How different would the Bible be if the writers had used a modern word processor when they wrote? When we write a paper, a letter, or a document, we type a draft, read it or print it out, and make changes. We enter the changes, look again, move a paragraph from one place to another to make it flow better. If we really care about what we are writing, we go through this process several times before we have the finished document.
This was not an option for the writers of the books of the Bible. Paul dictated his letters and once his words were on the scroll, that was it. He had to have the material in his head before the scribe began writing. This makes the splendor of his letter to the church in Rome, for example, all the more remarkable. What made it more possible for Paul is that what he wrote in his letters came from the many, many times he had preached those same truths. The content in his letters was solidly in his head.
But as good as Paul was at dictating letters, there are times when it is evident his mind thought of something and he inserted it in the letter before he forgot it. An example of this is our text this morning. There has been a flow in what Paul has written and then, all of a sudden, he jumps into his train of thought to tell them he is sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to them.
One of the reasons I suspect he did this is because as he was talking about the qualities of Jesus that we are to have for ourselves, he thought about Timothy and Ephaphroditus who had those qualities.
Timothy was one of Paul’s two closest companions (Titus was the other). Paul met Titus on his first missionary journey. On this same missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas preached the good news of Jesus in Lystra (present day Turkey) and four years later Paul returned, this time with Silas as his companion. During these four years, Timothy had become a follower of Jesus through the faith of his mother and grandmother who had heard the gospel from Paul. There was a prophecy given to him that brought him to Paul’s attention and although he was still a young man, he left with Paul and became his lifelong ministry companion. Timothy and Titus and others were constantly being sent by Paul to go to churches he was not able to visit.
Timothy and Titus were both young when Paul met them and he claimed both of them as his “true sons” because of his influence in their becoming followers of Jesus: Titus directly and Timothy indirectly.
Epaphroditus was a member of the church in Philippi. He was obviously a trusted man, well respected in the community, because he was sent to Rome to bring Paul news about the Philippian community and to bring him a financial gift to help support Paul while he was in prison.
Both Timothy and Epaphroditus (and Titus and the others on Paul’s ministry team) were men who had the qualities Paul has been talking about in his letter. (Philippians 2:3–4)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Listen to what Paul wrote about Timothy and see how he exemplified these qualities.
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.
Timothy shared the passion of Paul for Jesus and the call to take the gospel to the Gentile world. Timothy did not act out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. In humility, he valued others above himself, not looking to his own interests but to the interests of others. Paul praised Timothy as a man “who will show genuine concern for your welfare.” Timothy was not interested in building up his reputation; he was not caring for people to make himself a more powerful leader. Timothy genuinely cared for the people he visited. He served their best interests.
Although we know much less about Epaphroditus (he is mentioned only here in Paul’s Philippian letter), he also was a servant leader of the church. He made the difficult journey to Rome, taking the risk of carrying a substantial amount of money to bring to Paul, and then he suffered an illness and almost died. Paul praised Ephaphroditus to the Philippian community.
29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
This morning let me share with you three lessons from Paul as he led his church planting ministry.
First, as Paul planted new churches and encouraged those he had planted, he did not work alone. He had a team of men and women who worked with him. There were 19 men and women who traveled with him on one or more of his many trips: in alphabetical order – Aquilla, Aristarchus, Barnabas, Epaphras, Gaius, Justus, Luke, Marcus, Onesimus, Philemon, Priscilla, Secundus, Silas, Sopater, Tertius, Timothy, Titus, Trophimus, and Tychicus.
In addition there are 16 co-workers, fellow prisoners, and supporters who are named: Andonichus, Apphia, Archippus, Carpus, Demus, Epaphroditus, Erastus, Lucius, Lydia, Jason, Junia, Nymphus, Onesiphorus, Phebe, Tyrannus, and Urbane.
It speaks well of Paul’s leadership that he had so many people who worked with him. Paul did not hold on to the power of his position. He shared his leadership of the churches he had planted with others on his team and encouraged them as they went out and planted churches on their own.
I have wondered what Paul thinks of the technology we have at our disposal. We can instantly communicate anywhere in the world. And if there is a problem, we can get on a plane and be there in just a matter of hours. Paul did not have any of this modern technology to help him. He could not call people, could not video conference with people, could not have his messages put on video and sent to churches. He had to be physically present in order to preach and teach.
I have speculated that Paul watches us from heaven and thinks, “Wake up church! If I had the technology available to you, I would have won the whole world to Christ before I died.”
