Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.(Philippians 1:1-5, ESV)
Both Paul and Timothy were present at the founding of the Philippian church, sowing gospel seed in the previously unplowed region. The church at Philippi holds a special place in Paul’s affections, as he also does in theirs, demonstrated by their repeated gifts of help for Paul and his ministry. Quite simply, he loves them with the love of Christ. They love Paul sacrificially. You can see this clearly when you read the letter as a whole. Paul does not express his deep affection for them in flowery speech. No, he calls God as witness of his love for them. This is no small testimony of his commitment to them. They had observed Paul in very troubled times and had endured their own persecution for the sake of the gospel. Shared persecution has welded the apostle’s heart to the church.
There is one specific point we will meditate on in this opening post. The Philippian church is a partner with Paul in his missionary work. From the very beginning of their walk in Christ, birthed through Paul’s preaching ministry, they have freely given their time, energy, and means to further the ministry of the gospel through Paul. They have forged a mutual partnership in Christ, even though their individual circumstances are quite different. Paul is a missionary apostle, traveling and preaching widely. The Philippians minister in their locale but also support Paul in both theological and practical ways.
This account raises questions for our times, for our churches, and for us as individuals. How does my church relate to the missionaries we support? Stop and look at the bigger picture. This is a relationship, a partnership, a friendship. Relationships need effort. They go deeper than the dollar figure on your missions budget. Are we freely giving our means to further the ministry of the gospel in missions? If we are, great. But that’s not the whole picture. Are we giving our time and energy also? Are we partners in the gospel like Paul and the Philippians? Does my church intentionally support our missionaries in theological and practical ways?
Please consider your own personal part in your church’s relationship with its missionaries. I do not ask this as a means to lay a guilt trip on you. It is a fact that everyone is not called to do everything all the time (but sometimes it feels or looks like it). No, I’m simply asking you to consider if and how you might spend your time, energy, and means as a member of your church to partner with your missionaries. They are real people with hopes and fears, triumphs and failures, and a million other things that make up a life. I know they would appreciate your partnership and, as Paul, would thank God in all their remembrance of you with joy.