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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 5

Team Ministry In The New Testament

I see the five fold ministry (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher) not in competition or ranked on a scale, but as co-equal, fellow-elders in ministry, but with different roles. This is where the strength of Team Ministry comes from.

Look at Titus 1:5,7,9, and you will see three terms that are synonymous:

"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers..." (Acts 20:28).

In the N. T. there was more than one elder in the local church. There was a plurality of leadership. This is several individuals with certain powers and duties engaged in a common pursuit. It was team ministry where there was joint action by a group of elders. All worked in unity for the common good.

God desires a team of spiritual elders to labor among and rule over the body (1 Thes. 5:12-13). And it is His will that a variety of elders with differing gifts and roles comprise that team, so that the many needs of the local gathering can be met (Eph. 4:11-12).

Typically individuals and bodies have more than one need at a time. That is why God desires a team of leaders so that the many different types of needs can be met. To illustrate, picture an airplane flight. There are multiple travelers on this plane. One of these is a woman who has just won 5 million dollars. She is also having great marriage problems. She needs help spiritually and she is in the throws of labor. She needs a team. She needs the pilot to keep the plane in the air, a Dr. and a nurse to help with the baby. She needs a marriage counselor, a financial advisor and a believer to minister to her spiritual needs. What are the chances of a single individual being equipped to minister to all of those needs? That is why God likes to bring teams together, so that there are a variety of skills and gifts .. enabling the team to address many diverse needs.

Role Of The Senior Elder

Do we need one? YES!!!

He is a vital part of the team. Every group needs a leader, chairperson, father figure who is the head. He is the first among equals. He keeps everything running smoothly and steadily.

He does not dominate the team.

Business magazine carried an article entitled Ten Fatal Flaws of Business Executives. I will list them here though we could deal with them later and they will come up under other points.

  1. Insensitivity to others
  2. Coldness, aloofness, arrogance
  3. Betrayal of trust
  4. Overt ambition
  5. Performance problems (incompetence)
  6. Over-managing
  7. Inability to staff effectively
  8. Inability to think strategically
  9. Inflexibility - especially in adapting to superiors
  10. Weak or insufficient communication
Notice with the possible exception of 5, 6, and 8, every item on the list has to do with interpersonal relationships.

Relationships are key to effective team work/ministry.

He is like a player - coach. He leads by being an example. He moderates, coordinates, encourages, evaluates, alerts, motivates as well as moving in his specific spiritual gift to edify the body as a whole. No team can run smoothly without this position.

James the brother of Jesus seems to have been the senior elder in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). John was probably a senior elder (2 John 1).

They worked together as a unified body........ Acts 15:23. When the final draft of the letter commending the new Gentile converts was written, it came from the apostle and elders and brethren in general, as a unified body. Most New Testament scholars believe that James merely verbalized what the entire group had decided.

Several things appear in this passage

Three Other Passages Where We See Team Ministry

A Team Of Four Work Together to Accomplish An "Impossible" Task

Let's take a look at just one example of team work/ministry from Mark 2:1-12. This is the story of the four friends bringing their friend on a stretcher to Jesus, but the entrance is blocked so they tear the roof off to get him in. Perhaps the sick man had heard reports but knows that by himself he could never get over there.

These four make a team. They have a goal, they care. They will not be stopped by obstacles.

See the look on their faces when they come around the corner. They probably looked just like sports fans trying buy play-off tickets for your local team.

When you are working on a team, you need to expect difficulties. Each difficulty affords you with some choices:

Managing difficulties is where you draw the line between those who are warriors and those who are wimps. You Have To Be Committed To The Task. When Dr. David Livingston was working in Africa, a group of friends wrote him: "We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?" According to a member of his family, Dr. Livingston sent this message in reply: "If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all."

Team members have to take risks.

Look at the risks this team took:

Note that they were not doing it for themselves, but for someone else. The team had a goal and they accomplished it. One man could not have done this by himself ..... this task needed a team. The team needed to be in agreement and unity. They understood the importance of this task. They might not have another chance. They put aside their own personal preferences for this time of ministry. One person can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one person cannot make a team. The team player is the one who makes things go. The one who is willing to do and sacrifice whatever it takes to make the team successful.

Competition Or Jealousy

There is no room on an effective team for competition or jealousy.

John 21:20-23:

Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" (RSV)

Here we have the problem of rivalry and competition in the church. The Gospels clearly indicate that Jesus eliminated competition as a motivation for Christian activity. But it is rare to find that in practice today. The church has followed the world in this regard, competing and struggling within itself, thereby diminishing its message, and often destroying its effectiveness. Jesus says we do not have to worry about what others are doing, but to be faithful to what God has given us to do; he will put it all together.

In a symphony orchestra a violinist will not go around checking what a trombonist is playing, nor will a flutist worry about whether a trumpeter will come in on time. That is the business of the conductor. These people play their parts and the conductor puts it all together.

This is how the church should operate. We are to fulfill the gifts God has given us. He will put it together. We are not in competition with anybody; we do not have to struggle for position. We each have been given a ministry, not only leaders, preachers and teachers, but to everyone has been given the gifts of the Spirit, and they define our ministry.

Again I refer to the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians which beautifully indicates there are two things we must never say:

  1. Because we have gifts given us by the Lord, we must never say to anybody, "I have no need of you," (1 Cor 12:21).

    But how many times we hear that in the church: "We have no need of you. We can get along fine." I have heard churches boast that they had no need of any other church because they had adequate resources of their own. But that is not in accord with the mind of the Lord.

  2. The other thing we must never say is, "You have no need of me. I am so ungifted, so poor, I have nothing to offer." You cannot say that. You have gifts which the Spirit of God has given to you and you alone. Thus we must not look at one another and ask, "Lord, what do you want to do with him?" Jesus' word is, "That is none of your business. Follow me. I will put it all together."
How simple, how beautiful that is! How effective the church would become if we would but return to it.

[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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