by Tim Faulkner
Teamwork: Not Doing It Alone
“What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”
– Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses in Exodus 18:17-18 ESV
Try to imagine with me. Moses enters the tent in time for supper. His wife says, “What are doing home so early? Our sons are going to be happy. Go call them!” It’s been a month since his conversation with his father-in-law and Moses has suddenly discovered that he has time for a lot more of life than he used to have. He still rises in the morning and heads off to meet the line of people waiting for him to mitigate their disputes, but the line is much shorter than it used to be. When he thought that his wisdom alone was indispensable, days never seemed to end nor the problems resolve. How had he fallen into such a limiting mindset? The best thing for Moses these days was the satisfaction of seeing so many people, who had been sitting on the sidelines watching him work, in action. Moses had built a team.
Exodus 18 is a chapter to which we often refer for a good model of leadership. Moses was a capable, proven leader. He obviously benefitted from wisdom, so much so that his father-in-law found him overwhelmed with people who sought his intervention to settle their disputes. Yet Scripture holds up Moses’s example as negative. Personal capability can become a roadblock to God’s work through His people when they try to do everything themselves instead of building a team.
Imagine Nehemiah trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and guard against the enemy at the same time, building alone “with a sword strapped to his side” (Nehemiah 4:18). It is a preposterous thought; however, the failure to build teams is possible for any leader. Conversely God’s work can grow exponentially when God’s people are empowered, equipped, and released to make their own contribution by the power of God’s Spirit.
Building a team is not optional for leaders in the local church. Building a team reveals a mindset that no one is indispensable, rather everyone is a steward. Building a team reinforces the responsibility of the entire community for edification and of the leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Building a team also allows new opportunities for those who are maturing as disciples and disciple-makers. They get to see themselves filling roles that they never imagined for themselves as the leaders move from being ministry practitioners to ministry mentors.
The times that we live in require leaders who are mentors, not just practitioners. At the beginning of COVID-19, leaders in the churches of the International Baptist Convention were tired from trying to figure out how to do church online. During the pandemic they were frustrated that they didn’t know who they were serving, since they could not see them. As COVID restrictions ease they are feeling overwhelmed as they try to recruit volunteers and build teams to re-engage in the activities they did before the pandemic.
As they do, these leaders will not only respond as they should in the current situation, they will be following the example of our Savior and Lord. Jesus knew what both Moses and Nehemiah did not. Jesus knew that He should not work alone. When He relocated to begin His ministry, one of the first things He did was to seek His Father’s guidance and then set out to build a team. May God help us to do the same! By His grace may we empower, equip, and release a multitude of disciple-makers to reach our communities with the gospel, leading people to Jesus and bringing them to maturity in Christ!