I listened to a message recently by Orrin Woodward called "Core Covenant." This talk really captured an important truth for team unity that certainly is applicable when building a church.
Orrin talked about the hall of fame coach Pat Riley and a concept that he coined describing how teams completely self destruct. Riley called this the "Disease of Me." This happens when certain players on the team begin to think that they alone are the key to the teams success. The Los Angeles Lakers "Dream Team" that was put together is proof of this reality. In 2004 the L.A. Lakers had four sure fire hall of famers (Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neil, Kobe Bryant) on their team and they faced the Detroit Pistons who did not have one hall of famer. The Lakers were the favorite, but miraculously the Pistons not only won but completely destroyed them 4 games to 1. It was said that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neil began arguing over who was the key to the teams success and the team completely fell apart. It was the "Disease of Me."
Riley captured a truth about team building. Let me make a point very clearly. This is directed at the Christian community who has a tendency to be way too narrow in their worldview. When someone like Riley states a truth it is still a truth whether or not he is a follower of Jesus. Truth is truth. Secular scientists discover truths and just because they do not know the source from which the absolute came from, it is still a truth. They are simply borrowing from God's word without even realizing it.
The "Disease of Me" can easily become a problem in the church. The Bible calls it the sin of selfishness and pride. The lead pastor feels he is the exclusive key to the church's success and is afraid to hand out leadership to others as they may outshine him. The worship pastor begins to think that the only reason the church is growing is due to his outstanding music. The children's pastor begins to think that if everyone put as much time into the church as he did then maybe the church would be healthier. I could continue but I think the point is clear. Pastors and leaders we must value and respect the fact that all people have different callings (1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11-13). The church at Corinth lost their focus by following one man over another and Paul's response to them was, "Is Christ Divided?" Jesus is the head and we are the body. Everyone is needed in the church to exercise their gifts for it to be a truly healthy and effective church. At ONElife Church Pastor Dan and I continually talk about the importance of each one of us playing our role according to our callings. We are united together as part of team Jesus. We all have a role to play on the team, so let's play it for the glory of God!
When Moses was leading the grumbling and complaining Israelites to the promised land, his young assistant, Joshua, learned a valuable lesson in regards to this "Disease of Me." Two men were prophesying in the camp, which means they were claiming to have a message to give the people that came directly from God. Joshua knew that Moses was God's appointed messenger and he quickly ran to Moses telling him of this and demanding that he tell them to stop. Moses was humble and had a different perspective. He said, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" (Num. 11:29). What a different response! Instead of thinking that he was the key to the Israelites success he pointed out that God really is. What a better place it would have been for them if all the people were prophets. In like fashion, as pastor of ONElife Church it is my prayer that others will be raised up to preach the gospel of Jesus. I know that the success of this church is not in my hands, but in God's alone and I pray that He will raise up a whole army of people that will use their gifts for His glory. Beware of the "Disease of Me" for if it creeps in it can infect the culture of the church leading to self destruction.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.