Commentary by Walter Albritton


November 20, 2005


The Spirit Guides Us to Work Together in Ministry


Acts 18:1-19:10


Key Verse: Because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together – by trade they were tentmakers. – Acts 18:3


          I have known the kindness of God in many ways. For 13 years I served on God’s team at Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika. Then I retired to cut grass and watch sunsets in the evening of life. God had a better plan. He called me off the bench and put me on the team of another great church– St. James United Methodist in Montgomery. Though I am a football fanatic, there is no greater thrill than to serve on God’s team – wherever He gives us that honor.

          God works through teams. In fact, teamwork is essential in both the secular and the sacred realms of life. The President has his team. Hospitals have teams without which even the finest surgeons could not do their work. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon only because he had a great team in his space ship and back home in Houston.

          In the church teamwork is absolutely necessary. Pastors who insist on doing everything themselves are soon lonely and ineffective. The person who tries to do the work of ten men (or women) is foolish. The wise leader will work patiently to enlist ten people to serve together as teammates.

          Years ago I asked Bruce Larson to autograph one of his books for me. It was the most memorable autograph of my life. Bruce wrote, “To Walter, Teammate in the Work of Christ, Bruce.”  His humility was showing. By embracing me as his teammate, he blessed me with unexpected dignity and joy. I have never forgotten his kindness. It has prompted me to believe that the greatest honor in life is the privilege of working with others as teammates in the service of our Lord.

          You may be thinking, “That sounds wonderful but you must not have met some of the jerks I have had to work with!” But guess what? I know what you mean! Along the way all of us have had to struggle with people who seemed to believe God had sent them to be “thorns” in our side. The truth is, some people are almost impossible to work with no matter how hard we try.

          Even Saint Paul had his difficult moments. A sharp dispute with fellow servant and longtime friend Barnabas caused them to part ways. Paul took Silas with him and Barnabas chose John Mark to accompany him. Despite their disagreement, both men continued to serve Christ. On occasion such disputes may test our faith.

          The important thing is to not allow our disagreements to sever us from the work of Christ. Sometimes we must admit our weaknesses, confess our inability to be reconciled with other believers, and move on. After all, none of us is perfect, so we would be foolish to demand perfection from our colleagues.  

          Paul did not attempt to do the work of ten people. Everywhere he went he found men and women with whom he could partner in ministry. He did not attempt to put a square peg in a round hole. He found people like Aquila and Priscilla, tentmakers like himself who could identify with him.

          I can see them eating supper together and Paul saying, “I was totally absorbed in tent making – and then I met Jesus!” I can hear Aquila smiling and saying, “Yes, we felt the same way but now we desire nothing more than sharing the good news of Jesus with our friends!”

          Smiling as she served some hot apple pie, Priscilla probably said, “Aquila is a new man since Jesus became Lord of our lives; we are having the time of our lives growing in grace, Paul.” You can see Paul smiling as he silently thanked God giving him these precious teammates in the mission of Christ.

          As I look back over my ministry I realize that I seldom chose the people who became my teammates in ministry. Along the way I began to realize that God was doing the choosing; he created the teams on which I served. That was important to remember when feelings were hurt and relationships were injured by disagreements.

          Repeatedly I began to realize that God brought certain people into my life not to be “Yes” men but to help me grow. I had to change in order to become a better man. I had to admit that I was not right all the time, nor did I have to be. It was not important to always have my way. A good leader can follow as well as lead. Members of a team must learn to share control or wrestling for power will rob the team of victory.

          Unless inflated egos prevents it, teammates can help one another grow into more effective servants of Christ. Christian work is not the work of lone rangers. We work as teams or the work of Christ does not prosper.

          Pride is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons. He prompts us to think we are sufficient in ourselves, that we do not need the help of others. But Satan is defeated whenever one team member says to another, “I need your help.”

          Apollos was a gifted man with a brilliant mind. He knew a lot about the Christian faith but there were huge gaps in his understanding. Had he not been willing to be taught, he would never have become the effective teacher that he was in Ephesus and Corinth. What an example Apollos set for us when he gladly accepted the correction and teaching of Aquila and Priscilla.

          None of us knows it all. None of us can serve God well without the help of other believers. Wise we are to give thanks for the teammates God chooses for us – even the one occasionally God sends our way to be His sandpaper to rub off our rough edges and make us the disciple He wants us to be!

          Today celebrate the joy the Holy Spirit gives us of working together as teammates on the greatest team – God’s team!

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