Part 7: Team-Based Ministry
One of the greatest sports upsets of all time occurred during the 1980 Olympic Games when a collection of college and amateur hockey players from the United States upended a juggernaut team from the Soviet Union en route to claiming the gold medal. The Soviet team boasted some of the greatest international players of that time and their dominance earned them the nickname “The Red Machine.”
In the face of overwhelming odds, the U.S. team succeeded not because of their talent, but because of the quality of their teamwork. What they lacked in talent and experience, they made up for in intensity and chemistry. U.S. coach Herb Brooks meticulously selected the players he wanted, turning down some gifted players for the sake of achieving the exact mix of skills, speed and mental discipline that he knew would be needed to have a chance against the Soviets.
In ministry, as in sports and business, an effective team is critical. But in many cases we follow a lone ranger approach. In an effort to cover as much geographic territory as possible, or to launch as many new projects as possible, missions agencies and churches have sent out individuals to start new works trusting that they would develop a team at some point.
In contrast, the Encounter with God Movement believes that team ministry is essential from the very start. It was a team of people that developed the initial Encounter church in Lima, Peru. The same team-based concept was transferred to successive daughter churches. Even today, each new church starts with a senior pastor and at least one assistant, and often more, who share in the pulpit ministry, as well as the rest of the ministry of the church.
The multiplied effectiveness of a ministry team can be the difference between a successful church plant and a false start. A more diverse skill set develops more well-rounded ministries that lead to more rapid church growth. In addition, team ministry that shares the pulpit encourages church members’ commitment to the church and not to individual personalities.
The positive benefits of team ministry are likely the reason that Jesus and the early church made consistent use of teams. In commissioning the disciples to preach the gospel throughout Israel, Jesus sent them in pairs. Likewise, many of the earliest recorded missionaries, such as Peter and John, Paul and Barnabas and later Paul and Silas, functioned in teams.
Their example is a good model for us. For as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work….”