Summary: Paul felt a sense of joy and comfort with the Church in Philippi. We can experience that same joy and comfort by functioning as partners in ministry.
April 5, 2006
Text Phillipians 1:3-5
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first until now.
Partnership ------ what a great concept ----- The very idea of a good partnership exudes warmth. Two or more people, working together towards mutually desirable goals. Two or more people with different perspectives and abilities respecting the views, talents, dreams and abilities of other partners. Even the synonyms for partner sound good: associate, colleague, confederate, sharer, companion, spouse. With the passage of time, even the term comrade is reverting to its original meaning. There is a lesson here with respect to law and Gospel. Under the threat of countries existing under totalitarian law, and our fear of nuclear annihilation, comrade became an ugly term connoting blind, almost fanatical, obedience to a Godless state. With the freedom of the Gospel, comrade is a comforting term. For example, Paul and Timothy were truly comrades - partners -- united in a common goal, not out of fear or force, but in grateful response to the Gospel - the Good News about Jesus Christ.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians feels the joy of a partnership in the Gospel -- a partnership that is centered around Christ Jesus and nurtured by the Holy Spirit.
In the business and professional world, achieving the rank of partner is a sought after goal.
More important than the trappings of rank -- corner offices, private restrooms and fancy conference rooms-- is the level of involvement and commitment in achieving the goals of the business -- a sense of satisfaction for a job well done with the cooperation of others..
Employees of a firm are involved in the business, customers of the business are involved -- but, partners are committed.
I often think of an illustration about commitment. When we order ham and eggs in a restaurant for breakfast, we can think of the chicken as being involved in the project and the pig as being committed to the project. True partnership means commitment. Partners stick together and stay committed -- customers will jump ship when the going gets rough or when there is a better deal someplace else. Employees will also abandon ship in stormy seas. Partners in the Gospel share a common biblical vision. A passion for the Lord, a passion for the great commission and a passion for ministry. Partners in the church realize that we all have gifts given for works of service so that the body of Christ will be built up. All of the gifts are important -- some are more visible -- but all are important. Partners realize that an extremely important task is the training and equipping of others for ministry. Partners know that they must mature in the faith and facilitate others to also grow in faith by teaching and/or mentoring. Partners minister to the needs of other partners, employees, customers and potential customers.
For our partnership in the Gospel to function we need to treat our partners as God would want us to treat them. Sounds simple enough until we let sin enter the picture. Satan starts the process. We start to think only of ourselves and not others. We start to keep score -- “I do more than he does -- I should have more to say.” “ I give a lot of ‘my money’ to this church and I am determined to tell the church what they can do with it.” “I work in the background and he works in the limelight.” Instead of employing Matthew 18:15-18 when a brother or sister sins against us, we talk to others and gossip. Sin is what causes us to look to ourselves and our building as the mission rather than as a tool to help accomplish the mission.
In the business world only some employees get to be partners. In the business world most customers do not become partners. In the Church of Christ ALL are invited to partnership.
In the church we have customers, involvement is present at various levels, but commitment is often lacking. In the business world we are thankful for customers. In the Church we also need to thank God for customers. All customers are invited to become partners. The invitation is always open. For some, becoming a partner happens fast. The Holy Spirit finds prepared soil and goes to work. For others it is a slower process. We all know of Saul’s ( a.k.a. St. Paul ) dramatic encounter with our Lord on the road to Damascus. Although he was full of the Holy Spirit, circumstances prevented him from active public ministry for several years. When the time was right he vigorously pursued his ministry as apostle to the gentiles. We know from 1 Cor. 9:24-26 that Paul did not run aimlessly, he ran to get the prize. I ask, do you think he sat in the desert of Arabia for three years feeling sorry for himself or did he prepare for his eventual partnership in the Gospel? Should we sit in the pews as customers on a weekly or twice a year basis or should we train for partnership?