Partners in the Gospel
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I had the pleasure of connecting today with three pastors who are part of the Harvest Partnership – a church-planting network. This group of pastors and church planters mostly in Texas is encouraging and supporting one another in the task of starting new congregations. This is a vitally-important task given the current state of the Christian Church in North America. Churches and the number of people who identify with the Christian Church are rapidly declining. Planting churches is the most effective means by which new people are brought into the Christian faith. These guys are heroes for the kingdom of God! I thank God for them!
Such arrangements are new in one sense. Local congregations have only more recently taken the lead in starting churches. St. John, the church I served, planted two mission starts during the time I was there. I was able to restart a mission start in Utah when I served there.
But it was not always so. For a time the basic strategy for starting new congregations in my church body was to say, “Here’s a group of Lutherans who don’t have a church close by. Let’s start a new Lutheran congregation.”
Now it’s much more, “Here’s a place where there are no Lutheran Churches (or possibly too few churches at all). Let’s start a mission here. Let’s see how we can bring the Good News of Jesus to them.
That’s not new. This was Paul’s strategy. He would go from town to town and look for people of peace through whom a new congregation was started. Colossae was one of those places. But he did not hang around there long. He would appoint elders and leaders to see to the continuing development of the congregation. Occasionally he would need to offer correction, encouragement, and instruction to the various congregations he had started. Colossae was one of those congregations.
But Paul never claimed to be alone. He constantly mentions other people who were partners in the gospel. Whether it’s Timothy, Epaphras, Silas, Acquilla, or Priscilla, Paul partnered with these people. And the kingdom of God grew. Do you have a partner who is dedicated with you for the sake of the Kingdom?
Afterword: I’m at the Texas District LCMS Theological Convocation this week. I had the opportunity here to talk with a couple of pastors today. They both mentioned my number one ministry parter, Diane. How thankful I am that God has given us both opportunities to work together for the sake of his kingdom! Each of us also have others with whom we partner in this work. This is something for which we both give praise to God.