Working as a Team
November 21, 2004 | Brian Bill
A newspaper photographer wanted to get pictures of a fire so his newspaper agreed to charter a plane for him. When he arrived at the airport, he jumped into the plane and yelled, “Take off!” Once in the air, the photographer yelled to the pilot to make two or three low passes over the fire. The pilot asked, “Why do you want me to do that?” The photographer proudly replied in an overconfident voice: “Because I’m a photojournalist and I need to take pictures of the fire. Get me as close as you can!” To which the pilot answered in a very shaky voice, “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”
Both the pilot and the photographer had made some incorrect assumptions. They both had expectations that were not met, but they sure had to work as a team in order to accomplish their assignment. As Paul wraps up his inspired playbook to his understudy named Titus, he concludes with some practical teaching about teamwork. As teammates, we must never assume or presume that things will be easy. Sometimes our expectations of others are not met and we can get discouraged. Because we are selfish by nature, and tend to not always think the best of others, we need the help of God in order to function as the family of God.
Let’s take a look at the final verses in the Book of Titus. Please turn to Titus 3:12-15. I see five team-building exercises that can benefit each of us today.
1. Don’t go it alone.
Notice verse 12: “As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.” As the winter is approaching, and travel on the seas becomes dangerous, he wants to make sure that Titus will be able to spend some time with him. The phrase “do your best” is a command with a sense of urgency. We could read it this way: “Do your utmost to come.” In order for that to happen, he is planning to send one of two men to take over the tasks of Titus on Crete. Let me make some observations.
- Paul was into personal discipleship. Titus is under stress from the mess in Crete, and so Paul wants him to come away to get refreshed. He is really following the example of Jesus. When the disciples were involved in ministry, they returned a bit tired and we read in Mark 6:32 that Jesus got alone with them: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” I’m sure that Paul reviewed what happened on Crete and then proceeded to equip Titus for his next assignment. Interestingly, Paul did the same thing with Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:21: “Do your best to get here before winter.”
- Paul was not a lone ranger. Did you know that the apostle mentions over 100 people by name in his letters? Paul was a total team player.
- Paul partnered with people. Even though Paul was an apostle, he worked in tandem with believers from all classes. When writing to the Philippians in 1:5, he said, “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
- Friendships with faithful followers can help us grow. The church was created to be a community of interdependent people as Romans 12:5 states: “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. I need you and you need me. Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
- The best friendships develop through shared experiences. Most of Paul’s relationships were cultivated in the crucible of ministry partnerships. Some of the best friends you will ever have are those you serve side-by-side with.
- People are more important than programs. Paul does not tell the church to keep programs going but to keep friendships fresh. I love how he bears his heart in 1 Corinthians 16:7: “I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.”
- It’s beneficial to have friends who are different from us. Paul was friends with a doctor and a runaway slave. He mixed it up with those from a Jewish background and those who didn’t even know who Abraham was. He was closer to some than others because most were faithful and a few were fickle.
- Authenticity is the key to lasting friendships. Paul was a real person who sent a real letter to a real person. The Bible did not just fall out of the sky but contains personal letters filled with warmth and emotion. Paul wanted to further train Titus, but he also craved his companionship.
- God uses notables and nobodies. It’s interesting that of the two men mentioned in Titus 3:12, one of them is well-known, and one is a mystery man. We don’t know anything about Artemas while Tychicus has a very impressive spiritual resume.
Paul had not yet made up his mind what man he wanted to send to Crete to replace Titus but Tychicus was an obvious choice. In studying Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7, Ephesians 4:12 and 2 Timothy 4:12, we see that he had some previous experience.
- Courier. Tychicus delivered letters to the Ephesians, Colossians and to Philemon. He was Paul’s personal FedEx man.
- Reporter. One of his jobs was to tell people how Paul was holding up. In turn, he would give Paul information about the churches.
- Encourager. He looked for ways to come alongside those who were discouraged and took opportunity to encourage and affirm believers. We need more encouragers in the church because when we don’t encourage, we can actually contribute to the hardening of someone’s heart. We see this in Hebrews 3:13: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Are you an encourager? Do you build others up, or do your words tear them down?
- Reliever. Tychicus was sent to give Timothy a break in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). Like a relief pitcher, he was fresh and ready to go.
