Paul was not a lone ranger. He consistently looked for partners in ministry. An example of Paul’s partnership philosophy came in his relationship to the church at Philippi.
Paul Plants the Church at Philippi
Paul planted this church at Philippi, “a leading city of the district of Macedonia,” on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:12). And this church ended up being strategic in reaching all of Macedonia with the gospel.
Acts 16 records the beginning of the church in Philippi, with evangelistic conversations at the riverside, and the conversion of Lydia, a slave girl, and the jailer.
Paul Cultivates a Partnership with Philippian Church
We cannot be sure how long Paul was in Philippi himself, but whatever the length of time, it was enough to build a quality relationship with them that would last for the rest of his missionary career.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote:
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 1:3–5)
Although Paul was forced out of town after he planted the church at Philippi, he still established a mutually encouraging relationship and partnership with them that lasted long after he departed.
The Church at Philippi Supports Paul
Paul’s chief goal was to build a solid relationship with this church in Philippi because he recognized that they each could strengthen the other. Paul receives support from this church in a number of ways.
The church sent Paul several financial gifts (Philippians 4:15–18). And when they heard that Paul was shackled in a Roman prison, they sent Epaphroditus (who many scholars believe was one of the pastors or elders of the church at Philippi) to “minister to my need” (Philippians 2:25).
Paul Supports the Church at Philippi
Paul, in return, sends this thank you letter—the book of Philippians as we have it today—to minister to the church, to help solve interpersonal conflicts in the assembly, and to encourage them to live contented lives in the midst of suffering.
Plus, Paul’s expressed desire to send Timothy (Philippians 2:19) shows that he was as interested in helping the church as he was in furthering their relationship together.
Paul’s Partnership Model Is an Example for Missions Today
Paul’s partnership with the church at Philippi was a reciprocal relationship, mutually beneficial. They knew him and he knew them. Ministry, education, and resources were exchanged in both directions.
Additionally, we have evidence that Paul encouraged the church in Philippi to give famine relief to the church at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:1), thus training them to extend their own partnerships.
How does that match up to your idea of the work of a missionary? Or the task of missions in the 21st century?
How the Church at Philippi Models 21st Century Missions
Paul’s partnership model for missions is one exciting way God is working through believers all across the globe still today.
All over the world, God has raised up national believers who are well-trained in God’s Word. They’re taking the Gospel to unreached people in their own language and cultural context. But they don’t want to do it alone. They want people to pray for them. They want friendships like iron sharpens iron. They want to invite short-term teams to serve in specific ways. They want help with their business as missions endeavors, their theological training needs, medical outreaches, and whatever resources God has given you. They want to invite you to serve alongside them.
- Learn how a family with a freeze dryer serves Cuba with eggs.
- North Americans teach Indian church leaders to do ministry among families who have kids with special needs.
- An electrician and an EMT use their skills to serve national Christians when war breaks out in Ukraine.
- Pastors in Nepal often have only 1-2 days worth of training, so North American pastors come alongside to build up the body of Christ.
- People in North America provide money for Biak in Myanmar to buy a truck he’s turning into a mobile school to share the Gospel with slum kids who’ve never heard of Jesus.
We can’t wait to connect you to what God is doing. Visit LiveGlobal.org to find a partner and get to work.
Header image by Marsyas via Wikimedia Commons.
This post was last updated in February 2022.