Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 21 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Working Together—God’s Way.”
In today’s episode, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about teamwork and spiritual gifts in the church, the Body of Christ on Earth. Teamwork is God’s way of getting things done!
Teams have always been a major factor in my life. Until recently, I didn’t know why.
The very earliest scenes I can conjure out of the fog of childhood memories include the giant draft horses my father used on our farm in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Their names and faces are as clear to me as family members – Mike and Mickey, King and Prince. They were as much a part of our family as were my sisters and brother. Daddy loved working the fields behind them, and I can still feel the excitement watching him drive them into the yard, nostrils flared, eyes blazing, and everything throbbing to the beat of sixteen hooves the size of dinner plates and thousands of pounds of horseflesh. Nothing spelled “t-e-a-m” more dramatically! To say the least, they made quite an impression on a four-year-old farm boy watching from a safe corner.
Nowadays, everywhere one looks there are all sorts of teams. Sports teams of every imaginable hue, business project teams, government workforce teams, college debate teams – if you can name it there is probably a team for it. The simple truth is this: people working together in harmony, with a common focus, get more done than the same number of people all working separately. It is called synergy – the concept of combining diverse strengths and energies to produce more than the sum of the parts.
Synergy is a dynamic force of nature that expresses itself in all sorts of ways.
Popular reports state that migrating geese can fly 71% farther in formation than an individual goose can fly by itself. Some people have questioned the precision of that “fact,” but in truth, by banding together each individual bird helps out all the others in their collective drive. They encourage one another with squawks and honks as well as literally giving a boost to each other as they knife their way through the sky. The entire flock benefits from the contributions of every member of the team.
In an entirely different realm, lobsters on the ocean floor form a safety train by hooking together, and thus assembled they can cross open spaces faster and safer from predation than if one lone lobster tries to make it on its own. Great teamwork!
Teams of coyotes or wolves often work together to tire their prey, and thus ensure meals for their young and survival of the pack.
Pods of whales work together creating air bubble nets to round up fish for dinner.
Even the insect world gets in on the teamwork act. A colony of bees is amazing in its organization and daily operation, and ants were immortalized by Solomon when he declared, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8 NIV).
Look just about anywhere in nature or human society, and you can find countless examples of teamwork. It is the way things get done most effectively and efficiently. The image of the “Lone Ranger” is a myth. Even he had to have Tonto. There is no such thing as a self-made man. The brightest super stars are nothing without their support networks. Teamwork makes things happen.
The essence of teamwork is to join the strengths of different parties to accomplish a common purpose. A close study of the Godhead reveals that each member of the Holy Trinity has a distinct role that complements and empowers the roles of the other two. In short, the Godhead identifies three kinds of power – omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence – and then unites those powers with the unbreakable bonds of unconditional love.
But more on that in a moment. Before we go there, let’s consider a few texts from the New Testament which illustrate clearly that God’s way of doing His work in the world is through empowering teams of people with various abilities.
The Apostle Paul expressed the concept perfectly in three separate passages. (All quotations are from the New Living Translation.)
Romans 12:6-8 “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: . . . Apostles, . . . Prophets, . . . Teachers, . . . Miracles workers, . . . Healers, . . . Helpers, . . . Leaders, . . . [translators].”
Ephesians 4:11 “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”
In short, a quick survey of Paul’s teaching about how the church—the body of Christ—works efficiently and effectively here on Earth, reveals teamwork as the one, major organizing principle.
Now, let’s consider those three types of power I mentioned earlier.
Let’s look first at the power of KNOWLEDGE.
Proverbs 3:19 declares, “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.”
In other words, one reason God had the power to accomplish those things because he knew how. It is rather obvious that if you don’t know how to do something you probably won’t be able to do it. God created the heavens and the earth because he was able, that is, He had the power to do so. His knowledge and understanding were vital elements of bringing the world—and the Universe—into existence.
Next is the power of AUTHORITY.
The word “omnipotent” literally means, “all-powerful,” but what kind of power are we talking about here? Using an old-fashioned term, we might call a king with complete power over his subjects a “potentate.” The potentate’s ability to rule had little to do with his or her personal physical strength. History is filled with stories of sickly, even dying monarchs who held absolute sway over their kingdom from their death chambers. Their authority was established by the loyalty of those closest to them, and was reinforced by swords, spears, and imprisonment or death to any traitor or dissenter. The power of a potentate was the power of authority. Understanding this sheds an important light on what we mean when we speak of God’s “omnipotence.”
Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mat 28:18 KJV). The word “power” in this text is the Greek word exousia, “authority.” That is the rendition used (correctly) in many of the more modern language versions. The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians underscores Jesus’ position as the highest authority in the Universe. He describes him (Jesus) as being, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:21 NIV). John the Revelator identifies Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16), indicating that his authority was higher than all earthly rulers of any sort. Thus, when Jesus commissioned his followers to “go make disciples,” it was on the basis of his authority, which he assured them would empower them to success. “I will be with you,” he said, “every step of the way” (my personal paraphrase).
Jesus is also described as the “Word” of God. Words carry the authority of governments in their laws, as well as the creative or destructive power of ideas. Jesus, as the Word of God embodies all the authority of heaven, and by that authority he both creates and sustains the Universe (see Col 1:15, 17). Jesus, God the Son, can thus be identified as the Omnipotent member of the Trinity.
The Power of PRESENCE.
Being there. That is what the third aspect of the God’s power, his omnipresence, is all about. God is always there, wherever “there” might be. The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is the Omnipresent person of the Godhead. The Scripture declares that there is literally nowhere God’s Spirit cannot be found. King David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10 NKJV).
Now, I want to show how God brings these three kinds of power together to accomplish His purposes. We have seen that the three kinds of power are the power of knowledge, the power of authority, and the power of presence. It is linking all three together that results in action.
All three must be present for anything to happen. If any one element is missing, the desired result will be impossible to achieve. Let’s say, for instance, that someone has knowledge and authority, but no presence. That person will be totally frustrated in trying to make anything happen. If he has knowledge and presence, but no authority, he will be helpless. If he has authority and presence, but no knowledge, he will probably be dangerous. But with the combination of all three powers, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, God is able to create the Universe! He does it through bonding his knowledge, his authority, and his presence into a single unit – the ultimate super-team. We call this wonderful union the Godhead or the Trinity.
It seems reasonable to assume that if the way God himself gets things done is through teamwork, it also aught to be the most logical and effective way to pursue his work here on earth! For far too long – hundreds and hundreds of years, in fact – the church God commissioned to carry forward his work has been captive to a hierarchical, top-down, authoritarian command-and-control organizational structure that stifles the movement of the Spirit
Thank you so much for listening today! Again, I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about “The Great Circle Dance of God.” I think you’ll find that episode fascinating—at least I find it fascinating! I’m anxious to share with you. Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
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