Summary: Teamwork enables us to become more effective in building the kingdom of God than individual efforts alone.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
September 26, 2003
INTRODUCTION: How many of you like to work as a part of a team? How many of you like to work on a project by yourself? How many like to sometimes be on a team and sometimes work alone? How many don’t care one way or another? I thought so.
In today’s scripture Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to become a team that works effectively for building the kingdom of God. They were gifted people. In fact they didn’t fall short in any gift but they just hadn’t learned how to best use their gifts and abilities for the good of all. Some would say, “I follow Apollos’ teaching” and others would say, “I follow Paul.” This lead to a lot of bickering among them. They really weren’t channeling the gifts to the best use. Some were inclined to think they were more important than others and that their work was more important while they devalued the work of others. Paul said, “you are acting like worldly people, not as spiritual Christians.” Paul used some illustrations from agriculture to help them understand how teamwork operates. Let’s see if we can understand how important teamwork is in accomplishing God’s purposes today. Are we a part of the team as God would like us to be?
1. Willingness to be a Part of the Team: Many believers today prefer not to be a part of the team. They say, “I’m just not a team player.” There could be a lot of reasons for this. You just might enjoy working on a project from start to finish. You might be a creative person who gets satisfaction out of seeing one part unfold and then move on to another. That’s OK.
On the other hand many things in the work of God are just too big for a person to do alone. The resources are not there for an individual to make the necessary impact. However, many people stay away from joining a team effort because of negative experiences in the past. Paul’s examples of people in the Corinthian church could be similar to what we may have experienced. You may have been on a committee where personalities clashed and you said, “if I ever get off of this committee, I’ll never be on another one.”
Story: Calhoun was a favorite ballcarrier of the local fans but on this particular day the quarterback was not giving him the ball.
As the game wore on and the hometeam was getting behind the fans began to chant, “Give the ball to Calhoun. Give the ball to Calhoun.” They were ignored.
It was the third down and the fans began to get louder and louder, “Give the ball to Calhoun.” The frustrated quarterback walked out of the huddle and motioned for silence from the crowd. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted, “CALHOUN DON’T WANT THE BALL!”
Too often we prefer to be lone rangers in order to avoid differing opinions and conflict, to avoid people who want to be self important and prideful, to not have to deal with people who seem to know it all and are insensitive toward others on the team. We may feel ignored or unappreciated. Sometimes we just don’t like the work we are assigned to do on the team, and we are not willing to do it.
Story: The editor of a newspaper had been informed that power lines were down after a recent hurricane. He assigned two reporters to the story.
He said, “No one knows whether the wires are live or not, so one of you is to touch it and the other is to write the story.”
2. Why Teamwork is Needed: We have already mentioned that individual resources are not enough but cooperative efforts over time generally result in achievements far greater than what any individual could do in isolation. Paul emphasized cooperation toward mutual goals. Later in this chapter he refers to teamwork in building a structure. He says, “I laid the foundation and someone else is building on it.” The cooperative effort continues for years to come and we all have to stick together in order to realize the finished product. We have to look for ways we can help one another to use their gifts and make room for the “new kid” on the block. Make room to help newcomers gain experience and expertise as they join the team. Stick together in building one another up rather than tearing them down or crowding them off of the team.
Story: A man who couldn’t swim went fishing with his friend and after awhile caught a really big fish. He was so excited about catching such a big fish that he leaned too far over and fell into the water.