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27)
Man was created in the image of the triune God. God created man as male and female. Husband and wife are, ideally, to live and work together as a team.
- Again, we see equality in this relationship.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)
- We also see diversity of responsibility and function.
… heirs together of the grace of life … (1 Pet. 3:7)
- Husband and wife are also intended to live and act together in unity.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31)
The Relationship of Jesus and His Disciples
Jesus did not merely train a group of individuals to be independent spiritual giants. When He sent them out it was in pairs (Mark 6:7), and His ultimate life’s purpose – along with dying on the cross – was to build a team of men to whom He would turn over responsibility for the birthing and leading of His church.
The Body of Christ
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul shares a very clear vision for team ministry within the church. Here are some of the principles he mentions:
- Team members bring different abilities and gifts into the team, and they may all serve in different ways. Yet they all serve in unity to fulfill the same ultimate divine purpose (12:4-6).
- The team is made up of many parts (12:7-11) and yet is meant to function in unity (12:12) as Christ unites us and His Spirit empowers us (12:13).
- There is no place for an independent spirit if effective team ministry is to occur (12:14-16).
- No one member is capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of the whole team (12:17).
- God is the One who is strategically building His team, giving each member mutually complementary gifts (12:18-20).
- Each member of the team must realize his need for all other members (12:21).
- It is often the unseen team members – those who faithfully fulfill their responsibilities whether they are recognized or not – who will be the most honored by God (12:22-24).
- In an effective team each member must be concerned not only for his own role but also for the other members of the team (12:25).
- We are inextricably linked together (12:26). Consequently, one missing or malfunctioning team member causes the whole team to suffer and lose its effectiveness.
- We must be committed to one another: to form and participate in effective teams (12:27).
- God is the One who raises up the team and establishes its order as it pleases Himself (12:28).
- We should find and fulfill our own special calling in the team – for which God has gifted and prepared us – and not try to do what seems to be the most important (12:29-30).
- We should earnestly desire to be used in the greatest way possible in the context of the team (12:31a)
- The team will be most effective when it exists and functions in a relational community of love (12:31b – 13:13).
We spend most of our waking lives in groups of some kind, yet there are fewer areas of living in which we are less successful than that of living and working together. Man’s inability to live and work in harmony confronts us on every side: between nations we have wars, in families we have divorces, between companies we have bitter competition, within churches we have strife and division.
It is considerably easier to work individually. Yet there is great power released when we work as a team!