With or without modern technology, if Paul had worked without a team, he would have accomplished much less than he did.
Paul knew he needed a team, so he kept his eye out for people who could work with him and then asked them to travel with him. As they traveled from place to place, there was lots of time for training, for discipleship. It took weeks and months to travel from one place to another.
Traveling with Paul was like going to seminary. Paul was a walking Bible school. His traveling companions watched what he did, they learned from what Paul did, and then they did what Paul did with Paul watching to help them and critique them. After this it was time for them to make a solo flight and Paul sent them off to do what they had learned while he supported them from a distance.
The Ephesians letter he wrote to the churches in the area of Ephesus, he sent with Tychicus. (Ephesians 6:21–22)
Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.
He sent the Philippians letter with Timothy to read it and expound on the themes of the letter.
Paul and Timothy were recognized as leaders by the church in Colossae but the letter was sent by Tychicus and Onesimus. (Colossians 4:7–17)
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
The letters to the Thessalonians were sent in the name of Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Both Timothy and Silas visited the church there.
As we read through the letters we get a picture of Paul and his team on the move. When Paul was in Athens, he received word of the persecution against the church in Thessalonica. Because he could not leave Athens, he sent Timothy. (1 Thessalonians 3:1–7)
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.
If Paul had not had a team of men and women working with him, who would have taken his letters to the various churches? Who would have answered the questions people had about what Paul said? Who would have reported to Paul what was happening in the various churches?
Timothy spent time preaching and teaching in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Ephesus, and Corinth (and probably other places we do not know about). Titus ministered in Ephesus, Corinth, the island of Crete, and planted churches in what is today Albania. The others on Paul’s team were also spread out around the Mediterranean Sea, encouraging churches, planting churches.
Paul’s ministry was effective because he had a team that worked with him to carry out the call Jesus gave to Paul on the road to Damascus – to bring the good news of Jesus to the Gentile world.
As Paul planted new churches and encouraged those he had planted, he did not work alone.
Secondly, Paul encouraged the people who worked with him to use their gifts.
In 1 Timothy 1:18–19 Paul reminded Timothy of the prophecy that brought Timothy to Paul’s attention.
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.
Timothy was a young man and needed encouragement. So Paul wrote to him in the first of the two letters in our Bible. (1 Timothy 4:11–14)
Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
1 Timothy 6:11–12
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:20
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,
2 Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
It is clear that Paul wanted Timothy to prosper; he wanted Timothy to shine like a star. Once again, Paul did not hold on to the power that was his as the leader of this ministry to the Gentiles; Paul shared that power with others on his team and delighted when they were well received and appreciated. Paul did not become jealous because one or another of the churches liked and valued Timothy, Titus, or any of the others who worked with him.
Remember what Paul’s reaction was when he was told, while he was sitting in his prison cell in Rome, that there were people taking advantage of his imprisonment and building up their own ministries? In a most remarkable three verses, he wrote, (Philippians 1:15–18)
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Paul was not a narcissist, “a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.” The term “narcissism” comes from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a hunter who was known for his beauty. He went to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his reflection until he died.
Narcissists live for themselves. Everything in the world revolves around them, their needs, their desires. Every action, every event, every decision is judged good or bad depending on how it affects them.
The political world is suffering from narcissistic leaders and so is the church. I know of two churches that have suffered great trauma because the founding pastor, who did a great job of building up the church, was unable to encourage the other pastors who worked with him to use their own gifts. These senior pastors wanted all the glory to come to them and so there was a high rate of turnover in the church staffs. Eventually, the church boards of these two churches asked their pastor to take a one year sabbatical and get some counseling. In one church the pastor returned from his sabbatical and resumed his narcissistic leadership and was asked to step down as pastor. In the second church the struggle is still going on.
A good ministry leader does not hold on to power. A good ministry leader encourages the gifts of the people he or she leads. And when that happens, the ministry flourishes.
In one of the churches in this country a pastor was disturbed because one of the leaders in the church, who preached from time to time, received a lot of favorable comments. People loved his preaching. The pastor was jealous of this and told this man, “The Holy Spirit told me you should no longer come to our church.” This kind of leadership kills the ministry.
In contrast, Elliot leads the university student ministry, Family of Champions International (FCI), and actively encourages the gifts of others in the ministry. He encourages them to preach, to teach, to lead worship, to do whatever their gifting enables them to do. He is not jealous of the success of others but rejoices that more people can be encouraged to grow in the use of their gifts in their following of Jesus. As a consequence, there are branches of FCI in twelve university cities in Morocco. The branches are growing and prospering because the leaders in these cites are encouraged to use their gifts.
