Trying to Find Teamwork in the Bible

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Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:1-3, 8-9)

Teamwork is an American value, and I'm always trying to find it in the Bible. The United States of America is supposedly a government based on teamwork and representative democracy. The states work together to establish policy for everyone.

But is the concept a Biblical value? Using Scripture to justify my own values is a dangerous thing to do. So I do my best to test my values against the values in the Bible.

And it is really hard to find explicit examples of business teamwork in the Bible. There are lots of kings and prophets and warriors. The apostles demonstrate good teamwork at times, but it seems to be in the context of preaching to the masses. Or healing them.

Most of us work for teams that aren't healing anyone—unless we work at a hospital. Most of our teams are almost certainly not preaching to the masses—unless we work for a church.

And yet teamwork seems like such a Christian idea. Working together for a common goal seems like something God would value in the abstract.

In Philippians 4:8, Paul says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." That's good advice to help a team stay focused, but it doesn't value teamwork explicitly.

On the other hand, Paul is explicitly talking to a team—"brothers." Who are these brothers?

Paul addresses some people on the team by name, Euodia, Syntyche, and Clement. Then he talks about his "loyal yokefellow" in verse 3. The concept of a yokefellow seems to imply something like our modern understanding of teamwork. After all, a team of oxen are only a team because they are yoked together. (On the other hand, "yokefellow" may be another person, referring to Suzuge (someone's name), not suzuge (a literal yokefellow).

You see how tricky this can be? Let's dig deeper. Look back at the beginning of the chapter.

Therefore, my brothers, . . . stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!

That phrase at the end, "dear friends," is literally agapetos in the Greek. Whatever we want to call these people working together, their relationships depend on the highest form of Christian love, agape.

Without agape, there can be no agapetos. This has incredible implications for Christians in the workplace. The more we bring the love of God to our work, the more godly our teams will be, the more our teams will be an active part of God's Kingdom.

Does that mean successful teams will always demonstrate agape love? If we can just fill our businesses with the love of God, should we expect those teams to produce financial success?

Business people can't get too far from the bottom line after all. Ultimately, their work must create income streams in order to remain viable. But being successful is more complicated than the bottom line.

In fact, this passage doesn't mean agape is the secret to a successful team. It means agape itself is true success. We all have specific goals, financial or otherwise. But true success isn't a matter of achieving our goals. True success is when we keep a spirit of love whether we achieve our goals or not.