About 10 years ago, my wife and I pulled into a busy Wal-Mart parking lot to grab a few things for the casa. That's Spanish for house or light chicken gravy. I'm not sure which one.
As I got out of my car, I heard a woman crying for help. I looked around and, at the far end of the parking lot, spotted a man standing over a woman. He was holding her shirt with one hand and slapping her in the face with the other.
I had to figure out what to do, and quickly. So I started walking toward the couple, tentatively at first. As I did, I was relieved to see several other men behind me begin to move toward the assailant. Like an impromptu League of Justice, we began to run towards the damsel in distress, with me leading the way.
As I got closer, the man turned his attention to me. He was a decent sized guy, but I was bigger and, of course, my Robins, Tontos, and other side-kicks were right behind me! And so in the heat of the moment, I said the only thing I could remember from movies when a hero stops a man from hitting a lady: "Why don't you try that on someone your own size?!"
He turned and ran. I didn't take chase. My sprint across the parking lot was about all I could handle. Besides, if I ran any farther, I would have needed a Gatorade and a doughnut.
So with victory secured, I turned to high-five my fellow action heroes, but they were not there. They had never been there. My wife said that the other guys took a step or two, but when they saw me start to run, they just stopped to watch the show.
Lucky for me, the assailant bought the tough guy vibe. In no time, a few people who knew the lady ran over to help her and explained that the man was her husband. My wife and I went into the store to shop. As my adrenaline surge faded, I began to feel a little miffed at the guys who didn't come to help. I even passed a few and gave them "a look." It was just a two second glance but it spoke volumes. It said, "Hey man, you should have backed me up because that's what guys do." They all looked down, so I know they got the message.
We all knew what needed to be done. But I'd been left to do it alone.
The value of teams
I think that's how we often feel as church leaders. We feel that we have a likeminded team, a strong body of believers that loves Jesus and is committed to do work in his name. We see a noble cause and assume we all know what needs to be done. But as we tear off across the metaphorical parking lot we turn around to discover that when we're in the thick of the battle, we're all alone. The team isn't really there.
It doesn't have to be that way. If we are truly "the body of Christ," it can't be that way. Each member must play a role or the body doesn't function properly.
Our job as church leaders is to build the body. And that means the work of the body is shared. One of the essentials of ministry is the differentiating of roles and delegation of responsibilities—in other words, teamwork.
A true ministry "team" is invaluable. But there's a crucial difference between building a team and merely letting a team form around you. Great teams are built; bad teams just form, with no intentionality or planning. Good leaders tend to approach others to help serve their vision.
Most of the time, we are just happy for warm bodies willing to volunteer. We use pious-sounding phrases like, "I'll use anyone the Lord sends me." Sounds really great, but remember that God is not the only one who sends people to us. I have had my fair share of people I suspect were sent to me by the other team. I thought they were from God—right up to the point they began to turn red and grow horns.