Here’s the thing. There are some ministry leaders that demand respect. They protect their position, pushing away competition, holding on to their privileges. But what results is surface respect with an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and grumbling. In contrast, a ministry leader who leads as a servant, encouraging others to shine with their gifts, receives great honor and respect. It comes to them because of their servant leadership. They do not demand respect and honor, it comes to them.
What does it matter who is viewed as the leader, as long as Christ is being preached. That is the mindset of a good ministry leader.
As Paul planted new churches and encouraged those he had planted, he did not work alone. Paul encouraged the people who worked with him to use their gifts.
Thirdly, Paul promoted the men and women who worked with him.
It was not enough for Paul to encourage Timothy, Titus, and the others, he encouraged others to listen to them, to support them. When he wrote his letters, he praised those who worked with him.
He sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with this encouragement:
29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
Paul had been deeply disappointed in Mark because on the first missionary journey Mark left Paul and Barnabas early and returned home. Because of this, when Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance as he and Paul were about to head out on their second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas had a big fight and split up. But with time there came healing between Paul and Barnabas, between Paul and Mark. Mark was with Paul in Rome when he was in prison and Paul commended Mark to the church in Colossae at the end of the letter. (Colossians 4:10-13)
10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
In the same letter he also commended Epaphras:
12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.
When Paul wrote to Titus he said at the end of the letter (Titus 3:13)
Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.
Paul worked to support himself as a tent maker. (If you have heard about missionaries being tentmakers, this is where the term comes from.) For his own personal reasons, Paul allowed only the church in Philippi to support him financially, but Paul strongly encouraged the churches to support those who work in ministry.
Paul wrote to Timothy about how to handle matters in the churches Timothy was responsible for and encouraged the churches to financially support their leaders. (1 Timothy 5:17–18)
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
This is the responsibility of a leader of a ministry, to encourage and support those who work in that ministry, to actively work to help those who work in the ministry to receive the financial support they need to be effective in what they are doing.
This is a principle that goes back to God’s instruction to Moses to have the Levites be dedicated as priests for Israel and for the other eleven tribes to support the Levites with their tithes.
A ministry leader needs to advocate for those who work with him or her in the ministry.
So, if you are in a leadership position in ministry, serve the people who work with you in that ministry. Encourage them, support them, build them up, give them opportunities to grow in the use of their gifts.
Don’t try to protect your position. If you lead a Bible study and someone shows potential to lead, give them the opportunity to lead. If you recognize they are better equipped than you to lead, encourage them to have more opportunities to lead. Don’t worry about holding on to your position.
A great example of this is Barnabas who was a leader in the church in Antioch. When he saw that there were Gentiles coming to the church, he thought of Paul and asked him to come to help teach. When the church sent he and Paul out on the first missionary journey, Luke talks about Barnabas and Paul being sent out. It is always Barnabas and Paul. But when Paul’s gifts begin to shine more brightly, it becomes Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas did not hold on to power and allowed Paul’s gifts to shine. Barnabas was ready to go again with Paul on the second missionary journey until their disagreement about giving Mark a second chance.
Encourage the gifts of those who work with you in ministry. Promote to others the men and women who work with you in ministry. Lift them up, sing their praises, build them up in the eyes of others. Do all you can to help them receive the financial support they need. When I am back in the US I encourage people to support Elliot and the ministry of FCI. This is a growing ministry and more financial help is needed as it continues to grow. Encourage people you know to support individuals and ministries that deserve more financial help.
If you are a member of a church or ministry, support those who are sent out to minister in the world. Encourage these people. Annie and I have always used part of our tithe to support our local church and part of our tithe to support those who have gone out into the world to feed people in the name of Jesus, to work for social justice in the name of Jesus, to love people in the name of Jesus.
It has been a privilege for us to do this. We have supported people in Peru, Italy, France, North Africa, as well as the US. We have supported ministries that work around the world to care for the poor and oppressed. We were not able to go ourselves but were pleased that we were able to support and encourage those who did go.
We have been called to follow Jesus and as we make our way through our few, short years on earth, we have the privilege of working with Jesus as he brings new brothers and sisters into our eternal family. This is far more important than anything you will do or accomplish in your earthly life.
If Jesus calls, go where he sends you, do what he calls you to do. Use the resources God has given you charge of to support those who are being sent out. Be a partner with Jesus and those he sends out in the world to minister in his name. Be part of the team of those working with Jesus.