Lesson 2 Team Work
Critical to understanding one’s call as an elder is that we are called to belong to a band or team of fellow elders. A church cannot be particularized without two elders forming a Session regardless of how small the membership may be. As such we recognize a sound principle that responsibility to govern lies on collective shoulders, rather than on one person, however capable he may seem to be. From the example of Jesus to the ministry of Paul, we see ministry being carried out by the most capable of men in the context of partnering with others. What are the advantages for partnering in ministry?
1) Gain in wisdom. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Different men will see a situation from a variety of angles. They will each bring to the table unique knowledge. They serve as sounding boards and as iron sharpening iron.
2) Encouragement. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 notes: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” The work of an elder is wearisome. Having one or more elders coming alongside you will lift your spirit as they encourage you and share the load.
3) Accountability. It is easy to slacken in our work, especially as we become discouraged. As part of a team, we become accountable to one another to carry our share of the work. We should also be looking out for one another that we do not fall into sin.
4) Carrying the responsibility. We cannot do all the work alone. We need to distribute responsibility because of our limitations. Because of Scripture’s mandate to care for the flock, we must provide oversight of every member of the church; because we are limited in our time, energy, and ability, we must then share the work. We must work together as a team. This was the philosophy behind Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law Moses. After giving the wise counsel to divide his work of judging between people in Exodus 18, he concludes: “So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”
5) Finally, we need the expertise of others at times to step in for us. There are some personalities we are not good at handling. One elder is better with some persons than I am. There are some problems beyond my ability to handle, because I lack the expertise or experience. And so I need to call on someone else.
Going back over these points, let’s see how team work is put into practice.
1. Gain in wisdom.
John comes to me with a work related matter. He has been asked by his boss to perform some tasks that may be unethical. Are they and what should he do? It is not uncommon for me to tell John that I need to consult with other elders or perhaps others whom I respect who are in the business world. Or there is a developing problem in a marriage that is getting beyond my capability to manage or help. I will then get together with one or more elders (always including the parish elder) to talk through an approach.
Even if I think I can handle a situation on my own, it is always encouraging to bring in another elder who can then encourage me through prayer and checking up on me. Knowing that I am not alone, that someone else supports me, helps me to see a matter through.
We could be more proactive in checking up on each other and asking how each’s shepherding is coming along. Those few moments of conversation can spark ideas and refresh our thinking and energy. A suggestion you have as I recount my issue may be just what I need to hear. Oftentimes we get discouraged and then think the problem is greater than it is. An encouraging word wakes us back up.
– report to other elders, especially parish elder
4. Carrying the responsibility.
– Jesus sent out in pairs; Paul brought along fellow ministers
5. Turning to the expertise of others.
Do not limit team work to fellow elders.
– People of same age group or interests
– Fellow sinners or trial strugglers
– Full-time counselors
Be thinking of men to involve with you who have potential to become elders and deacons. Getting them involved is the best way to prepare them for office.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents (Philippians 1:27-28).
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