Preaching partners

“I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel, from the first day until now, being confident… that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:4-6).

In what amounts to a piece of gallows humor, missionaries misquote Exodus 1:8 thus: “There arose in the church an eldership that knew not the missionary.”

There should be a special relationship between a supporting church and their missionary. They should be our heroes. Paul uses an interesting phrase to describe the relationship he had with the Philippian church: He was grateful for their “partnership in the Gospel.” This is the Greek word koinonia, usually translated “fellowship.”

Now when we hear the word “fellowship,” we can already smell the coffee percolating.

But the relationship Paul describes is deeper than a potluck lunch. It carries the idea of participation and sharing in an endeavor. He repeats this idea again in Philippians 4:14 when he says, “it was good of you to share (koinonia) in my troubles.”

We are the lifeline for our missionaries. Can you imagine deep-sea diving one hundred feet under the water surface and not having a relationship with the people in the boat above? What if they just decided to turn on the outboard and leave? What if they were inattentive when we tugged on the line?

Apparently, Paul and the Philippians had a special relationship. They were partners in the gospel. And it was a committed, long-term relationship, for they had undertaken to carry this partnership on “from the first day…to completion.” The great mission congregations back their missionary over the years. Do you know our missionaries? Have you ever written them, or prayed for them, or hugged them when they returned on furlough?

Missionaries have another saying, too: “God had only one son…and he was a missionary.”

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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