E Pluribus Unum

On the Great Seal of the United States is this inscription: E Pluribus Unum. It means "out of many, one". Our founders adopted the motto to demonstrate how although we were 13 independent colonies, we were also one country. E Pluribus Unum also makes a great analogy for the church. We are a lot of individuals, but we are one body.

John Maxwell, Christian author, wrote this: "Teamwork makes the dream work." We get more accomplished when we work together than we ever would on our own. It is vital to the health of our church that we develop a rich "theology of team", and Paul's writings to the Corinthian church can help us do that.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-13

Here are a few takeaways from these verses:

1] What you've been given, you've been given for the good of us all (verse 7).

2] What you've been given, is a part of how God has designed the whole (verse 11).

3] Without your part, the body is incomplete and unhealthy (verse 12).

When I was in college -- and a bit more foolish than I am today -- I remember running from a friend who wasn't chasing me. I pulled a practical joke on him, and took off running assuming he was coming after me. He wasn't. As I rounded the corner into my dorm room, my left pinky toe connected with the door jam, and I was instantaneously transported to a level of pain I had never known. I spent the following two weeks in severe pain, all because of my pinky toe. That little part of me -- a part we think is so insignificant -- affected the whole of me. It's the same with the body of Christ.

Here are a couple other reasons why team is so important in our congregational life and ministry:

1] It builds trust. No one likes to be taken advantage of and used, yet that's exactly what we seem willing to do in the church when we use people until they burn out or die. Building team protects us from that unethical practice. We should have a zero tolerance for human exploitation of any kind, including using people. We're in this together.

2] It is economically advantageous. When I visited Israel in the early 90's, we were used to peddlers trying to sell us things every where we went. One particular stop, a youngboy got on the bus saying, "Such a deal I make you! One chocolate bar $2; two chocolate bar $5." We, of course, laughed because we recognize bad economics when we see it. We are limited when we have 1 person trying to carry the load: 1 person's ideas, energy, flaws. Team enhances our effectiveness and reduces the load on individuals.

3] It affirms individuals. The success and accomplishment of team affirms the presence, input, and skills of the individuals on it. When we work together, we build on each other's strengths and value each other's presence. We feel better together when we're accomplishing things.

4] It grows us up. We have to build team ministry! Why? It's how God designed us to work! When we try to do it on our own, we are undermining God's design. He's designed us to need each other in the same way he's designed us to need him. "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). We sharpen each other when we rise above private ambition to what God has called us to together.

Out of many, one. I am not Christ, but I am a part of him.

And so are you.

We're in this together.