By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Be part of the Team and Join the Community
How do we rebuild our dignity, our integrity, our self-worth, and our identity? Besides activating our prayer life, we need to be part of the team and join the community. Have you heard this phrase: “It is teamwork that enables common men and women to do uncommon things”? Well, that was true for us.
About 80 ordinary men and women climbed 4,095.2m to reach Mt. Kinabalu in 2003. The members of our team were committed to reaching the top of the mountain. The first month eight of us met once a week for a two-hours walk. Two months before climbing, we met three times a week for training; we went up the stairway of a 16-18 storey building.
All the members of the team needed to fully participate to achieve the team’s objectives. Despite having trained together for four months, we were not prepared for what it. Each one had to carry their own weight until some needed help with their load. Yet, because we had trained together before and looked out for each other as we climbed, we were able to endure the hardships. We were told that our partners were our source of encouragement and that we never had to leave our partners alone or behind. We had to stick with our partners until we were back at the base camp. At the end, we all made it to the top and back safely to the base camp.
Likewise, every team member must know the goals and be fully committed to achieving them, or at the least to give their very best. Each member must understand that their contribution will be valuable to the team for meeting the goals. Only then will ordinary men and women do extraordinary things and achieve an enormous task.
What does the Bible tell us about team work? The word “teamwork” does not appear in the Bible, but “working together” and “fellow partakers” are mentioned. These words speak about a group of two or more people working together to achieve a common purpose or goal. The needs of the group become more important than the needs of the members. For teamwork to be efficient and effective, each person needs to put aside their own needs to achieve the objectives and the vision of the group. We need teamwork in the societal structures of marriage, family, community, organisation, and church.
God has asked us to work as a team for He knows that this is the best way to be successful. The Bible’s principles of teamwork are required for higher standards. As believers reading through the Bible, we gather wisdom and maturity over a period of time, and we should apply this wisdom in our own lives. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). Yet, the Bible encourages us to also share the good news to others and to not keep all this information to ourselves. We are to gather His sheep into the Church of Jesus. We are not to be an island to ourselves.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:9-12).
Don’t keep all your gains for yourself. Share; be a team member! Just imagine how much fuller our lives will be! In the first century, it was a Jewish custom to travel in pairs, especially at night. It appeared to be the guideline for the work of the apostles too. Two disciples were sent to find the colt. Peter and John were sent to prepare the Passover and later to go together to Samaria. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Church to Antioch, and later when they had their dissension, each took a companion. Jesus also put the disciples in pairs as Mark 6:7 says: “And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two[…]”. Teamwork was a vital part of the work of the apostles in the first century. Their work required cooperation between the two men.
Working in pairs is better because each can encourage and strengthen the other when one is downcast or depressed among strangers. Also, one might become prideful and take the glory to himself, or there might be a loss of love for the work through jealousy or dissension, as in the case of John Mark with Paul. Church, we need cooperation from each of you to work effectively and to achieve our goals as Christ’s Church. We need to follow some fundamental principles of teamwork, which we will glean from Nehemiah and the flight of the geese.
Teamwork from Nehemiah and the Builders of the Walls (Neh. 2:11-20; 3:1-12)
Nehemiah knew that he could not build the walls of Jerusalem alone. Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was an enormous task that required an enormous community endeavour. So, what did Nehemiah do after seeking God?
1. Examined the task ahead (Neh. 2:13-16-18).
He was wise in keeping quiet before the inspection, and then he made the situation clear to the people. Church, do we know our task ahead as the Church? Do we look at our ministries and life groups as separated from the church or as part of it? Do we look at it as interrelated? They are not mine or yours; all belongs to God.
2. Inspired others to join him, thereby, forming a team (Neh. 3:8).
Many different people from all stages of life—men, women, sons, daughters, goldsmiths, and perfume-makers—were inspired to work on the rebuilding of the walls. These ordinary men and women were competent leaders themselves. The beauty of Nehemiah was that he was genuine about the plight of the Jews in Jerusalem. With God’s guidance, wisdom, and compassion, he won their cooperation. It was in everyone’s best interest to complete the project of rebuilding the walls as quickly as possible for their protection, their safety, and their dignity. Thus, the 52-days project became a splendid example of community effort. A great teamwork if anything!
God has given each one of us talents and gifts. We are to use them to complement each other and to build His kingdom. We may be unskilled labourers, but we can be trained and equipped to labour for God because a team comprises of men and women with many varied capabilities.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Pet. 4:10-11; NLT).
