Teamwork, Education and Missionaries

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Do you remember that little chorus that we learned in Sunday school?

When we all pull together, together, together,

When we all pull together how happy we’ll be!

For your work is my work and our work is God’s work,

When we all pull together how happy we’ll be!

TEAMWORK, according to Merriam Webster, is “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” [1]  The American Heritage Dictionary adds the importance of working towards a goal:  “Cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal.” [2]  Teamwork implies harmony, group, effort and objective.

Beyond the obvious need for developing social skills, pulling together or teamwork should be a trademark of the church because the church is community.  God’s Word describes many benefits of working together.  Among them, when we work together we are:

  • Strong – “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.  Share the work, share the wealth.  And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there’s no one to help, tough!  Two in a bed warm each other.  Alone, you shiver all night.  By yourself you’re unprotected.  With a friend you can face the worst.  Can you round up a third?  A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” (Eccl. 4:9-12, Message)
  • Safe – “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14, NIV)
  • Sharp – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  (Prov. 27:17, NIV)
  • Successful – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22, NIV)

EDUCATION at its best, especially Christian education, takes place in community.  The Apostle Paul captures the essence of community function and discipleship in Ephesians 4:16:  “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Even though each individual must accept responsibility for his own spiritual growth and maturity, the model for education is teamwork.

 Moses commanded parents to impress God’s commandments on the hearts of their children in the course each day’s activities (Deut. 6:6-9).  Paul reminds church leaders to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12).  The Holy Spirit endows the gift of teaching to some (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11).  In addition, Scripture is full of examples of mentoring and discipleship examples that include Paul’s command to his protégé Timothy: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2, NIV).

Ministry training requires teamwork!  We can’t prepare pastors by correspondence or independent study.  In fact, the classroom alone isn’t enough.  Ministry training requires both the church community and life practicum.

 MISSIONARIES, in particular, confront teamwork issues like no other ministry.  On one hand, quite often the gift mix and tenacity that helps a missionary to persist and survive may emit an anti-teamwork message.  Consider your field fellowship.  Blessed are the fields that have a missionary peacemaker—one who encourages and channels missionary efforts to harmonious and productive ends.

On the other hand, we are required to have exceptional teamwork skills!  Consider these challenges:

First, a missionary doesn’t go it alone; he takes someone along with him.  Jesus took his disciples with Him.  Paul had his team, we should too.  Melvin Hodges in The Indigenous Church states:  “The government and extension of the church in any land must eventually be left in the hands of national leaders.” [3]  Considering this legacy, training may be our highest calling as missionaries.

Second, most missionaries working in the Latin America/ Caribbean region will minister in a support role of the national church.  We submit to national leadership.  We negotiate our ministry role.  We operate by local rules.  We may not be in charge of anything.  But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t give us big dreams!  The smart missionary will learn how to broker his influence.  It’s called teamwork.

Third, a missionary must learn what teamwork means in his country.  Much of what we learned about teamwork in the United States may not apply in the countries where we serve.

Fourth, missionaries need to consider various spheres of teamwork.  You and your Timothies may be at more than one level.  Your field fellowship is one sphere—what you do to encourage and contribute to teamwork with your fellow missionaries.  Teamwork at the local level, in the local church or among local churches is another sphere.  In addition, many missionaries will be involved in teamwork relationships on a national level.  A few missionaries will be involved in international ministries and alliances.

Finally, missionaries must be proactive in fostering teamwork, with special focus on training.  This will require broadening our traditional definition of training and education.  A generation ago, all missionaries taught in the Bible school.  Institutionally, we may have outgrown this.  Even so, training is so much more than Bible school.  All of are called to disciple, mentor, train, influence and encourage.  All of us can befriend a national leader.  Let’s be a mentor or be mentored.  Let’s support and participate in local, national and international training initiatives.

God told Abraham, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted” (Gen. 13:14-16, NIV).  Jesus told his disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35, NASB).

Let’s lift up our eyes and see the possibilities.  When we all pull together, how happy we’ll be!

 

By Rod Boyd


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/teamwork

[2] http://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=teamwork

[3] Melvin L. Hodges, The Indigenous Church, GPH, 1953, page 53

5 Replies to “Teamwork, Education and Missionaries”

  1. Great job Rod,

    Looks like you and Greg Mundis are on the same page. (see Greg’s email sent on 2/13) We all must be on the same team!

  2. Great article, Rod! It is so easy to read and to agree with the value of teamwork but much harder to put into practice! We have lots of opportunities to make a difference by modeling teamwork in ministerial training because it takes a lot more than just one missionary to train another missionary or pastor or evangelist…

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