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.