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-- © GodSpeak International 1999 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Cliff Murray <Cliff1943@aol.com>
Editors: Teresa Seputis, Al Vesper

Prayer-School Course #3

Team Ministry

Lesson 12

Becoming a Team Player

Ephesians 4:2

Every sports team has its stars -- the John Elway's, Ken Griffey's, Michael Jordan's. They're the reason fans come out to watch the games, and they often find themselves in the center of the spotlight, overcome with adulation. The fans may not grasp it, but the players themselves understand one basic truth about team sports: stars wouldn't be stars without the support of the team.

Every year around Christmastime Dan Marino does the commercial for Isotoner gloves -- "take care of the hands that take care of you." The point of the commercial (beyond selling gloves) is that Dan Marino would not be able to pull off all of those incredible fourth quarter comebacks without the assistance of his front line. That's because even though the stars get much of the glory, football is a team sport.

It's this way in other areas of life. Whenever movie stars win an Oscar, they give the same basic speech: "I would like to thank all the people who helped make this night possible... my agent, my manager, my director, my producer, the writers, the members of the cast," and on and on. Thats because it's the same in Hollywood as it is in business, or sports, or any other area of life -- it requires a great deal of effort on the part of many people for one person to succeed.

On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he was the focus of attention for the entire planet. Today, whenever the Apollo voyage to the moon is discussed, Neil Armstrong's name is the one everyone remembers. His statement "One small step for man..." will be remembered for generations. What often is not remembered, however, is the fact that the Apollo expedition took place because a very large and committed team of individuals sacrificed day and night for years to make it happen. Neil Armstrong was only one of 218,000 people involved in that single project. He may have gotten most of the glory, but he will be the first to tell you that it was a team effort. Thats the way it is with every area of life. Life is a team sport. God means for us to work together to be successful and happy. One person alone cannot do it.

It's the same way at church. Church is a team sport. In order to do the work that God has called us to do, we must work together as a team. God's method for the church is that it operate as a team.

The bible tells us God's method in Ephesians 4.

(v. 11-12) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare Gods people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

God's plan for evangelism is team work, but it's not always easy for us.

A survey among missionaries revealed that their number one obstacle on the mission field was not loneliness, culture shock, or finances, as one might expect. The number one problem missionaries face, according to missionaries, is the inability to get along with other missionaries. It's hard to imagine that a group of individuals who leave family, friends, and financial security would have difficulty getting along, but this is the case. In fact, the administrator of a missions organization once told me that he sends missionaries out only in groups of two or four, but never three. His organization learned from experience that when three missionaries work together, inevitably one feels like he is getting picked on by the other two.

Evangelism and church growth, just like all of life, is a team sport. In order to succeed as a church and as individuals, we must develop a Team Player mentality.

In Ephesians 4, Paul shows us how to do this. He says:

(v. 2-3) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Three key words in this passage are the basis for developing an attitude of a team player. Paul said, "Be humble be gentle be patient." Today were going to look more closely at these three attitudes, and consider how we can further develop them in our own lives. First of all, Paul said, "Be humble." That means having an attitude that says

1. The team is more important than me.

In his book The Winner Within, Pat Riley, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, talks about the danger of the Disease of Me. He tells how the Laker's out-of-control egos brought about one of the quickest falls in the history of the NBA. They had won the Championship in 1980. The following season they were predicted to do it again. Then, resentment set in among the players. Some thought Earvin Johnson got too much attention from the media. Kareem Abdul Jubar believed that he was being snubbed by other players. Some players believed they weren't getting the recognition they deserved. As a result, the Lakers shifted their focus from winning to whining. And they got beat in the first playoff round. This is the ultimate humiliation for a reigning champ; it has happened only twice before in NBA history. Riley summed it up by saying, "The Disease of Me leads to the Defeat of Us."

This is important question we should ask ourselves: Am I willing to put the team above me? Am I willing to take low-profile, low-glamour job that benefits others more than me?

In the past I have served churches where certain members expected to be given certain offices regardless of their ability to do the job. I've seen musicians unwilling to share musical responsibilities, teachers unwilling to give others a chance to teach, leaders who insisted on being in control of areas they knew little about. Obviously, these weren't team players, and the churches suffered as a result.

Paul said,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Every baseball fan remembers Kirk Gibson's game-winning home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series. Kirk was more than a star, however; he was the ultimate team player. His coach, Tommy Lasorda, once said that the great thing about having him on his team was that Kirk was willing to do anything to win -- bunt, sacrifice, walk, whatever -- because the teams win-loss record was always more important than his own batting average. This is the attitude of a team player.

When you enter a room, your attitude can say one of two things: either "Here I am!" or "There you are!" One is humble, the other is proud.

Paul encourages us...

(v. 2) Be completely humble.

A team player projects a "there you are" attitude, because his attitude is that the team is more important than me.

Secondly, Paul said, "Be Gentle." That means having an attitude that says

2. My job is to encourage others.

When Don Shula first began coaching the Miami Dolphins, they were ranked among the bottom of the AFC team. He showed his new Dolphin team film of the previous seasons championship team, the Baltimore Colts. He told the Dolphin players not on the play, but on what happened after the play. The players helped each other up, high-fived one another, shouted encouragement to one another. In contrast, he showed the Dolphin players their film from the previous season. These elements were missing. He encouraged his players to get in the habit of encouraging one another on the field because thats how champions play. Don Shula went on to become the winningest coach in the history of the NFL.

