One of Paul’s overriding themes in his letter to the church he planted at Philippi (Acts 16:11-40) is their partnership with him in his missionary work of planting churches primarily where the name of Christ was not known. Paul has many incredible things to say about the Philippian church, their love for the gospel, their love for him, and their love for one another. As I stated before, in this letter he praises God and thanks them for how they have partnered with him for the kingdom so I think it is helpful to see what this partnership looked like in order to learn some helpful principles for our day.
Before we begin it is important to not that there are really three levels of application we can draw from this letter. The first level is that of a partnership between a church planter and a church that he planted and has moved on from which is exactly what the relationship was between Paul and the Philippian church. However, there are many timeless principles in this letter that are also helpful to understand what a relationship between someone who has been sent out for missionary work from a church which he has had significant ministry in – this is the second level of application. The third level of application is what a partnership should look like between an individual believer and a close friend who is going to the mission field. Below I will simply list the principle along with the reference(s).
1. The missionary (Paul) continues to pray for those he left (1:9-11).
2. The believers continue to pray for the missionary’s specific needs (1:18c-20)
3. The missionary remains available for ongoing ministry to those he left by pen (he is writing the letter to them), presence (2:24), and proxy (2:19-23).*
4. Both the missionary on the field and the believers “at home” are suffering for the same kingdom (1:29-30).
5. The believers send short-term helpers to the missionary to work alongside, report, encourage, and take reports back (2:25-30; 4:2-6). Notice that the missionary is reporting about what is happening in the field and the believers are reporting what is happening at home.
6. Financial giving and receiving – Believers at home are giving financially in a sacrificial way and they receive the tremendous blessing of watching God meet all of their needs (4:14-19).
Wow! This is a PARTNERSHIP both sides – the missionary on the field and those who remain where they are – working together to take the Kingdom to places it has never been. Both working together to take over enemy territory by the power of the gospel – different spots but same purpose – to name the saving and life-giving name of Jesus among those who have never heard. These principles are the principles that Betsy and I have chosen to model our ministry after with those who partner with us to take the great name of Jesus to the unreached tribes in Oaxaca, Mexico!
*I am indebted to Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett of Christian Communicators Worldwide for the pen/presence/proxy observation as they have pointed this out in numerous other places in the NT.