Philippians 4:14-17, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”
Partners. We all need them, especially if you’re in ministry. We need prayer partners, partners who help us in serving others, partners who can go out with us to share the gospel, partners to help us plant churches and revitalize dying ones, financial partners who can support missionaries at home and abroad, and even partners who are willing to endure persecution and suffering with us.
There is no substitute for people who are willing and able to serve the Kingdom of God alongside you. Jesus had his twelve apostles; Paul served alongside Timothy, Luke, Barnabas, Silas, and many others in close partnership. At the advent of the modern mission movement men like William Carey had Adoniram Judson, Lottie Moon had the Women’s Missionary Union auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and even in more recent years the hundreds of church planters across the United States have dozens of close partnerships and networks to rely on for physical support, financial support, and prayer support. The spreading of the gospel could not have happened if not for partnership. Jesus knew this, and so he sent his disciples out two by two, Paul knew this, so he traveled with many friends and students planting churches and training up new leaders to take over. Every missionary that the Southern Baptist Convention has sent out since it’s formation has been a team of two or more so that the burden of ministry does not overcome any one single missionary.
Partnership is essential to spreading the gospel, and it was especially essential to Paul’s ministry to the Philippians, Thessalonians, and throughout his missionary journeys. The entire letter to the church in Philippi is a letter of thanksgiving and love born out of the selfless support that they gave to Paul and Timothy. The Philippians were not only concerned for Paul and his health and the souls of the lost in their cities and country, but also for the souls of the lost in Thessalonica. So much so that they were willing to sacrificially give financially to the ministry of Paul in Thessalonica and support him as they supported him in Philippi. Paul loved them. He cared for them, and this love and care wasn’t just one-sided, but mutual.
They saw how important his ministry was and knew how important Paul was to the spreading of the gospel for the Kingdom of God. They recognized that the spreading of the gospel isn’t about one person but that it’s a cooperative effort by all Christians. They had been taught that Jesus charged all of his followers to go into all the world to preach the gospel and make disciples and support the ministry of the gospel wherever it leads.
The Philippians knew that by supporting Paul and his ministry efforts to plant churches and make disciples in Thessalonica, they were contributing to God’s great plan to seek and save the lost and bring about genuine reconciliation. Paul acknowledged this to them and let them know how important they were to him. They were the only church that partnered with him so closely. Paul hoped to encourage them and let them know that their sacrifices were not in vain, but that they were going to see the fruits of ministry. Paul also knew that ministry was not so one-sided and that cooperation was imperative and so he humbly was giving credit to the Philippian Christians for what they were doing and how they were impacting the world for Christ.
You see, Paul knew that he couldn’t do this all alone. He knew that the ministry required the friendship and partnership of others. He knew that it ultimately wasn’t about his abilities, but about faith in God and cooperation from other believers to see the work of the gospel spread. Paul recognized his own humble estate continually and knew that without others, he could not succeed in preaching the gospel and planting churches. In doing so, he rightly understood what true service to God was all about. It wasn’t about being a lone maverick going into a city with guns a blazing and then flaming out soon after, but instead developing deep, meaningful relationships with people and carrying the burdens of ministry together and multiplying disciples together and slowly but surely seeking lasting results that impact the Kingdom of God.
So, pastor, ministry leader, don’t go at it alone. Don’t face the gates of Hell alone. Find yourself men and women of faith who are committed to the spreading of the gospel like you are and partner with them to seek and save the lost from an eternity of suffering and death. God gave us the ability to develop friendships and partnerships, so use this ability for his glory and to the praise of his glorious grace.