We are continuing in a sermon series on building a stronger sense of community within our church. We are better together. Each one of us needs a spiritual family. We need a small group of people we can walk through life with, who share our commitment to love Jesus, to love one another, to grow in God’s Word, to serve in ministry, and to share the good news of the gospel. Contrary to popular opinion, every member of God’s family is to be a minister. Every time you use your God given gifts and talents to help another person, you are doing ministry. Here’s the thing: God does not want us to serve him all alone. We are not made to minister by ourselves. God wants us to serve together, not all by ourselves.
The Bible says, “…agree with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2) The problem is we’re all more comfortable doing our own thing. That way we don’t have to agree with anyone but ourselves, and sometime that’s even hard to do. The saying used to be, “Put any two Presbyterians in a room and you’ll have two opinions on everything.” That was true ten years ago. Today, “Put one Presbyterian in a room alone and he or she will have two opinions on everything.” We don’t know what we believe.
Why can’t I just serve God on my own? Why does God require me to work with others? Why do I have to be part of a group? Why can’t it just be me and Jesus? That’s all I need. Let me give you THREE REASONS WHY WE ARE TO SERVE TOGETHER.
FIRST, God says WE ARE FAMILY. We are connected to one another by virtue of our belonging to God. The Bible says, “We work together as partners who belong to God.” (1st Corinthians 3:9) Here is something very important you should know: God is more interested in the relationships you build with one another as you serve than He is in your service. He is more interested in you learn to work together as partners than he is in what you accomplish. That’s why he wants you to serve together and not on your own. He says, “We’re family and I want you to learn to get along with the others in the family.”
SECOND, WE NEED EACH OTHER. No one person has all that is needed to accomplish the will and purpose of God. No one has all the gifts and talents needed to do what God wants us to do. God designed his family in that way so that we would need each other. The Bible says, “Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of Christ’s body. But as a chopped-of finger or a cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we?” (Romans 12:5) You find the meaning of life as you relate to each other. You discern your gifts and talents in the context of others. You find out your reason for existing as you interact with others in the family of God.
THIRD, WE GET MORE DONE by working TOGETHER. The Bible says, “Two are better off than one because together they can work more effectively.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Working as a team multiplies our effectiveness. God can take an ordinary bunch of people and do extraordinary things through them when they work as a team. He can use us in ways we never dreamed of when we work as a team. That’s exactly what God wants to do with you. He wants to use you in ways you never thought possible. Maybe you think you don’t have much to offer, but as you work together with others, you discover how to contribute to the team and the team accomplishes far more than without you.
The Bible often compares being together in ministry, in serving, in making a difference in the world, to gardening. It says, “The one who plants and the one who waters work as a team with the same purpose.” (1st Corinthians 3:8) They accomplish so much more than they would on their own. Think back to a time in your life when you were part of a team. Maybe it was a sports team or a service club or a military squad. By serving together and sacrificing together as a team, you were your best and felt the most alive. That’s how God has hard wired us. It brings out the best in us to part of a team with the same purpose. We have more fun and we get more done.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD A TEAM THAT BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN US? That’s what I want you to really get this morning. There are four things and these four things will help you serve with others no matter what the cause. I’ve put these four things into an acrostic using the word TEAM.
T – the first letter in the word TEAM is for TRUST. Trust is essential to working as a team. Trust is the glue that draws you closer to others and holds you close. Without trust you will never have the kind of relationships it takes to build a team. Teamwork without trust is impossible.
Jesus always traveled with a team. Paul always traveled with a team. They never ministered anywhere by themselves. They always had other people serving alongside them. They are our models. You should always have a team when you’re serving God. Paul wrote a letter to one of his team members named Timothy. He said, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.” (1st Timothy 6:20) You don’t entrust something to someone unless you trust them. To build a team you have to trust others. That means you share responsibility with them. You trust them to be trustworthy. You let other people do it. Whatever you’re doing, you let other people do it. You get rid of the mindset that you’re the only one who can do it right. You share responsibility.
Think about a hockey team. Sidney Crosby can’t do everything. He may try, but he needs others he can pass the puck to, others who will pass the puck to him. Think of a quarterback. He needs people he can pass the ball to or hand the ball off to. There are very few times that a quarterback carries the ball himself. Most of the time he’s handing the ball off to others. What do you need to hand off to others? In a small study/fellowship group you rotate responsibilities. Everybody takes a turn. In every small group there is hidden talent. Part of the job of the group is to discover it; to uncover it; to draw it out. That takes trust. The Bible says, “Many people claim to be loyal but it’s hard to find a trustworthy person.” (Proverbs 20:6) That was written 3000 years ago. We are still struggling with who we can trust. So the question we should all be asking is, “How do I become a person others can trust.” There are three things.
FIRST, BY BEING CONSISTENT. That’s how we earn other people’s trust. Have you notices how people hate surprises? They don’t like it when you act one way this time and another way another time. They want you to be predictable. They want you to be consistent so they can rely on you. And not just with the big things. With all things. The Bible says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10)
SECOND, we earn people’s trust BY BEING CONFIDENTIAL. Do you know what that means? It means you keep your mouth shut about what someone tells you or about what you know about someone. The Bible says, “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13) You want to be a trustworthy person, then don’t gossip. You know what gossip is? Gossip is when you share information that you are neither part of the problem, nor part of the solution. Unfortunately, today with the internet we have the ability to spread gossip faster than ever before. Gossip will destroy community. It will destroy team building. Don’t do it. And if someone starts to gossip to you, tell them to stop. Tell them you don’t want to hear it.
