Monday, January 4, 2010


"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" is nowhere more true than in the area of human teamwork. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 gives several examples of why "two are better than one": help and comfort close at hand; strength in numbers; greater overall achievement. Paul expands on the theme in 1 Corinthians 12, emphasizing that our talents and gifts come directly from God and that He intends them all to function as a unit for maximum effectiveness. No one is to be scorned by others with flashier talents; no one is to feel sorry for himself or excuse himself from working because "I really can't do anything important"; no one is to be ignored or shut out or denied full opportunity to make a contribution.

Sadly, the membership rolls of most churches are filled with people whose participation consists entirely of showing up for services, if that. It's not always the "pew warmer's" own fault. Many a church pleads almost weekly for more Sunday school teachers and choir members, while a sanctuary of talented painters and bakers and accountants sits feeling guilty because they can't do what's most wanted. Often they're pressured into trying anyway, rarely producing anything better than mediocre square-peg-in-round-hole results--and even more "I'm no use to this church" guilt feelings. Meanwhile, those who speak up on what they'd really like to do often receive little more encouragement than "Well, we'll let you know if anything comes up."

Perhaps the typical church staff needs a new position: Director of Ministry Placement.

Still, it's worth remembering that the Bible never says everyone's primary field of service has to touch every member of a large congregation or community. Not only does the Ecclesiastes passage speak of very small groups, but Jesus Himself affirmed the power of the tiniest prayer ministry: "If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Mt. 18:19-20). Furthermore, in Paul's time most individual congregations included no more than a few dozen people. And when God decided that the first human being needed the company of his own kind, He made only one additional person (Gen. 2:18-24).

But let's never forget that God does endorse some human companionship for everyone, whether in the form of one best friend or a close-knit extended family of forty. The idea that "I have God so I can get along fine without anyone else" has no Biblical warrant.

God could personally and directly provide us with all the verbal encouragement, advice, and reassurance we need. But I guess He knew we also needed equals we could encourage, advise, and reassure.

An army of one will quickly fall
To the smallest opposing force;
A soldier needs allies within the fight,
Who will help him to stay the course.

A traveler alone will quickly chill
When the day turns to frigid night;
Far better with friends who give warmth and strength,
Who stay by till the first dawn's light.

A single thin thread will quickly snap
At a tug from the weakest hand;
But bundles of thread will resist the pull,
When they're wove to a stronger strand.

The enemy strikes the weakest point,
So no Christian must stand alone.
We all have right place in the Lord's design;
His church needs every living stone!

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