I can think of no higher commendation than what Paul said about his character in Colossians 4:7: “Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.”
- He was a “dear brother.” Paul was not afraid to be affectionate in the way he referred to people. He was loved deeply by Paul.
- And he was a “faithful minister.” Paul counted on him on several occasions and nothing negative about him is ever stated in Scripture. God does not ask us to be brilliant or beautiful but longs for us to be available. Not famous, but faithful.
- He was also a “fellow servant.” Paul didn’t pull rank on people because of his position. Followers of the Savior were his fellow servants.
In his book, “The Power of Team Leadership,” George Barna writes: “Had the church relied upon a single, incredibly gifted, magnetic individual…the church would surely have collapsed. What the disciples discovered was that none of them had the complete package of gifts, abilities, and insights necessary to facilitate the growth of the Christian church, but each had a very significant and defined role to play in that revolutionary undertaking.”
2. Give to the Goers.
Look at verse 13: “Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.” Once again, we know a lot about one of these guys and not much about the other. Zenas was a lawyer, meaning he was either an expert in the Old Testament law or had been trained in Roman jurisprudence. Acts 18:24-28 tells us that Apollos was a Jewish believer who was well trained and had a tremendous knowledge of Scripture. When he spoke, he did so with great fervor, he taught accurately, and he was bold. One of the best things about him was that he was open to learn more.
Zenas and Apollos were essentially traveling missionaries. They have come to Crete and now need givers so that they can go to the next place. Notice that the Cretan Christians are to do “everything” to help them. This word has to do with “speedily.” We’re not to wait to give but to do so generously and quickly so that missionaries can be sent “on their way.” This phrase was used in Acts 15:3: “The church sent them on their way…” Paul described how believers assisted him in 1 Corinthians 16:6: “…so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.” The idea is to send forward on one’s journey and to do it with earnestness.
One of the clearest sections of Scripture on the importance of giving to the goers is found in 3 John 5-8: “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.”
Beth and I have been on both sides of this. When we were missionaries, we were bowled over by the generosity of givers and at the same time we struggled with the stereotype that missionaries are always asking for money. We were the recipients of some holy hospitality and some great gifts from God’s people, including a van we used in Mexico and a car when we returned. One sweet lady always gave our girls DQ coupons when we would return to our church in Oak Park. Another older couple sent gifts to our girls on their birthdays and holidays.
Now we see other missionaries and ministries struggling and understand how challenging it is to give strategically. I called two well-known mission agencies this week and asked them what percent of their missionaries are under-supported. One told me that it was over 30%! The other agency said that around 2/3 of their missionaries do not have adequate funds. In addition to this, it can take missionaries from one to three years just to raise their support before they can even go.
3. Do what is good.
Verse 14 is now the sixth time in Titus that Paul urges believers to do good works: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” It’s as if he can’t conclude the book without one more appeal for believers to do good works. I wonder why he had to tell them this so many times in such a short book. My guess is because by nature we don’t automatically do good things since we’re lazy or consumed by our own issues. We need constant reminders because when we do good works, we stand out on a Cretan culture. Notice also that we must “learn to devote” ourselves to “doing what is good.” We need exhortation and exposure and examples and sometimes we even have to experiment to find out exactly what good deeds God wants us to do.
The last part of verse 14 can be taken in one of two ways. When we do what is good, our own daily needs will be met. This is similar in thought to Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When we put God and others first, our own necessities will be met. The other way to understand this phrase is that when we devote ourselves to doing good, we end up providing for the daily needs of others. When we learn to do good deeds, we’ll meet pressing needs. Paul experienced this in Acts 28:10: “They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.” In Romans 15:24, he actually asks for assistance: “I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there…” I think they’re both true. When we give, we’re given to. And when we give, others are able to go. This keeps us from being unfruitful.
As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, our tendency will be to go into warp speed and get caught up in all the trimmings and trappings of this time of year. Let’s have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas but let’s make sure we devote ourselves to doing what is good. Ephesians 4:28 says that one of the reasons we work is so that we will have something to share with others: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
Andrew Murray captured the importance of good deeds when he said: “The deeper our conviction that we have been saved, not of works, but of grace, the stronger the proof that we have indeed been saved for good works” (“Working For God,” page 36).