THIRD, we earn people’s trust BY BEING CLOSE. You get to know people. You spend time with them. You share your heart with them. You let them know who you are. You take the risk of trusting them. You allow yourself to be vulnerable. You love people no matter what. The Bible says, “Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.” (Proverbs 17:17) You want to earn people’s trust, then be a good friend. And that takes time. Building trust takes time. You can lose trust quickly. But it takes time to earn it.
E - the next letter in the word TEAM, STANDS FOR EMPATHY. It takes empathy to build a team. The Bible says, “Live in harmony with one another; and be sympathetic.” (1st Peter 3:8) Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters. Empathy goes a bit further. Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another person. It is feeling what they are feeling as if you were them. It’s not outside looking in. It’s inside looking out. It’s seeing things and feeling things from their perspective. How do you develop such a skill? There are three ways we develop empathy.
FIRST, we develop empathy BY SLOWING DOWN. Rushing through interactions with people will keep you from developing empathy. You’ve got to slow down and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. When you’re moving too fast you miss what a person is really going through. Unfortunately our culture has become so fast moving, so fast paced. No wonder we are raising a generation of people who have no empathy skills. The first step to empathy is to slow down. The Bible says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” (James 1:19) You want to build team work, then you need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. That’s how you develop empathy. Slow yourself down, shut your mouth and listen to others so that you can begin to feel what they feel and see the world from their perspective.
SECOND, we develop empathy is BY ASKING QUESTIONS. The Bible says, “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.” (Proverbs 20:5) Most people don’t just blurt out their emotions. They have to be invited to share. We do that by asking sensitive, carefully crafted questions that give people permission to open up to us. It doesn’t just happen. Here’s what happens. You ask someone, “How’s it going?” They answer, “Good.” They may be dying inside but the socially acceptable answer is, “Good. I’m living the dream.” Mean while they are dying inside. You want to develop empathy, then start asking questions that invite people to be open and honest. Some people talk on and on when you ask them how they are doing. They control the conversation by talking on and on about what’s happening. We need to try our best to say, “So how are you doing with all this?” Stay in the present. Don’t be afraid of silence. Ask questions and just listen.
THIRD, we develop empathy BY SHARING EMOTIONS. The Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Empathy is more than saying, “I’m sorry you hurt.” Empathy is hurting with someone when they hurt. You’re willing to cry with others when they are crying. You’re able to rejoice with others when they are rejoicing. You share in their emotions. In order for us to show empathy to others we’ve got to stay filled with God. You get low on God and you’re not going to be very empathetic. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Empathy is one of the fruits our lives produce when we are filled with God. And it is essential to building a team.
A is the THIRD letter in the word TEAM and it stands for ACCOMMODATION. To build a team it takes accommodation. Everyone is different. We have to learn to accommodate their differences. When you need accommodations you call a hotel and book a room. To accommodate someone, you give them room. You give them space. To build a team you have to accommodate people in lots of different ways. The Bible says, “Be faithful, loving, and easy to get along with.” (2nd Timothy 2:22) That’s being accommodating. Here are ways we are to be accommodating.
FIRST, BY MAKING ROOM FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS. The Bible says, “Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’” (Romans 15:2) An accommodating person asks, “How can I help.” Now you may be thinking, “I don’t have the time or energy to meet all my own needs, let alone the needs of others.” But God never intended you to meet all your own needs by yourself. He designed us to be in community. He designed us to be part of a team. There are needs I have that only others can meet and there are needs others have that only I can meet. We are to make room for the needs of others and in so doing we find our own needs are met.
A SECOND way to be accommodating is BY MAKING ROOM FOR THE IDEAS OF OTHERS. The Bible says, “The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them.” (Proverbs 18:15) The accommodating person will be open to new ways of thinking about things and new ways of doing things. You can always come to the conclusion that it’s the stupidest thing you ever heard, but to build a team we have to make room for the ideas of everyone. It may turn out to be the greatest idea ever.
A THIRD way to be accommodating is BY MAKING ROOM FOR THE GIFTS OF OTHERS. The Bible says, “God in His kindness gave each of us different gifts.” (Romans 12:6) We all have different talents. We all have different personalities. To build a team, you want people with different gifts and talents. You want people with different personalities. You want people with different strengths to compliment your weaknesses, because we all have them. There are people who are goal oriented. They want to get the job done and move on to another job. Then there are those who like to enjoy the process and have fun. There are those who want to think it through and consider all the options. And then there are the peacemakers. They just want to make sure everyone is ok with whatever is decided. A good team needs all these different types of people. The Bible says, “Each of you have been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others.” (1st Peter 4:10) He made us different so we could serve together.
A FOURTH way to be accommodating is BY MAKING ROOM FOR FAULTS OF OTHERS. The Bible says, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2) No one is perfect. We all have our faults. A good team accommodates one another’s faults.
The M in TEAM stands for MISSION. It’s the purpose of the group. A team must have a mission. Teams don’t just exist for themselves. They must have a reason for being together. They must have something they are doing together. The Bible says, “Be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Philippians 2:2) Why do we exist? Is it not to love God, love one another and share the love of God with those who do not know him as we do? That is our overall mission – to take Christ to the world. We are to do that as a TEAM. The Bible says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together… but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25) The Bible says, “Live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Stand strong with one purpose, working together as one for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)