The First New Thing Global Church: my presentation today to the gathering.
The apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Philippians, saw them as his band of brothers and sisters. They were from a different nation and culture and background, but he could think of them that way because Paul who had of course been Saul saw himself and all other Christ followers as first and foremost ‘citizens of heaven’.
Wherever we’re from, now – that’s what matters most (3:20), even in a place where people in Philippi were very proud of their Roman citizenship. That’s what enabled him to be a missionary church planter. He had a vision of a God who so loved THE WORLD!
I’m excited by the story of Philippians because Christianity started as a global movement and this is the first church in Europe planted by Paul, there in northern Greece. Acts 16 tells us how after the Holy Spirit had been saying ‘No’ to Asia, he gets a dream from God. And it’s not just TO a place, it’s OF a person. We are meant to reach people, and help them find their way back to God.
They even tried to head East but it says the Spirit stopped them! Do you know why? No, neither did he. How frustrating! Paul’s from Tarsus, Turkey. Timothy’s from that region too. Asia Minor was his dream, but then God gave him a bigger dream, a different napkin, a revelation of a Greek man shouting, ‘HELP!’
So, ‘Having seen the vision, immediately we sought to go…’ strategically targeting what it says was ‘the foremost city of that region.’ He went with Silas and Timothy his brand new apprentice, and Dr. Luke joined in right there too and describes how they catalysed a movement.
It started when they asked the question ‘What is God already doing here?’ As Jews in a different context they went in and found there were NOT enough men to form a synagogue (10). So instead they went to the riverside where they identified some devout women who met outside the city to pray and they sat down where they were and connected to them – including one businesswoman called Lydia, the person of peace who opened her home. The church in Europe got started there. Her home remained the base of operations for the church all the time they were there. By the way, did I say she was a woman?
It went pretty well until they had spiritual attack, got beaten & imprisoned, went through an earthquake, and then the city leaders begged them to leave – which could put you off a place. Who told you church planting was easy!?
What he had planted was a REPRODUCING church that spread over the city and region, it didn’t just stay in that one house, it became a network, with elders and deacons.
Over the years he visited a few times, and when he was in prison (Caesarea, Rome or Ephesus depending who you read – I think Rome is most likely) they were so committed now they had sent a delegation to support and reconnect with him, because there was that vital RELATIONSHIP component.
He sowed into them, and they supported him in terms of RESOURCES. Paul says in chapter 4 one of the reasons he was writing was to say thanks that they had provided for him generously in terms of personal support, and also we find out in 2 Corinthians 8 they gave sacrificially to help the original sending church movement back in Jerusalem.
When they heard he was in prison, even though it was a long and dangerous journey, they sent another gift, and a person because he’s a resource too – a Philippian called Epaphroditus (there’s that relational network component again), whose name means ‘Favourite of Aphrodite’ but obviously he’s now found the real God. Paul says he’s his ‘brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier and your apostle who ministered to my need.’ (2:25) However unfortunately he got really sick and nearly died; so Paul used him as the postman to go back to them, with this very practical letter.
Paul (Phil 2:19-23) said he also wanted to send them soon the guy he says he wrote the letter with, his fellow bondservant, Jason Bourne – Timothy. His apprentice leader, who he says is a ‘one off kind of leader;’ who doesn’t focus on himself but on Jesus, a man of character who he wants to be a reproducing church planter so he wants to arrange a RESIDENCY for him there in Philippi. Paul writes him a short reference; this young guy who had ‘proved himself’. He said they had that father/son relationship, in a culture where a son would follow into his father’s business.
Why did he want to entrust his best young leader to them? Because they were in covenant relationship. They had history together. He says they have been PARTAKERS of grace with him (1:7). They shine as lights in the world (2:15). Because even though they were in a different setting, culture and context, they were all PARTNERS (1:5) in the gospel. Koinonia = participants together. Cf Tom Wright – who talks about this being a business word.
Oscar Muriu has previously outlined for us what these Partnerships look like, by the 4 ways the word is used in Philippians:
1:5 – Partnership in the gospel.
Because of the cross and what Christ has done. The gospel defines why we are gathering.
2:1 – Partnership in the Spirit
The undergirding thread that unites us and we all depend on. Not just a clever strategic plan. Has to be living and learning from the Spirit
3:10 – Partnership in Suffering
Oscar said we need to feel one another as they say here in Kenya; Being sensitive to each other’s needs and challenges. Pray for one another. What are the prevailing problems there in your context.
4:15 – Partnering in Resources
Giving and Receiving. We don’t just define that by money. We all bring different resources. We need to recognize the resources we bring whether or not we can all bring the same money we can all bring the treasures we have. Such as that won through living in a place of sacrifice and risk. Those in India can help us form leaders that have been to the edge and back again.
Those in Kenya have the gift of the diaspora in any city. Those Africans who can be mobilized to gather to it. Get them to put into the future church that will be in the city.
The West can bring technology to the table. The Lord will bring what we all have.
What will the systems be that help us come together so that we do far more together that we cannot bring alone? Without each other, our leaders will not be able to develop into the global church planters the world needs.