Squared Is Better Than Solo: The Power of Two

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” Ryunosuke Satoro

We often marvel at individuals God used and for good reason. Moses, David, and Paul make for good models of biblical leadership. The same can be said historically about John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and others. But what often goes overlooked in such leaders is the role of others in their lives. Moses had Aaron and then Joshua; David had Jonathan then Nathan; Paul had Barnabas, then others including Luke, Silas, and Timothy. John Wesley had his brother Charles and others, while Edwards’ remarkable ministry was encouraged by many, not the least of whom was George Whitefield. As Graham had Bev Shea and Moody had Sankey, most men of God in fact accomplished so much of what they did because they had the wisdom to team with others.

I am not as smart as any of the above but I have figured out a few things in life. One is this: I have opportunities of influence I do not deserve, but which come by the grace of God and as a stewardship from God. So, the older I get, the less I want to do by myself and the more I want to do with others.

At Southeastern I have colleagues with greater wisdom and insight, ability, and in a few cases are better looking. Okay, none of us can be considered too compelling in the latter category. I want to help others share their wisdom with more people in the body of Christ. If you are a leader, if you have more influence than those around you, I would challenge you to spend more time helping others to be an influence than growing your own status.

I believe squared is better than solo. Two are better than one. So, this year I was asked to do a webinar on gospel-centered ministry. I agreed on the condition I involve my colleague Steve McKinion, a professor of theology with rock-star popularity on the campus, and one who gets well how the gospel must be central to all we do (you can see the webinar under Media at my website). We also plan to release an ebook on the subject this fall. I learn a lot myself when I involve others with expertise I do not possess.

My colleague (and former student) George Robinson discovered the ministry of viewthestory.com just at the time we were discussing the creation of an evangelistic approach that involves the great narrative of the gospel. So we have teamed together to help the ministry that created The Story to help them prepare it to be available as a training resource in churches. Check out the video with George, me, David Platt, J.D. Greear, Scott Thomas, Elliott Grudem, Ed Stetzer, and Jerome Gay here.

Two are better than one in writing. Last year I co-authored a book with colleague Mark Liederbach called The Convergent Church: Missional Worshipers in an Emerging Culture (Kregel). Writing with colleagues is a blessing. I am currently working on proposals with my colleague, former student, and current boss (dean of the College at Southeastern) Bruce Ashford on a missional approach to student ministry. Talks are in the works also to co-write a book with former DMin student Winfield Bevins, an Acts29 planter in the Outer Banks, on missional families. And, the genius Nathan Finn (another former student) and I plan to do a book on spiritual awakenings in the coming days.

Two are also better than one in teaching. I love to teach and am pretty stingy — okay, I am selfish — with class time. I love teaching more than a pig loves slop. But I also love teaching with colleagues. Every spring I teach with Steven Wade (you guessed it, another former student) Supervised Field Ministry, which is a delight. I am teaching the course Prayer and Spiritual Awakenings this fall with Nathan Finn and will teach Christian Growth and Discipleship with Mark Liederbach in the spring. Next fall I will teach a course on missional Christianity with colleague and church planting prof Mike Dodson, who has co-written the fine book Comeback Churches with Ed Stetzer. In January J.D. Greear, lead pastor of Summit Church, and yes one of those former students, will join me to teach a PhD seminar. That is the coup de grace for me, to teach a seminar at the highest level with a former student who has become one of the great leaders of our time.

By no means am I the only one to do such co-laboring. Many of our professors publish with others including colleagues from other schools. I have in the past co-written or co-edited books with men who teach or taught at Southwestern and at Southern. One could write an entire book on all those who co-write and co-teach.

In every generation there is a tendency toward hero worship. Most (I wish I could say all) who draw such praise try to run from it. One of the best ways to avoid being the center of attention is to continually involve others, i.e., to share influence. Sharing ministry does not weaken you as a leader; it in fact shows your strength. People are not stupid, they know you and I are not all that. So our ability to involve others actually demonstrates your strength in the ability you have to share influence, credit, etc, with others.

Who are you sharing ministry with? If you are a leader, whom are you intentionally seeking to help grow in their influence, even if it costs some of yours? Greatness comes not from being a hero to many, but by providing opportunities through your influence to a few, who themselves can also continue that pattern. This is how movements grow, how influence spreads, and how the body of Christ is blessed. Go and bless. Discover the power of two.

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  1. Bob Cleveland   •  

    I’m no math wizard, but I’m pretty sure one squared is still one.

    Doubled is another matter, though, and then squaring gets interesting.

  2. Jonathan Welch   •  

    Since you’re a musician, too, I’m sure that you (more than most professors) see the value of songwriting with others. You can let me help with the chapter on songwriting when you write a book on this subject of doing ministry together… ;)

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