Summary: The church must play as a team if effective ministry is to take place in the world.
Football is big in these here parts. From late Friday evening through Sunday night, it is not hard to find a conversation concerning football. From the Benton High Tigers, to the LSU Tigers, to the La. Tech Bulldogs, to the New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge Saints, football is a language we all understand. LSU had a great victory over the University of Alabama a little over a week ago, and I know that that makes a few of you sad, but the great majority were glad to see the Tigers eek out that victory. Certainly, it will rank with one of the biggest victories in LSU history. But the University of Alabama has in its storied past one of, if not the greatest, football coaches in history—Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bear Bryant said concerning his football team:
“I’m just a plow hand from Arkansas, but I have learned how to hold a team together. How to lift some men up, how to calm down others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. There’s just three things I’d ever say: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”
“One heartbeat together, a team.” What a dream! But a team is exactly what the Apostle Paul is describing in our Scripture today. We know the definition of a team—a single unit composed of individual components for the purpose of accomplishing a common goal. It is as Webster’s defines it “two or more people working together.” That’s what Paul says the church is in Ephesians 4:4-7—“We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future.  There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. Do you think Paul has stressed the point that we are one—a single unit?
Then, in verse 7, Paul opens the door to our individuality—  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.
We are many, yet we are one. Our team is defined by our relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, has given every single one of us gifts—spiritual gifts so that we can all live up to the one hope of our common, God-given calling. Jesus has given every single one of us spiritual gifts that God has designed for the express purpose of building a team that will help us all win in the game of life.
Unfortunately, the church doesn’t always play like a team. Oh, the church can resemble a football game at times. If you’ve ever been to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, or made a trip down to the Independence Bowl, you know what I mean—22 players doing all the work while 80,000 people sit by and cheer from the sidelines. You know that’s what the church looks like. Twenty percent of the people doing 80% of the work, and all led by a pastor that is supposed to more than all the rest. But that is not the biblical image that Paul gives us of ministry, and it just might be the reason so many churches are falling on hard times.
You may remember the pastor of the past. His name is Pastor Fetch This is the man I grew up with in my home church. Notice I said “man.” He was probably the man you grew up with, too. Pastor Fetch’s job description looked something like this:
• Unlock the doors to the church before the services
• Turn on the lights
• Check the water in the baptistery
• Make sure all the pews have hymnals
• Type, print and fold the bulletins
• Preach Sunday morning and Sunday night
• Teach a Sunday school class
• Teach a Wednesday night Bible study
• Lead the youth group
• Attend all class functions
• Be an ex-officio member of every committee
• Take communion around to the shut-ins
• Type, print, fold, and mail the church newsletter
• Attend the board meetings
• And, mow the church grass, if necessary.
Recognize that depiction? In my home church, the only person besides the janitor who had keys to the church was the pastor. If he could not be there, meetings did not happen. The role of the pastor was to preach, celebrate the sacraments, visit the sick, bury the dead, marry off the young, and confirm the teenagers, and bring in new members. He was to be every one’s friend and was to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He was expected to return home from vacation if someone became seriously ill or passed away. The members came first, his family came a distant second. Because, after all, he was the minister, the only minister, and that was his job. That’s the way he wanted it, and that’s the way the members wanted. The pastor did the ministry because he was paid to, and the members consumed ministry because they paid for it. What a contrast to what Paul says to the Ephesians concerning the task of ministry in the body of Christ. Paul says Jesus has given the church gifts for a very specific purpose. Listen as we continue with verse 11: He (meaning Jesus) is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Paul gives us a glimpse of the early church leadership roles and functions, and he says that these leadership roles serve a particular purpose in the church. Verse 12:  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ,