One of the most frustrating things to watch is a sports team in which one individual wants to be the star—even at the expense of the team’s success. The famed football coach Vince Lombardi said, “The only true satisfaction a player receives is the satisfaction that comes from being part of a successful team, regardless of his personal accomplishments.”
The church is a team, and each person must yield his personal rights for the success of others and the cause of Christ.
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4)
Teamwork makes serving together enjoyable. First Thessalonians 5:11 tells us, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
So what attributes make for great team players?
There’s something very refreshing about working with someone who has a “can do” attitude and cares more about the completion of the task than who gets the credit. Their positive enthusiasm creates energy in the rest of the team and helps everyone move toward success. A team player with a team attitude practices Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”
A good team player doesn’t look to his teammates’ deficiencies for excuses of his own lack of performance. He takes the challenge to lead by example. Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Timothy could have excused Paul’s expectations by reasoning, “I’m so much younger than others. I shouldn’t be held to such a high standard.” In fact, all of us have good reasons for excuses. “I’m too busy.” “It’s not my job.” “So and so doesn’t do it either.” But God’s Word is clear—”Be thou an example.” Set the pace.
I love watching our school and college teams encourage each other during games. With a high five after a great play or a slap on the back after a mistake, their non-verbal communication says everything: “I’m with you.” “We’ll do better next time.” “Thanks.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.” I thank the Lord for the teammates who have given me encouragement along the way—both during victory and defeat. Their team spirit makes me want to provide the same support for others.
Teammates build each other; they challenge one another to growth. Ephesians 4:29 instructs, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to use of edifying.” Gossip and destructive criticism have no place in a team who desires to succeed.
Players who shop for contracts without consulting the team management may increase their income, but they decrease their value as team players. First Corinthians 14:40 admonishes, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” In a church setting, “teammates” should be honest and transparent with each other and with their pastor. Pastors should exercise integrity among themselves in membership transfers and counseling members from other churches. Doing the right thing is not enough; it must be handled in the right way—“decently and in order.”
John Wooden was the first man to ever be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He led Purdue University to the national championship in 1932. Then he became a successful basketball coach in Indiana before taking over the head job at UCLA. There, Coach John Wooden won ten national championships, a record that may never be broken.
Wooden attributed his success, in part, to the unselfishness of his players. He said, “Generally speaking, individual performances don’t win games. Teamwork wins games.”
Are you a team player?