The power of team is illustrated in the life of the Apostle Paul, who had received a definite calling from the Lord (Romans 15:20), but who consistently demonstrated a dependency on others as they worked together for the sake of the Kingdom. Paul was not a lone ranger, he did not see his individual contribution as prominent, but counted it a joy and privilege to serve in his capacity as an Apostle to the Gentile and as a servant of the Lord. Paul promoted others before himself (Phil. 2:19-29).
His relationships profoundly shaped the early foundations of Christian mission. We all need to cultivate the kinds of relationships that become catalysts for greater Kingdom impact. In our celebrity Christian culture, it is easy to forget God choses to work in teams and behind every effective evangelist (pastor or leader), is a committed team!
It may seem a little odd, yet perhaps no other passage of Scripture in the New Testament speaks to the power of team more than Paul’s closing in the book of Romans 16:1-16. In these 16 verses, Paul makes mention of 27 names. He mentions married couples (vv. 3; 7), he commends excellent wives (v. 3), he refers to a household where the father was an unbeliever (v. 10). He commends sisters (v. 12), a brother and sister (v. 15), as well as a presumed single mother and son (v. 13).
The closing to the letter Paul wrote to the Believers in Rome is a beautiful kaleidoscope of relationship that serves as an important reminder for today’s individualistic, consumer-driven, celebrity Christian culture. It’s clear Paul was able to achieve great things in ministry as a result of the relationships he forged and celebrated.
What qualities should we celebrate in our teams?
Throughout this portion of Scripture, Paul referred to several qualities evident in those he served alongside. Paul celebrated the following qualities in Romans 16:
“Servant of the church” v. 1
“Great help to many people” v. 2
“Great help to Paul” v. 2
“Fellow workers” v.3
“Risked their lives” v. 4
“Mary… works hard for you” v. 6
“In prison with me…” v. 7
“Fellow worker and dear friend” v. 8
“Tested and approved” v. 10
“In the Lord” v. 11
“Women who work hard in the Lord” v. 11
“Chosen in the Lord” v. 13
Paul clearly valued the contributions and service of many other Christian leaders in his time. Paul was not the only one who was serving, sacrificing, or suffering for the cause of Christ. This is perhaps a great encouragement to each one of us—we don’t have to minister on our own, and greater things are achieved when we don’t care who gets the credit (something GNE Council member Reid Saunders mentioned to me in a recent collaborative trip to Malawi)!
God uses people collectively to demonstrate the power of the Gospel in uniting, empowering, and impacting. Luis Palau demonstrated this principle in his own ministry and many team members who served on staff would always know they were valued because of Luis’ comments about the amazing team he had! Approximately two weeks before Luis passed, Ted Bruun (a member of GNE) shared this touching tribute on Facebook:
“Over the past almost 20 years, Luis and his team have quietly come alongside young, unknown, and often relatively undeveloped visionaries and evangelists. Rather than leveraging his accomplishments and experience to build a bigger and bigger kingdom of his own, Luis directed his team to invest much of their time, effort, and resources to help raise up a new generation of leaders who could continue this work to, ‘Demonstrate and Declare the Love of God’ to everyone, everywhere.”
This quote demonstrates the power and possibilities which emanate from elevating others and practicing what Paul mentions in Philippians 2:2-4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Effective evangelism takes a team!
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