After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. – Acts 20:1-6
We were traveling in Kenya with the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya. The Secretary General, and several other important dignitaries – including the President of the Lutheran Church of Uganda – were with us as first we traveled by air from Nairobi to Kisumu, and then from there to Oyugis, a village south of Kisumu, stopping (not really on the way) at the Lutheran theological school in Sondu. It was quite an entourage, and the travel was quite an ordeal, but the outcome was well worth it. We taught pastors and their wives about the mission of God, faithfulness, and servant leadership, and were very well-received in the process. Some of the benefit of having other church leaders along for the conference was that they became interested in bringing the PLI International experience to their churches and pastors.
Paul’s entourage was quite possibly put together for a different purpose. As you compare his comments in 1 Corinthians 16, and 2 Corinthians 8 & 9, it seems that his companions are with him at least in part to lend credibility to his efforts to collect an offering for the saints in Jerusalem. He wanted it to be clear that he was not usurping authority in the process of gathering the offerings, nor was he going to put himself in a position to be questioned as to how he handled the funds entrusted to him. These companions served to encourage him, validate his mission for the people of the area churches (they seem possibly to be representatives from these various churches), and helped give greater confidence that the funds were being properly handled.
Paul could have insisted that he didn’t need anyone to accompany him. He could have told the people he wasn’t afraid to die in the mission to which the Holy Spirit had called him, and gone it alone. Instead, however, he seems to welcome the companionship. It’s possible that he realized that their presence would thwart any robbery attempt!
Entourages are kind of fun; sometimes even impressive. Better yet are brothers and sisters in Christ who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the mission to which God has called us – for protection, encouragement, and endorsement of us and our mission. Jesus didn’t send the disciples out alone; he sent them two-by-two. There were three with whom he was especially close: Peter, James, and John. Then the twelve, and the 72, the 120 (Acts 1:15). We are best when we are not alone, and that’s true in the transition from one missionary effort to another – as in this case – or in the throes of the missional battles in which Paul has engaged will soon will again.
Thank God for those fellow missionaries who travel the Way with us!