January 12, 1899, was a bleak day in Britain. Along the normally picturesque southwestern coast, huge, ugly waves pounded the tiny harbors. In Lynmouth, the 12-man lifeboat crew waited expectantly. With the seas so rough, the men knew their services would soon be required. That afternoon a telegraph message flashed from Porlock. A boat was in trouble in the bay, The Lynmouth lifeboat crew had to undertake a rescue mission. By this time, however, the seawall at Lynmouth was awash. The launching ramp was inaccessible. There was no way that the weighty lifeboat could be pushed into the advancing tide. Quickly assessing the situation, the coxswain made a dramatic announcement: "We'll launch from Porlock!" Those who heard his words were amazed. Porlock was quite close by sea, but to take a boat there by land meant a 15-mile trek across some of England's most rugged terrain!
Taking the challenge
As darkness fell, the crew hitched horses to the boat carriage and the long haul began. They soon hit the first obstacle. Just outside Lynmouth was the towering Contisbury Hill, a 1,400-foot peak accessible only by way of a steep slope. Just to set the creaking carriage on its upward journey took every ounce of strength that each man could muster. Halfway up the slippery slope a wheel came off the by now rain soaked cart. Precious minutes slipped away as the crew lifted the carriage by hand while the wheel was replaced. Eventually, the crew reached the summit, every man aching from the effort. But still before them •lay the long, hard slog across the dark, boggy moor. At one point, the track became too narrow for the carriage to pass. Undaunted, the coxswain sent the carriage around by another route, while the already exhausted crew manhandled the boat along the miry track until the parties could meet again. Many times the mission seemed doomed. Trees, garden walls and other obstacles constantly slowed progress. Yet, working together, after a 12-hour trek across Exmoor, the wet, weary crew members pulled their lifeboat into the village of Porlock. They quickly launched the lifeboat and reached the stricken, battered vessel, whose crew was saved. A happy ending to a dramatic story, a story that vividly depicts many of the laws of successful living. Among these laws is an aspect that is especially vital in the lives of true Christians today. That quality is teamwork. No one man could have hauled that heavy lifeboat over that rugged English terrain. And today, no one person can do the whole Work of God. Jesus Christ leads God's Work through His apostle, Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong spearheads the Work, preaching the Gospel and feeding the flock. But Mr. Armstrong needs the backing of a closely knit team of dedicated supporters who will pull together, whatever circumstances prevail. With this in mind, therefore, let us take a look at the vital elements in harmonious teamwork.
Follow the leader
First, a team needs a recognized leader to make decisions. The anxious sailors awaiting rescue might have met disaster if no coxswain had been in charge of the lifeboat crew. With 12 crew members, there could have easily been 12 different ways to tackle the problem. The Church's captain is Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:10). He sets the direction and leads by example (I Pet. 2:21). In the Church, Christ decides what role each member of the team will play — what job in the Church and Work each individual will perform (Eph. 4:11-12). Each of us must work for the common cause under Christ's leadership (Eph. 4:15- 16).
Encouragement is another vital ingredient of teamwork. Consider the effort of the valiant Lynmouth crew. They needed mutual encouragement as they battled their way through the mud and rain of that winter night. Part of our job on Christ's team is to encourage the other members around us. All of us, at times, feel the heavy burdens of doubt and discouragement. That's the time for brothers and sisters on the team to build each other up. A comforting letter, a thoughtful gift or a word fitly spoken (Prov. 25:11) can lighten another's load and help him take heart — help him get back to shouldering his share of the team's burden (Heb. 10:24-25).
Sense of urgency
Watching society crumble around us should drive home the urgency of our mission. And having a sense of urgency is another important aspect of teamwork. The heroic lifeboat team had a task that compelled their utmost effort. The lives of those mariners aboard the distressed vessel were at stake. Can we have the same sense of urgency about our team effort? Do we realize that lives are at stake if we fail as a team today? Indeed, God tells us that if it were not for the Work of the Church, then there would be little point in allowing civilization to continue (Mal. 4:5-6).
For any team to function well it must be physically and mentally trained to peak condition. Our team in God's Church is no different. We, too, need regular training sessions. Daily, these can consist of private prayer, Bible study and meditation (II Tim. 2:15). Then, weekly, the team can get together for a combined "workout" at Sabbath services. Here, too, is an opportunity for the enemy's tactics to be analyzed. Satan's strategies are well documented in the Bible for us to study, and we can learn the best ways to counter his offensives. Take a look at Ephesians 6:l3-19 for some valuable coaching advice designed to provide a positive attack against the opposition. When you enter God's Church, you join a dedicated team. We're here to help and encourage each other along the way to achieving the goals that God has set for His people (Eccl. 4:9-2). And we can develop our teamwork even more by learning to get along with each other. After all, the Church is a team that will have to work together for eternity (Rev. 22:5)! The Lynmouth lifeboat crew saved the sailors aboard the crippled ship in Porlock Bay. So daring and difficult was the rescue" mission that the team's efforts received special recognition. If we stick with our team, we, too, will achieve special recognition. Only in our case, the reward will be eternal life. Together, let's put our shoulders to the wheel. We're almost there!