Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 2, 2007

Serving on a Team Injects Joy into the Bloodstream

       A great part of the joy of living comes from the privilege of serving on a team. Human beings are not designed to live as hermits. We need other people. Evidently our Maker had this in mind when he created us.

          A baby needs a mother. A mother needs a husband to help her raise her children. Growing children need role models. Adults never outgrow the need for mentors. As one sage said, the person who has no mentor but himself is the mentor of a fool. People need people to live life at its best.

          In every arena of life people serve together on teams. The concept of teams is not exclusively that of athletics. Teachers, politicians, doctors, nurses, accountants, attorneys – they all work in teams. People who sell cars and trucks work for dealers as a team.

          People used to wonder why my friend Hugh Dean Fuller in Opelika was so successful at selling cars. I learned his secret. Every morning, six days a week, he met with his sales force at 6 a.m. He taught them the art of selling cars. He built a fire under them to be the best team in town. His enthusiasm was contagious. When people came out to look at a car, his team was ready to seal the deal.

          Business leaders are looking for team players. They know that products can be built best (and sold best) by a team of people who are committed to a common goal. Most athletic teams cannot function effectively unless the players learn to work as a team. Persons who are “glory hungry” are not team players.

          As children most of us felt the pain sometimes of not being selected when teams were chosen. It hurt to be one of the last persons picked to serve on a team.

          Growing up we gravitated toward the people we identified with, or the people who wanted us on their teams. Many of us had a “gang” we ran with. We belonged. We were accepted. We felt comfortable with people who felt comfortable with us.

          My mother insisted that I take voice lessons. I did. I joined our high school Glee Club. We were a team. But I still remember the embarrassment of being kicked out of the Glee Club for being a smart-alec. I deserved it but it still hurt.

          I went out for football in the tenth grade and made the team for three years. But my skills were limited. So limited that I spent most of my time sliding up and down the bench hoping the coach would call my name. I still have a couple of splinters embedded you know where.

          Then the Friday night came when Coach Phillips called my name to start at right tackle. I could hardly believe it. That was one of the greatest moments of my teenage years.

          This fall my grandson Jake is wearing my old jersey number (79) on the Macon-East Academy football team. He will play tackle, mostly on offense.  Up in the stands I will be wondering if his heart skips a beat like mine did so many years ago. Of course at 280 and 6 feet three inches tall he gets to play on the varsity as a tenth grader, something that eluded me.  

          As a pastor I learned early on that I could not succeed as a “lone ranger.” Realizing that I needed a team, I was blessed many times with the high privilege of serving with men and women who worked together as a team. Any preacher worth his salt must surround himself with a good team.

          In Pensacola for seven years I had a wonderful team at Richards UMC. Some of those teammates are still friends.

          At Trinity UM Church in Opelika I served with one of the greatest teams any church ever had. We had our problems. None of us was perfect. But we found a way to work as a team through thick and thin. Years later we remain the best of friends.

          Now I am the old guy on a great team at Saint James UM Church in Montgomery. I get to cheer for a super senior pastor and encourage the others on our staff to function as a team at all costs. Our mission is too important not to work together.

          A beautiful thing happens when a congregation can see with their own eyes that the pastor and his staff love one another. To see such love in action makes the people glad they belong to the greater team that is their own church.

          Come to think of it, any team in any arena that learns the art of loving one another is usually a stronger team. Perhaps that is the unspoken goal of teamwork – to practice the kind of love that wants the best for one’s teammates. That’s when our acronym for TEAM means “Together Everyone Achieves More.” After all, there is no “I” in the word team.

          Serving on a team can inject joy into your bloodstream – especially if it is the right team and each player has the right spirit. + + + +