Last week, we began looking at practical and specific ways to do missions in the power of the Holy by looking at Spirit-empowered unity. This month, I would like to focus on Spirit-empowered teams.
To be effective, we are not to operate alone or in isolation. We are to make every effort to function as a team. This was Jesus’ way and it should be ours. When he sent his seventy disciples out to witness to His Kingdom, he sent them in teams of two (Luke 10:1). He taught that wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, He is present (Matthew 18:20). He sent His Holy Spirit who distributes gifts to the different members of the Body that they may work together effectively.
We have teams at work, at school, at play. There are sports teams, combat teams, business teams, ministry teams, worship teams. We are familiar with teams of all sorts. But, how well do we understand what it means to be a team empowered and lead by the Holy Spirit?
Frequently, when we think of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, we think of it in individualistic terms. We think about my gifts, my anointing, my ministry, my worship, my preaching. In God’s plan, it is not my work or my calling; it is the Holy Spirit’s work and our participation in that, our obedience to His leading, our unity with other brothers and sisters in the work. There is a tremendous shift in thinking that moves us from “my” to “our.” Even when we seek to work in teams within the Church, all too often the team becomes the way that the leader—pastor, chairman, worship leader, Sunday School leader, whoever—assigns the work that needs to be done. The team is simply a group of people who support the leader in his or her work or ministry. This is not the pattern that we see in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, we saw individual prophets, Kings, priests operating under the power of the Holy Spirit but remember Joel’s prophetic promise that the Holy Spirit would be poured out on all, young and old, men and women alike (Joel 2:29-29 and Acts 2:17-18). Even though certain members of a team may stand out, may be representative, may be the leader or the preacher or the pastor, that does not mean that the other members are less important. It does not mean that their roles are subservient to the one who seems to have the highest position.
Let’s look at the Scripture. There are many passages but we will focus on a few starting with I Corinthians 12.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:4-7)
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (I Corinthians 12:12-14)
I encourage you also to review I Corinthians 14:26-33 for how to conduct a team meeting and Ephesians 4:1-16 for deeper understanding.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul goes on to illustrate how the different members of the body work together, sharing responsibility, not any one member trying to do the work of others but each one distinct and in obedience to the Head who is Jesus Christ. He addresses this again Romans 12.
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith. (Romans 12:4-6)
This body of which Paul writes is the Church of Jesus Christ carrying out its Great Commission to preach the Gospel, make disciples of all peoples and advance the Kingdom of Heaven. This body can be seen as an army made up of soldiers with all different sorts of roles, jobs, abilities, equipment—the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. The common theme through all of this is members working together in unity, in love with one another. Between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 we have the great chapter on love, Chapter 13. Romans 12 goes on to teach us about honoring one another more than we honor ourselves and being unified in love. We remember Jesus’ command to love one another to the death and that through that, through our loving unity, the world would come to know Him (John 13:34-35; 14:15; 15:12-17; 17:20-21, 23). From all of this, we learn that we have different works to do, different gifts and that we are all to be fully integrated with each other in a unified body capable of great things, united in love and obedient to God.
Let’s look at one more passage—how Paul and Barnabus received their call to go out as missionaries.
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-3)
Here we see a team of leaders—prophets and teachers. They had gathered together, apparently not to do any planning but simply to “minister to the Lord” in prayer. The fact that they were fasting indicates that they had been at this for a while. The important thing here was that they were joined as one heart and mind in worship. They were in the presence of the Lord. They were open to the Holy Spirit speaking to them. They were not seeking their own agendas or asking God to bless their plans or efforts. They were simply present to the Lord and He spoke to them. He gave them their orders and they listened and obeyed.
How did the Holy Spirit speak to them? The group included prophets. We may assume that the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets. We may also assume that the group as a whole exercised discernment over the words of the prophets as Paul later taught in I Corinthians 14. Perhaps, as they continued in prayer, there were words of direction that sketched out their strategy. There was no hesitation about where they were to go or when to start. It was all clear to them. As we go on to trace Paul’s ministry through this first and subsequent mission journeys, we can see the Holy Spirit guiding them to one place, preventing them from going to another, giving them the words to say as they went.
If we really desire to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit under His guidance and in obedience to Him, He will show us how to do it; He will lead us into it, often without great effort on our part. We will discover that we have been functioning as a Spirit-empowered team. What a wonderful thing to discover!
Recently, I was in a conference-call team meeting with members of the team in England, Canada, Alaska and other parts of the US. (Praise God for modern technology!) We were seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance concerning a task that we had to do. As we prayed then sat in expectant silence, we each began to get thoughts in our mind. Some wrote them down. When we shared our thoughts with each other, we discovered that they all fit together very well. We had the strong sense of the Holy Spirit directing us all as individuals but also together as a team. We spent some time discussing those thoughts then went into silent prayer again for the next step. The same thing happened. It built on what we had heard the first time.
I have had many such experiences where the Holy Spirit is clearly speaking and working through the different members of the team. It is truly exciting.
The Holy Spirit alone knows the future, what we will face, where we will need to be. He wants to guide and equip us for that specific future and that specific place. When we gather together in the Name of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit and humbly seek His will together with one mind and one heart, He works—often explosively. We will need to operate in this way when we go into North Korea in obedience to His direction.