He was in every one of my high school gym classes. He was on every athletic team I ever played on. Whether basketball, soccer, football, or baseball, he was there. Most of the time, he possessed exceptional athletic abilities. But once in a while his greatness was only in his mind. Regardless, one trait remained—he was a glory hog. Our physical education teacher often loudly called him a “hot dog” because he always hogged the ball and stole the show. His idea of a team was a group of people whose sole purpose of existence was to make him look good. The concept of each team member working together toward a common goal was foreign to him. Unfortunately, this hot dog mentality also creeps into churches and our own ministries. The Apostle Paul called it “selfish ambition” (Phil 1:17). It is the fruit of pride and the enemy of team ministry.
Team ministry is not something new. It originates in the Scriptures. First, let us briefly look at the New Testament basis for team ministry and then we will examine its benefits.
Basis 1: Jesus started the concept of team ministry. When Jesus first sent His disciples out to preach and heal, He sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7).
Basis 2: The apostles developed team ministry. This is seen most keenly in the practice of the church at Antioch. Having delivered funds for famine relief to the Jerusalem church, the ministry team of Barnabas and Saul returned along with John Mark (Acts 12:25). Then the Holy Spirit called the same ministry team to go on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).
New Testament examples of team ministry reveal four benefits:
Benefit 1: Team ministry provides mutual encouragement. When writing to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul brought greetings from Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus because they had “proved to be an encouragement to [him]” (Col 4:10-11). Ministry is often a very lonely place to live. Having someone to share trials and triumphs with can really brighten the heart and feed endurance.
Benefit 2: Team ministry allows for shared responsibility. Acts 18:18-26 records the account Paul setting sail for Caesarea, leaving Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus. While he was away, a Jewish preacher named Apollos came to Ephesus, “and he was mighty in the Scriptures.” Although Apollos loved God and His Word, he lacked complete knowledge concerning New Testament doctrine. Therefore, in Paul’s absence, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and taught him “the way of God more accurately.” As a result, “he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” If Paul had been a “hot dog,” instead of a believer in team ministry, this would not have happened and God’s work would have suffered.
Benefit 3: Team ministry encourages leadership development. On the second missionary journey, the team became divided. Setting aside discussion concerning the cause, it is valuable for us to consider that neither Paul nor Barnabas continued the work alone. Paul took Silas and Barnabas took along John Mark. This time of working alongside Barnabas enabled Mark to grow, becoming useful for service (2 Tim 4:11) due to the impact of Barnabas. Surely the 2 Timothy 2:2 call to entrust ministry truths to faithful men involves working alongside them, giving them valuable life experience.
Benefit 4: Team ministry reinforces the body structure of the church. The New Testament analogy of the church as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:4-25) has numerous ramifications for church life. A very basic, yet important, one is that every member is a valuable part of the ministry team. Though God may gift believers in varying degrees, we cannot function without one another, for “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (v.7). In ministry there is no room for “hot dogs.”
Let us lay aside our selfish ambition, while recognizing the interdependency of our relationships in the body of Christ. Let us lay aside worldly wisdom and follow after God’s wisdom instead.
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18).