Corporations spend millions of dollars annually training their employees in it. Universities offer courses on it. And every culture on this planet uses it on a daily basis. I got to experience it within the framework of a cross-cultural missions trip this past summer as part of a group of 13 young Jewish followers of Jesus trekking through Israel and India. Teamwork.
We toured Israel, learned some Hebrew, and did some evangelism on streets and beaches in places like Tel Aviv and Eilat. Then we faced the REALLY big challenge: India! Our mission was to share the amazing news of Jesus with Israelis who travel through there after their army service.
We really weren’t sure what to expect. After a few days, we divided into three smaller teams and headed out to tackle the wild Israeli/Indian terrain of the Himalayas.
Our group of four paired off each day to meet and witness to Israelis. My partner was Scott. Now I have absolutely no trouble starting up a conversation with strangers, making an initial connection and chatting away—but I find it difficult to get the conversation onto spiritual topics. Scott is not as outgoing as I am about meeting people, but has a natural ability for moving the conversation to spiritual matters. We were a perfect team for evangelism. We connected with people in restaurants, coffee houses, shops—really anywhere tourists would normally hang out. In a restaurant I could strike up a conversation with Israelis at the table next to us and before we knew it, we had plans to leave with our new friends and hang out for a few hours. During our time together, our conversations covered the usual subjects: where they had been, what parts of Israel we had enjoyed, and what kind of curry had made us sick. But Scott’s and my goal was not met until we hit the topic of Y’shua.
As easily as I could strike up the conversation, Scott could steer the conversation to Y’shua. By that point, we had spent enough time together for our new friends to be open and interested in our views on this very controversial topic. They didn’t necessarily agree with us, but gospel seeds were definitely planted.
Teamwork gave each of us the ability to use our strengths, compensate for each other’s weaknesses and accomplish the task much more naturally and efficiently than if we had approached people on our own.
We also learned from each other’s witnessing style. Once an Israeli who had overheard me witnessing came and asked why I called myself a Christian. He was not interested in debating intensely over Messianic prophecy; he just wanted to know my story. So he came to me when I was alone and in a very calm manner asked for my story. As I was telling how I had become a follower of Jesus, one of my teammates joined us. This teammate is one of the most passionate evangelists I have ever met and I spent many hours this summer learning from him. In this situation though, his passionate desire to share Scripture was intimidating for our Israeli friend, who needed a relaxed environment. As many lessons as I had learned from my teammate, I think he learned from me in this situation.
As a team, we needed to work together to accomplish the mission. Some were better at serving and were always the first to offer themselves for dish duty. Some were naturally well-organized and good with financial matters. They helped us stay on budget. One of the girls on our team had natural oils that helped ease headaches and nausea. She patiently attended us when we were sick.
We are called as believers to use the gifts the Lord has given us to serve each other. 1 Corinthians 12 teaches us that each part of the body is to work together for the higher purpose. Combining our strengths and compensating for one another’s weaknesses moves a team forward faster and more effectively than most individuals could manage on their own. But teamwork is also necessary if we want to live out Y’shua’s command to love one another as we love ourselves. In theory, most believers are all for fulfilling that great commandment—but it is more difficult and more rewarding when you face the challenges of that commandment with people you don’t know in places you’ve never been. And suddenly it’s not what I want or what I can do . . . it’s everyone working, trusting and hoping that God will use us, together as one.