Being a Team Player!

Being a Team Player
Ephesians 4:2-6
January 29, 2017

I love this picture!  Look closely at the picture, each boat is rowing at the same rate.  All of the rowers are working together as one team.  Notice their oars are in virtually identical spots on each boat.  It’s a great example of teamwork.

We don’t go canoeing very often.  A few years ago we went canoeing as a family and we had to remind one another of the need to row together.  When we didn’t, we were working against one another.  If we wanted to go straight or gain speed, we had to work together.  It’s not just a matter of coordination, it’s about team work.

Team work is vitally important to any organization.  Think about football players and their success.  For one player to be successful, all of the players must perform their jobs.  When they do – – amazing things happen, and your rewarded.

This past Christmas, Dallas Cowboys running back, Ezekiel Elliot bought these John Deere Utility vehicles for his offensive line.  They cost about $10,000 each.

The most outrageous gift was by a guy most here love, Tom Brady.  In 2008, he gave his offensive lineman Audi Q7 SUV’s valued at $42,000 each!!  Not to bad.  There’s lots of players who give great gifts, especially after they’ve had great seasons!  Why do they do this?

Brady wouldn’t be as great as he is without a great offensive line – – – and Ezekiel Elliot wouldn’t be the great rookie running back without his offensive line blocking for him.

It’s the same 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.

On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, he was the focus of attention for the entire planet.  His statement “One small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind,” will never be forgotten.

What is forgotten, is that the Apollo expedition succeeded because a large and committed team of individuals sacrificed day and night for years to make it happen.  Neil Armstrong was only one of over 218,000 people who worked on the Apollo project.  He received most of the recognition, but – – it was a team effort.

Remember the Challenger disaster, remember what the cause of that disaster was?  An O-ring!  It was a part which didn’t cost much, it was one small part among 1000’s of parts, yet because it didn’t work properly, there was a disaster and 7 people died.

That’s the way it is with every area of life.  Life is a team sport.  God intends for us to work together in order to achieve success.  One person cannot do it alone.  And sometimes, when one person doesn’t do what they need to do, we suffer as well.

It’s the same at church.  Church is a team sport.  In order to do the work God has called us to do, we must work together as a team  —  though that is not the strategy most churches use.   Too often, the strategy is to hire a “professional” (or group of professionals) to do the work of the ministry for the people, who are the recipients of ministry.  That’s not the Biblical model.  The Bible tells us God’s method in Ephesians 4 ~

11 It was He (God) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up – Ephesians 4:11-12

God’s plan for sustaining and growing His church involves teamwork.  It involves everyone working and caring for one another.  We make sure the body is cared for and is healthy.  This is why Paul reminds us in Romans 12 ~

9 Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

10 Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.

11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

16 Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. — Romans 12:9-18

I only wanted to read one verse to you . . . rejoice with those who rejoice – – and weep with those who weep.  That was it, and then I reread this passage, and I realized I could not leave out one word.  This is all so vital.  I could go on for a few more weeks on community just talking about this passage.

Think about what Paul is really telling us about the way we are to live our lives with one another.  And that’s the key, living our lives with one another.

Let you love be genuine, your love should not be filled with phoniness and hypocrisy.
Love one another as brothers and sisters.  Lead the way in showing love and honor.  Don’t wait for others to do it, you go first.
Be passionate and excited about Christ!  Don’t be lazy about your faith!
Even in bad times, have hope, by joyful, be patient, be prayerful.
Contribute to those who have needs.  Be hospitable and welcome others.
Bless those who persecute, do not curse them.
Live in unity with one another.  Don’t think too much of yourself.
Think about what is honorable in everyone’s sight, not just yours.
And as much as you can, live peaceably with everyone.

Is that not a great prescription for community in the church?  Isn’t that the way we are to live our lives with one another and with the world?

Who could argue with that prescription?  Church 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 wrote ~

2 Be completely humble and gentle;

3 be patient, bearing with one another in love.

That’s pretty simple, but powerful and not so easy to do.  Paul isn’t just telling us to he humble, gentle and patient.  He’s telling us to be completely or always humble.  Always be gentle, always be patient!  Not so easy . . . is it?

I want to look at these 3 words and what it means for the church.

First of all, Paul said, “Be humble.” That means having an attitude that says…

The team is more important then me.

When Lou Holtz was coaching at the University of Minnesota he gave every player on his team a T-shirt.  Printed across the chest in large block letters was the word “TEAM.” Beneath TEAM, in tiny letters, was the word “me.”

Holtz told his team, “This T-shirt serves to remind you that the team is more important than you are, and you should always put the team above you.”

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

There is no company and no church who will not have to deal with people who are expected to be given certain offices regardless of their ability to do the job.  I’ve seen people in the church unwilling to share ministries, and people wanting to lead in areas they were unqualified to lead, people who were unwilling to give newcomers a chance to serve.  Those are not team players, and the church suffers.

Each week, I’ve mentioned Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3 ~
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

The call is always to practice humility.  It means having a “deep sense of your own littleness when compared to Christ.”  It means you are living in complete dependence upon Christ.  Let someone else tell of your worth, don’t puff yourself up, because you may be the only one who has that opinion of you.

Secondly, Paul said, “Be Gentle.”  That means having an attitude that demonstrates . . . power with reserve and gentleness.  Another word for gentleness is meekness.