I heard a saying once: "It's true man doesn't live by bread alone sometimes he needs buttering up." We all do.

This is why Paul challenges us to treat one another with gentleness. Being gentle with one another doesn't mean being weak or wimpy, it just means treating each other with an attitude that says, "Your feelings matter."

The fact is that when people work together as a team, there are times when they have to correct one another. It's inevitable, because were all human and were all going to make mistakes. It is important, though, when that happens, that we go about it gently. The purpose of correction is to inspire the person to do better.

When someone loses, when they are struggling at home or at work, that is the time they most need encouragement. As a team player, your job is to be gentle: offer them encouragement.

Millions of golf fans watched as Greg Norman blew a huge lead in the Masters golf tournament in the spring of 1995, losing to Nick Faldo. After the debacle, the golf star says he experienced "the most touching few days" of his life. People from all over the world contacted him with words of encouragement. He received four times as much mail as when he won the British Open in 1993. This experience changed Norman's attitude towards people. He said, "There's no need for me to be cynical anymore. I never thought I could reach out and touch people like that. And the extraordinary thing is that I did it by losing."

Life is a team sport, and our job is to encourage everyone on the team when they get a hit and when they strike out with the bases loaded.

Paul said...

Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Thirdly, Paul said, "Be Patient." That means having an attitude that says...

3. I will not give up on anyone.

Have you ever realized what an optimistic word patience is? It implies that the final result will be good, even if the process takes a long time; the object of your patience is not a lost cause.

Paul tells us to be patient with one another for the simple reason that no person is a lost cause. We are to keep believing in them, keep encouraging them, until they come around. Paul expressed this same attitude in the book of Philippians...

I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

When you read the gospels it doesn't take long to realize how completely fallible the disciples of Jesus were. James and John were ambitious, Peter was impulsive, Simon the Zealot was impatient, all of the others at one time or another showed cowardice, lack of faith, jealousy, and spiritual thickheadedness. Yet, Jesus kept them all (with the obvious exception of Judas, who betrayed Christ, then killed himself without seeking forgiveness). In spite of their faults, these men eventually were instrumental in changing the world. Over the course of a few years, they went from being weak and afraid to being bold and strong. They took the gospel of Christ to ends of the earth, and in the process were all martyred except for John, who was tortured and exiled in Patmos. What would have happened if Jesus had given up on them in the early days? Who would have fulfilled his Great Commission? Who would have carried on the work that He began?

Jesus refused to give up on his disciples, in spite of all their mistakes, because he knew that eventually they would become the men they were capable of being. He saw them in terms of their potential, not their past. And as history proves, his patience paid off.

If God refuses to give up on others, what gives us the right to? By showing patience to your family, co-workers, fellow church-members, you are saying "I believe in you. I believe in what God can do in your life. I believe that your short-comings are short-term; if you can overlook mine for a little while longer, I can overlook yours."

A guest on the tonight show told a story about being caught at a red Light when his engine stalled and the car wouldnt start. While he turned the key and the engine turned over and over, the guy behind him honked his horn non- stop. Finally, the driver got out, walked to the car behind him and said, "I'm having some trouble here and maybe you can help. If youll go try to start my car, I'll stay back here and lay on your horn for you."

It's hard to work as a team when you have to listen to a bunch of honking criticism. We need to be patient with the other players on our team.

Mother Teresa You can do what I cannot do and I can do what you cannot do and so together we can do great things.


There's a story about a county fair that held a horse-pulling contest to see whose horse could pull the most weight. The second place winner pulled a sled of about 3500 pounds. The first place winner pulled a sled of about 4000 pounds. Then the administrators of the contest tried something different. They attached both horses to a sled to see what they could do. Combined, the horses pulled almost 10,000 pounds of weight.

This is true in all areas of life. Together, we can do far more than we can as individuals. In life, at home, in the church, we must develop an attitude that says, "This is a team sport, and Im going to be a team player."

Team Members need to be willing to pay the price.

Time after time success comes down to sacrifice. Each person of the team must be willing to sacrifice time and energy to practice and prepare. He must be willing to be held accountable. He must be willing to sacrifice his own desires and give up part of himself for the teams success.

It comes down to the desire and dedication of the individual.

General Norman Schwarzkopf was asked, "What's the greatest lesson you've learned out of all this?"

I think that there is one really fundamental military truth. And thats that you can add up the correlation of forces, you can look at the number of tanks, you can look at the number of airplanes, you can look at all these factors of military might and put them together. But unless the soldier on the ground, or the airman in the air, has the will to win, has the strength of character to go into battle, believes that his cause is just, and has the support of his country....all the rest of that stuff is irrelevant.

Each person needs the conviction that the cause is worth the price and then the battle will be won and the team will succeed. There must be commitment.

Team work for a worthwhile vision makes it possible for common people to attain uncommon results.

[Please Note:
This is intended as a discussion series. Please feel free to send your discussion (comments or questions) to prayer-school@godspeak.net. We will have online discussion each week, MC'd by Cliff Murray, the author of this series. These discussions will NOT be put on the course WWW page.]

-- © GodSpeak International 1999 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

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