The movie Something the Lord Made dramatized the story of two men, Dr. Alfred Blalock and his assistant Thomas, who developed and performed the first open heart surgery. While Dr. Blalock was recognized as a renowned surgeon, Thomas was his black assistant in a day when blacks were still required to enter Johns Hopkins University through the back door. On the day of the first open heart surgery, performed on an infant with Blue Baby Syndrome, Blalock stopped the surgery. In front of a gallery of other surgeons, Blalock realized that he was going to have difficulty performing the surgery on his own and, even though it would lower his own esteem, brought in Thomas, his black assistant, to talk him through the procedure. No one expected the surgery to work in the first place and Blalock would simply have been thought ambitious for being willing to try it if he had failed and the baby had died. But bringing in a black assistant to talk him through the surgery? That was sure to diminish his standing among his colleagues. In the end, though, Blalock decided that the life of the infant was worth more than his own esteem.
The Apostle Paul planted the church in the city of Corinth. At some point after his departure, Apollos came on the scene and began working in the church of Corinth as well. Apollos' presence diminished Paul's standing among the Corinthians and Paul wrote to them, urging them to stop arguing about whether they followed Paul or Apollos but to focus on following Jesus together (1 Corinthians ch. 1). Paul insisted that he and Apollos were on the same team, working for the same goal, even though Paul had lost some influence due to Apollos' work mong the Corinthians. But toward the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote of a conversation he had had with the other famous teacher, saying, Now about our brother Apollos- I urged him to visit you with the other believers, but he was not willing to go right now. He will see you later when he has the opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:2, NLT). Even though Apollos' presence had diminished his own influence, Paul urged Apollos to visit the Corinthians again because he thought that the Corinthians would benefit from his teaching.
I've discovered that we often do a great of job of talking about being on the same team but our walk doesn't always match our high ideals. Instead of getting the best replacement at work to fill in for us during vacation, we find someone who is competent but won't become competition. Community churches talk about working together to reach youth, but then won't let their youth participate in a joint worship service at another church because they might get "confused" (often code for: "they might like that church better than us"). Instead of coming up with joint solutions that will help the country, our politicians grand-stand to make the other party look bad and increase their own standing. Instead of picking the best person for a particular task, we reserve it for ourselves because it is a more visible or prestigious task and we want to be seen doing it.
Like Paul, we must learn to put aside questions of personal influence and renown in favor of doing what is best - best for our church-members, best for our co-workers, best for our customers, best for the people we minister to. Do we really believe that we are all on the same team? Are we really interested in doing what is best for the people we care for or are we more interested in maintaining our own influence? We must make our decisions based on what is best, not what is best for us.