Leading up to my first season of playing flag football, I had spent the better part of that year doing distance running. You could understand why it was difficult to transition to flag football. First, there was the fact that my frail runner’s body just wasn’t in the kind of muscular shape to take a contact sport like football. Second, it seemed like there were about five hundred different plays that I had to know. But third and most importantly, there was that vital component of sports like football and baseball that you simply don’t acquire in sports like distance running: teamwork.
As a fullback, I didn’t realize that my success in blocking affected how easily the halfback executed his running routes or how the quarterback completed his passes. Athletes like me who excelled in individual sports are used to doing everything by themselves and caring about no one but themselves. Athletes who compete in team sports understand the value of teamwork, because the win cannot be accomplished solely by the performance of any one individual. Players on the team need to rely on the strength and abilities of their teammates. Players on a team need to also learn to work in harmony with the other teammates. When a diversity of strengths work in unison with one another for a common goal, great things are accomplished on the sporting field. And it is this same team dynamic that is required in the work of the Lord.
Christians must learn the value of teamwork because the work of the Lord can’t be accomplished through a solo act of any one Christian. Writing from prison, Paul reminds the beloved Philippians that they were to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). The furtherance of the gospel can only be accomplished through believers in the church operating as a team. Not only must all believers participate, but they must do so in unity and cooperation. That’s called teamwork.
Just consider the number of co-laborers who Paul had in his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 16:1-16) and it becomes clear that the ministry of the gospel is a fellowship (Phil 1:5)—an endeavor that requires the participation of all saints for a common goal. No one Christian or Christian household has all of the gifts and resources to successfully carry out the Great Commission in its entirety and build Christ’s church. No Christian is gifted in exactly the same manner. And there is not a single Christian saint of whom the church has no need (1 Cor 12:21). Every single one of the present gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8—teaching, exhortation, serving, giving, mercy, leadership—must be employed. And thus, the individual Christians to whom they are entrusted must employ them fervently and synchronically (1 Cor 14:26, 40).
As believers, we must learn not only to engage steadfastly in the work of the Lord; we must also learn how to work alongside and minister with other Christians. Attempting to outshine or outdo other saints only results in confusion and chaos. It’s not just about being the best Christian you can be in your own pursuit of personal holiness and the employment of your gifts. Learn to use your gifts both fervently and in unison with other Christians in the church. Learn to not only rejoice in the unique gifting of other Christians, but also to rely on them. For when Christians learn the value of teamwork and act upon it, the result is the common good (1 Cor 12:7).