(2 Samuel 10:11,12)
February 1, 1981 (Morning)
Bethlehem Baptist Church
AUTHOR: John Piper, Pastor
I want to paint a word picture this morning of a relationship in ministry for John Piper and Glenn Ogren as they try to give pastoral leadership to the people of God who are Bethlehem Baptist Church. It is a picture that should shape his goals and my goals and your prayers for us. The picture comes from the words of Joab, David's mighty man of battle.
In 2 Samuel 10 the king of the Ammonites has died and his son, Hanun, ruled in his place. David wanted to show kindness to Hanun so he sent his delegates to express consolation to the new king for the loss of his father. But Hanun was convinced by his princes that David's intent was evil and so he humiliated the delegates and sent them away. David was very angry about this, and when the Ammonites heard about his anger they sent for help to the Syrians to build an offensive against Israel. When David heard this he sent Joab and all the mighty men against the Ammonites. As it developed, the Ammonites were arrayed at the walled city to protect it, the Syrians were gathered in the open field and Joab, with the Israelites, were sandwiched in the middle.
So Joab took charge of one group of men and set himself against the Syrians and the rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai, his brother, and set them against the Ammonites. In verses 11 and 12 Joab gives this great word of challenge and faith to Abishai and it is my word to Glenn Ogren:
If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage and let us play the man for our people and for the cities of our God and may the Lord do what seems good to Him.
What a vision for teamwork There are six things in the word of Joab that I think should characterize every effort at team ministry in the church. I'll mention them and then hold up each one briefly to challenge us all. All teamwork should be characterized by 1) humility; 2) diversification; 3) mutual helpfulness; 4) strength; 5) benefit to God's people; and 6) surrender to God's sovereign guidance.
First of all, HUMILITY. "If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me." Joab was a mighty warrior, but not so foolish as to think himself wholly self-sufficient. "Abishai, my brother, I might be inadequate for the task today." And he was not ashamed to ask for help. Humility willingly acknowledges its own finitude and need. It is open to be helped and it is open to being taught and it does not resent good advice or counsel.
One of the reasons that humility is an absolute essential in team ministry is that no lasting unity is possible without it. This is taught, for example, in (Ephesians 4:1-3) :
I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The sequence of virtues in this text is significant. One leads to the other. The goal is unity in the bond of peace. But you can't have unity unless you can forbear each other, that is, endure each other's failures and idiosyncrasies. But you can't endure each other if you are not patient; you can't be forbearing if you have a hair-trigger in the rifle of your emotions. But you can't avoid having a hair-trigger unless you are meek and lowly. The proud person will always be resentful and impatient. Therefore, humility is essential for patience and patience for forbearance and forbearance for unity. If Glenn and I (and all the rest of us) are to be united we must, by God's grace, be humble.
The second characteristic of team ministry illustrated by Joab is DIVERSIFICATION. Abishai was sent against the Ammonites, Joab went against the Syrians. It is wise battle strategy, when the enemy is widespread and diverse, that we not engage all the troops in one place. It is also wise to have everyone doing most of the time what they are best at. And it is a solid Biblical principle that God has given all of us different combinations of gifts. Paul says in (1 Corinthians 12:4-f) :
Now, there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
There is an awful temptation among people in general and especially in us ministers to think of our varied gifts as making us inferior or superior to each other in the church. But this is a great mistake and Paul tried to overcome it when he said,
God has arranged the organs of the body each of them as he chose ... there are many parts yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.' (1 Corinthians 12:18-21) .
Joab cannot say to Abishai, "I have no need of you." Piper cannot say to Ogren, "I have no need of you." There is diversification in gifts and therefore diversification in ministry. But everyone on the team is essential.
The third characteristic of good team ministry is MUTUAL HELPFULNESS. "If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you." Diversification in the church is not so ironclad that we can't leave our appointed bailiwicks and help one another. Fundamental to all successful teamwork is that the team members be for each other not against each other. Competition in ministry is anathema to the Spirit of Christ. My goal must be Glenn Ogren's joy and success in ministry. Glenn's goal must be my joy and success in ministry. At the top of our list of priorities must be a zeal to help each other love God and fulfill our ministries.
On this point a warning is in order. There will always be carnal people who are factious and will try to align themselves with one pastor against another. They gain a sense of power and significance from being on the inner circle of one leader over against another leader. But that will not happen here, God willing, There will be no Piper party or Ogren party, because Piper and Ogren will be much in prayer together before their one Lord, Jesus Christ, and our goal will be to help each other not compete with each other.
The fourth characteristic of effective team ministry is STRENGTH. "Be of good courage and let us play the man." More literally, the Hebrew simply says, "Be strong and let us show ourselves strong!" When the battle begins do not limp away, weak and fearful. ATTACK! "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:10) . The power that we need does not come from within ourselves. It is the strength of God's might with which we must be strengthened. When we put on God's armor we get God's strength. May God grant us to see with the eyes of our hearts (continued...)