In the late 1990s, when we as a church were considering a targeted mission venture to the Turkic world (eventuating as our large, long-term Kazakhstan partnership), I travelled to Turkey and Uzbekistan with a group of men. There were a couple of Evangelical Free Church Missions execs, several other pastors, and a man who was a missions committee chairman at a large Midwest church. This final gentleman was very interested in missionary work and apparently also very generous with his wealth to support such ventures. However, he was oblivious to cross-cultural sensitivities – speaking out loudly and inappropriately with off-the-wall questions and comments. Though his heart and intentions were good, he was a total liability for our mission, as we were meeting with secular authorities and not only Christian brethren.
When you are seeking to work together as a team in a strange and foreign context, the last thing you need is a person who is a loose cannon. But there are other ways that a person could be a liability on a missions team. Whatever the issue, missionary teammates need to be able to have total confidence in each other and a strong working relationship.
For some undefined reason, Paul did not feel he could have this confidence with John Mark. And as we wrote previously, this issue created a rift between Paul and Barnabas. The result is that Paul set out on the second missionary journey with Silas instead. Along the way, Timothy joined the new missions team as well …
Acts 15:4 – Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Acts 16:1 – Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Silas offered a number of strengths for the missionary partnership. He had an extensive Jewish background and was a recognized prophet – a man capable of proclaiming God’s truth as revealed in Scripture and through the leading of the Spirit. He was also a Roman citizen, which would come in handy when things got tough with the Roman authorities. So he was the right background of theological understanding, along with a capacity to interact successfully with the Gentile world.
Also joining the team was Timothy, a well-liked and respected younger man who could help in a variety of ways on the journey. From a Gentile father and Jewish mother, it was through the apparent influence of his mother and grandmother that he became a believer. Though not an outgoing sort of temperament like Paul, Timothy was a rock solid guy in every other way. He would become Paul’s #1 protégé.
Together the team shared the decision and word from the Jerusalem Council, and everywhere people were encouraged by it. The summary statement is that these new churches were solidified in their faith and witness, with the result being consistent growth in numbers of people.
In serving God together as fellow believers saved from the curse of sin, we are never going to have perfect relationships. But we can have strong relationships that enhance our effectiveness. Good teams understand that different members have different roles and strengths to contribute. All are needed, though some may be more prominent than others. But as each one understands their unique gifting and role, each understands that they are all servants of the same God who distributed the gifts and abilities. When this happens, strong ministry can follow.
As staff and elders at TSF, we covet your prayers as we seek to work well with one another. The staff has a good time serving together and we get along with each other exceedingly well. Likewise with the elders. At this time, the staff and elders are working through a common reading and discussion of a book entitled “Sticky Teams.” We have all really enjoyed this exercise in recent months.
So as you serve God, look toward working together in teams. The fact is that none of us have every gift that is needed in a ministry venture, but together we can have those individual gifts combine and add together for great effectiveness. Who are your teammates in the Life Race?