In order to work as a team, don’t go it alone. Give to the goers. Do what is good. And number four…
4. Greet everyone.
We really see Paul’s passion for people in verse 15: “Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.” He craved to be connected with fellow Christians. He wanted Titus and those in Crete to know that everyone with him was with them. Paul also wanted to make sure that those who love him in the faith were given a special greeting. Notice the phrase “Greet those,” implying that it was more than just Titus he was writing to. This book was intended to be circulated among the churches on the island of Crete.
Christians should never be cool or aloof from one another because we need each other
I have fond memories of how Mexicans greet each other. When we would be at someone’s house, the arriving guest would go around the entire room and embrace everyone. The same thing would take place when people left. In the Bible times, believers would often greet one another with a “holy kiss” (see Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). The main point here is that we should be warm toward others, acknowledge them, and look for ways to connect with them. Christians should never be cool or aloof from one another because we need each other.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “The strong are not always vigorous; the wise not always ready; the brave not always courageous; the joyous not happy. There may be here and there men of iron but surely they worry about rust on occasion.” The church is filled with silent sufferers. Let’s look for ways to link our lives with those around us. The first step is to break out of our shells and give a greeting, then following Paul’s example work at remembering names, and then get involved in people’s lives through ministry partnerships. Will you work at greeting at least five people before you leave this morning?
5. Grant grace to others.
Paul closes this letter, as he does in all of his letters, with the gift of grace: “Grace be with you all.” It’s as if he can’t get over the fact that God saved him from his sins. He never tires of teaching about grace because he wants everyone to be impacted by the Almighty’s unmerited favor. Let’s listen to the final word from each of Paul’s epistles.
Romans 16:20: “The grace our Lord Jesus be with you.”
1 Corinthians 16:23: “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”
2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Galatians 6:18: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”
Ephesians 6:24: “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
Philippians 4:23: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”
Colossians 4:18: “Grace be with you all.”
1 Thessalonians 5:28: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
2 Thessalonians 3:18: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
1 Timothy 6:21: “Grace be with you.”
2 Timothy 4:22: “Grace be with you.”
Philemon 25: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
We’re not sure exactly who wrote the book of Hebrews, but this book also ends with: “Grace be with you all” (Hebrews 13:25). 2 Peter concludes this way: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (3:18). And the final phrase in the entire Bible is a word of grace in Revelation 22:21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
I saw an interview with Billy Graham. Amazingly, at the age of 86 and struggling with Parkinson’s disease, he is conducting a crusade in Los Angeles. He has preached to more people than anyone else, in over 180 countries. On the interview it was mentioned that he is considered “Pastor to America.” Billy’s response gave me spiritual goose bumps. He looked into the camera and said, “I am a sinner saved by God’s grace.” He has never gotten over the fact that God saved him from his sins. Guess what? I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. You’re a sinner saved by God’s grace. If you’re feeling guilty today, allow God’s amazing grace to cleanse you from your sins. Don’t ever forget. You are a sinner saved by God’s grace.
You and I are teammates and partners in the gospel
You and I are teammates and partners in the gospel. Let’s work these team-building principles together.
- Don’t go it alone
- Give to the goers
- Do what is good
- Greet everyone
- Grant grace
In the summer of 2002, nine miners were trapped for three days in a water-filled mine shaft in Pennsylvania. After their amazing rescue, the miners said that they “decided early on they were either going to live or die as a group.” The 55 degree water threatened to kill them slowly by hypothermia. According to a news report, they came up with a plan: “When one would get cold, the other eight would huddle around the person and warm that person, and when another person got cold, the favor was returned.”
“Everybody had strong moments,” miner Harry B. Mayhugh told reporters after being released from the hospital. “But any certain time maybe one guy got down, and then the rest pulled together. And then that guy would get back up, and maybe someone else would feel a little weaker, but it was a team effort. That’s the only way it could have been.” In a special worship service that took place a couple days later, ten helmets were placed on the altar at a church, representing the nine miners and God. They faced incredibly hostile conditions together—and they all came out alive together.
What a picture of the body of Christ! We have been created to be in community and to work together as a team. Do you feel trapped and in the dark? Are the walls caving in on you? The only way out is through leaning on God and on others.