When Don Shula first began coaching the Miami Dolphins, they were ranked at the bottom of the AFC.  Before the season began, Shula showed his new team – film of the previous season’s championship team, the Baltimore Colts.  He told the Dolphin players to focus not on each play, but on what happened after each play.

The Colt players helped each other up, high-fived one another, and shouted encouraging things to one another.  In contrast, he showed the Dolphin players film from their previous season.  All of this was missing.  He challenged his players to get in the habit of encouraging one another on the field — because that’s how champions play.

If you’re a baseball fan, you know if someone hits your star player with a pitch, your pitcher is going to throw at their star player.  It’s the way it works.  It’s part of showing you’re a team player and you care for the team.  When that doesn’t happen, it shows something is wrong with the team.  Lots of coaches wait to see how their players will react in these situations.

I want you to watch a short clip from a hockey game and watch what happens to the goalie.

VIDEO Eakin hit on New York Ranger goalie

The New York Rangers team was criticized for the fact that nobody skated directly at the guy who did this.  People said – there was no fight in them.  They didn’t show they cared and supported their goalie.  Of course, I’m not advocating fights, but there is a certain type of mentality, especially in sports – when someone in your tribe, someone in your family is knocked down, you help them up and defend them.

So, what do you think happened the next time these teams met?  The guy in the white jersey is the one who made the hit on the goalie.

VIDEO – fight Kreider and Eakin in next game

So, the Rangers ultimately showed they had heart and cared for their player.  Of course, the guy for the Rangers was suspended for 3 games for using the opponents helmet to hit him with.

My point is this . . . what will we do as a church to show care and concern for one another?  When someone is hurting, will we let them hurt and be glad it’s not us?  Will we not approach them because we’re uncomfortable?  Will we say we’re too busy and walk the other way?  Will we say, I never liked them anyways, and walk the other way?

When someone says something negative about your brother or sister in Christ, will you stand up for them?  Will you fight for them?  Will you show you’re a team player?  Every team experiences this, it’s what you do with the tough situations which make up the complexion of the team.

How will we show one another we do what Paul told us to do . . . rejoice together and weep together!  Those are really true signs of a deep powerful love which we have for one another.  That love needs to be present on a daily basis, not just when our backs are against the wall.

We need to offer real encouragement to one another.   Life is a team sport, and our job is to encourage everyone on the team  —  when they hit a homerun and when they strike out with the bases loaded.  As Paul said ~

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

Encourage and build one another up.  Paul said, “Be humble, be gentle and lastly . . . be Patient.”  That’s the attitude that says…

I will not be short-tempered, but I will be long-tempered.  That’s the literal meaning.  Instead of having that short fuse, we have a long fuse, the King James uses the phrase “long-suffering” for patience.

And when we’re patient, long suffering and long tempered it means we don’t give up on anyone.  Have you ever thought about how optimistic the word patience is?  It implies that the final result will be good, even if the process takes long.

I remember when Joshua and Zachary would ask us if they could do something.  Often times Debbie and I would say “MAYBE!”  It was our way to create a little time and space between the question and the ultimate answer.  They would always take maybe as a YES!  In some respects it was our saying be patient.  They knew it, and they were pretty happy with a maybe, because that usually equaled YES!

We need to be patient with one another because no person is a lost cause.  We’re to keep believing in one another and continue encouraging them until they come around.  It does not matter if that’s in the church, at home, at work, in school.  Wherever we go, we will meet people who are not very easy to deal with, can you find something good in them?  Is there some trait, some attitude that you can build off of, even to compliment.  Maybe that is what they really need, but we’re too frustrated with them to see any good.

When you read the gospels it doesn’t take long to realize how fallible Jesus’ disciples were.  James and John were overly ambitious, Peter was impulsive, Simon the Zealot was impatient, Matthew was a tax collector . . . at one time or another they were all cowards, lacked faith, were jealous, and thick-headed.

Yet, Jesus kept them all.  In spite of their faults, these men eventually were the leaders of the early church.  They were instrumental in changing the world.  They didn’t always get what Jesus was talking about, they struggled to make sense of His message, yet over the course of a few years, they went from being weak and afraid to bold and strong.

They took the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, and that message has never stopped.  And they have entrusted the message of Christ with you and I and all of the churches today.

What would have happened if Jesus had given up on them in the early days?  Who would have fulfilled the Great Commission?  Who would have carried on the work Jesus 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 becoming.  He saw them in terms of their potential, not their past.  And His patience paid off.

If God refuses to give up on others, how can we give up on others?  When you show patience to your family, co-workers, classmates, to your brothers and sisters in Christ – – – – you’re saying “I believe in you.  I believe in what God can do in your life.  I believe your short-comings are short-term; and God’s love is eternal.”

There’s an old story about a man who was stopped at a red light.  His engine stalled and the car died and wouldn’t start.  He tried and he tried to restart his car, but it was dead.  The guy behind him had no patience and honked – – non-stop.

Finally, the driver of the stalled car got out, walked to the car behind him and said, “I’m having some trouble and thought maybe you can help.  If you’ll 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 honking criticism.  We need to be humble, gentle and patient with one another.  They are powerful examples of how we show the power and strength of Christ to the world, even to the church.

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, “Life is a team sport, and I’m going to be a team player.”

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