3. Took ownership of the task, shared responsibilities, and cooperated with each other.
Nehemiah encouraged teamwork and cooperation. The people set aside their personal differences and personal agendas for the common good and a common goal. Because they took ownership, they recovered their dignity. Moreover, they had responsibilities to equate their integrity. They allowed others to work near their homes to build the wall with excellence, commitment, and speed. They helped cover each other’s back from attacks and saw that their work complemented their neighbour’s work on the other side. They were not to rival with each other but to finish their task.
Just as in Nehemiah’s time, for the Church to run smoothly as a team, we all must effectively work together to build and to complement each other’s ministries and life groups. This also means putting aside our personal differences and agendas. Do you want to build lives and our church strong? If yes, we need your cooperation. It is neither mine nor yours; they are ours. So let us rebuild the Church strong!
However, there are conflicts everywhere because we are individuals with a strong mind and personality and a different taste and culture. When these conflicts arise, they need to be resolved using Godly and Biblical principles. If we genuinely love God and if His Word is embedded in our lives, we should have fewer conflicts in life. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God” (Jas. 4:1-2; NIV).
Many people, including some believers of Christ, live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves. This type of selfishness can cause problems when working in a group. Therefore, Paul encourages the believers (you and I) to have spiritual unity with each other and to work as one for the main goal: to tell the story of Jesus Christ. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Church, are we truly believers? Do we agree to that?
We need to work as a team, caring for the problems of others as though they were our own problems, loving each other, and riding with someone as the Lord carries them through the valley of shadow of death. With this Christ-like attitude, our team of God’s workers will then experience unity and a bond of warm fellowship in the Lord for each other. There is a saying, “Two is better than one”, and a verse that says: “How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up?” (Deut. 32:30). This verse implies that one Hebrew could chase a thousand, and that two, even more. The point is not that there is power in numbers, but that God can use two when in unity.
4. Encouraged and had empathy for the builders’ efforts (Neh. 3).
Nehemiah gave them self-worth and their own identity. He kept careful account of names, evidence that he valued each worker’s contribution. He had empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. He allowed unskilled man and women to work near their own homes and to contribute as he knew what it meant to be part of the team and the project. And what did Nehemiah say to those like Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem who opposed him? “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem” (Neh. 2:20).
What would you do when you are scorned and mocked by others who say that God doesn’t seem to show up and that your trust is in vain? In Psalm 22:6-11, David chose to affirm that His God had always been faithful to him over the long haul and in charge of his life—even before birth. David renewed his confidence and knew that if anyone could help him in that time, it could only be God. God is our Maker, who has been with us every moment of our existence, preserving us on and planning our lives, even before we knew anything about Him (Ps. 139:13-16).
5. Cultivated interdependency.
Success is centred not on individuals being independent or dependent on their achievements but interdependent. Interdependence means that each individual accepts the responsibility for his or her own contribution to the inspired project. Every tool and material was shared and allocated. Church, we need to see life groups, ministries, and members interrelated and interdependent on each other.
6. Set only one common achievable goal and one leadership (Neh. 2:17-18).
“Then I said to them, ‘You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.’ I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, ‘Let us arise and build.’ So they put their hands to the good work” (Neh. 2:17-18).
Who is in control of all? God. Who did God put in charge of the rebuilding? Only one man—Nehemiah. Were there other leaders? Yes, each undertook the project of a section of rebuilding the walls. What was their goal? Only to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Do you know what our church’s goals are for this year 2015? Our goal in 2015 is to evangelise the lost, the poor, the sick, and the needy by equipping every member with the tool of Alpha and teaching each member how to network with the power of the Holy Spirit.
We rebuild our dignity, our integrity, our self-worth, and our identity through activated prayer life and teamwork to accomplish the task ahead.
Knowing that the task was enormous, Nehemiah
1. examined the task ahead;
2. inspired others to join him, thereby, creating a team;
3. took ownership of the task, shared responsibilities, and cooperated with each other;
4. encouraged and had empathy for the builders’ efforts;
5. cultivated interdependency;
6. set only one common achievable goal and one leadership.
Teamwork enables common men and women to do uncommon things in achieving extraordinary results! God has asked us to work as a team for He knows this is the best way to be successful. “For two are better than one”. A team comprises of men and women with many varied capabilities, which are used to complement each other and to build His Kingdom. We may be unskilled labourers, but we can be trained and equipped to labour for God. Finally, by taking hold of the greater vision ofthe Church and working as a team, we find our purpose in Christ as our dignity, our integrity, our self-worth, and our identity are rebuilt strong, leaving no gaps for the enemy’s attacks. Church, let us strive in our teamwork to build our Church strong for our Lord Jesus Christ, and let our prayer life be activated, keeping our channels open to heaven’s call.
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you” (Rom. 12:3-6; NLT).