Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 17, 2015

The joy of working together as teammates

          The concept of teams is on my mind. My grandson Josh Albritton is in Daytona, Florida. A sophomore first baseman and left-handed pitcher, he made the AUM team that is competing in a regional playoff for a chance to go to the World Series in Idaho. I am one proud grandfather!

In our world teams accomplish most work. People come together as a team to achieve a common goal. Teamwork is essential in 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. Cars and trucks are built by teams. Teams harvest the food we eat. Firefighters work in teams. Teams produce newspapers. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon because he had a great team in his space ship and back home in Houston.

For 13 years I was privileged to serve on the staff of Trinity United Methodist Church in Opelika. That staff was an excellent team. We worked well together, pooling our skills to further the mission of the church. Then I retired, thinking I would cut grass, enjoy my grandchildren 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– Saint James United Methodist Church in Montgomery. For me there are few greater thrills than serving on one of God’s teams in a local church.  

          God works through teams—in the world arena as well as the church arena. Success is impossible without teamwork. 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.

          Bruce Larson was a gifted preacher and author. After buying one of his books, I asked Bruce to autograph it. His signature is a cherished autograph. Bruce wrote, “To Walter, teammate in the work of Christ, Bruce.”  His humility touched me deeply. By embracing me as his teammate, Bruce blessed me with unexpected dignity and joy. I have never forgotten his kindness.        

While Bruce’s affirmation blessed me that day, I realize that were Bruce and I to serve daily on a team in real life, we would have disagreements. Disputes happen even with the best of people. Even Saint Paul had 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. Such disputes test our faith and remind us how much we need the Lord’s help.

          Since disagreements can sever us from the joy of living, we should seek reconciliation whenever possible. However, there may be occasions when we must simply admit our weaknesses, confess our inability to be reconciled and move on. After all, none of us is perfect so we would be foolish to expect perfection from our colleagues or ourselves. 

          The solution is seldom ever to “work harder.” Paul did not attempt to do the work of ten people. Everywhere Paul went he found men and women with whom he could partner in ministry. He embraced as partners 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 feel compelled to share the good news of Jesus with our friends!”

          Smiling as she served some hot apple pie, Priscilla may have said, “Aquila is a new man since Jesus became our Lord; we are having the time of our lives learning how to follow Jesus.” You can see Paul smiling as he silently thanked God for these precious teammates. And I am sure he began sharing ideas about how they could work together to spread the good news about Jesus.

          As I look back, I realize that I seldom chose the people who became my teammates in ministry. God did the choosing; he created the teams on which I served. That is important to remember when feelings are hurt and relationships are injured by disagreements. Forgiveness and reconciliation strengthen relationships!

          I am thankful that God brought certain people into my life not to be “Yes” men but to help me grow. To become a better man I had to change. I had to admit that I was not right all the time, nor did I have to be. It was not necessary 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 prevent 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.” Acknowledging one’s vulnerability helps build a team’s level of trust.

          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 teachable, 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 uses as His sandpaper to rub off our rough edges and make us the disciple He wants us to be!

          Feel free to celebrate the joy or working together as teammates on a great team!  +  +  +