If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. 23 I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. 24 And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.
25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.
28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:19-30
I was standing in the hallway of the church I had served for 11 years. I had announced my decision to the congregation that I was leaving to take a new responsibility at the church I currently serve. One of the members there said, “When we call a new pastor here, I don’t think we should call a PLI guy. They just leave when they get the chance.”
I could hardly believe my ears. PLI is an excellent missional training experience. I may be a bit biased because of my experience in PLI and my continuing involvement in leading and coaching pastors through PLI; not to mention that Diane works for PLI. his attitude struck me as selfish. I suppose now – these many years later it might have been hurt or disappointment at my leaving. But still…I urged him to think of it as a kingdom investment – having provided the opportunity for both Diane and I to attend.
My involvement with PLI has offered some interesting insights into the thinking of church members and leaders. On the other end of the spectrum you have people like one of our members who said of the pastor we would call at St. John upon my retirement as senior pastor next January: “He has to be a PLI pastor.”
Whether or not one is a PLI pastor or church leader, there are times we must consider kingdom investments above our personal desires and benefits. Paul is sending Timothy as a kingdom investment. He realizes that Timothy can further the rule and reign of Jesus more if he would go to Philippi than if he were to stay with Paul.
He was saying nearly the same about Epaphroditus. Urging the church in Philippi to receive Epaphroditus graciously when he returned to his people in Philippi. They had sent him to be with Paul out of concern for Paul’s wellbeing. This was another kingdom investment. Now their investment would be returned to them. Paul will send him away so that he can return to the ones he left and loved.
Sometimes kingdom investments are kingdom gifts. There is no return in like manner this side of eternity. But any investment in the rule and reign of God will yield a return of “all things” according to Jesus: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).
PLI was begin in 1999 as a training institute for pastors (Pastoral Leadership Institute) to prepare them to serve larger congregations. Since that time, however, it has gone through three or four major iterations – responding to new and ever-changing needs. Although it is still called PLI, their reach is far beyond pastors and their wives. DCE’s Teachers, church leaders, administrators, and dedicated followers of Jesus are enrolled in one of their three major learning communities: Leadership Essentials (which Diane and I are most involved in), Senior Leader, Discipleship to Missional Community (D2MC), as well as PLI International iterations of each of those. It is far less an institute these days as it is a life-changing learning experience. For more information visit PLILeadership.org.