Recently, I finished reading a book about The Wright Brothers (by David McCullough). You may remember, Wilbur and Orville were the first to take flight in a machine they invented together. The brothers’ collaborative effort changed history. The Wrights were inseparable, indefatigable, compatible and successful. Their story is inspiring. As I read about their amazing accomplishment it led me to reflect on the power of partnership.
The Apostle Paul understood the value of partnership in his life mission. Not only did he travel and minister in the company of co-laborers; some of them protégés, but he developed strong partnerships with the churches he planted. One of those was the church at Philippi.
In Philippians 1:3-5 he writes, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” KJV
I like how this is rendered in the NLT: “Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”
The Apostle Paul had a very special relationship with the believers in Philippi. He planted the church by great sacrifice and suffering. The Philippians seemed to understand this and reciprocated with great affection and care. In this epistle Paul thanks God for their fellowship (or partnership) in the Gospel. The Greek word used here is koinonia. It best characterizes the relationship between Paul and the Philippian church and is a dominant theme throughout the epistle. It means, sharing in common; joint participation; communion. Koinonia implies a unified, agreeable and generous spirit between persons. There is no competition in koinonia, only a desire to help.
The Wright Brothers embodied the spirit of koinonia and the value of partnership in accomplishing something extraordinary many believed was impossible. They were two separate and distinct individuals who joined their individual uniqueness for a common goal. Both are credited for the invention of the airplane: neither stood above or beneath the other. At one point in their story, Wilbur was in France for a year demonstrating their flying machine while Orville remained at home in Ohio. Yet, in their minds, and to the general public they were always, inseparably, the Wright Brothers.
We can see this same synergy directed towards fulfilling a common purpose working between Paul and the Philippians. Paul’s contribution as a partner was to be the first to bring the Gospel to Philippi (Acts 16). His care for them was evident through prayer (1:4), the epistle he wrote, his passionate desire for their well-being (1:8), and his intention to send Timothy (2:19) to them as an extension of his fatherly and apostolic responsibility.
The Philippians demonstrated their commitment to Paul in prayer (1:19), by sending Epaphroditus from the congregation to serve and comfort him (2:25), and tangibly supplying his “necessities” time and time again (4:16). Paul states emphatically, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only (4:15),” inferring they were the only partners he had at the time. No wonder the apostle refers to them in the most endearing terms: “my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown.”
There was nothing one-sided or selfish about this partnership. Each had a mutual love and respect for the other; each considered the other as better than themselves (2:3); each was looking out for the other (2:4); and each received the mutual benefits. There can be no mistake in examining the partnership between Paul and the Philippians – the underlying purpose was that Christ be preached and the Gospel advanced.
Gail and I have come to appreciate the Principle of Partnership more than ever as we are sent to serve the nations. Partnership (joint participation) goes hand-in-hand with sending and being sent. It takes the cooperation of the sender and the sent one(s) to make a difference in the world for Christ. To us, every person God has given us who pray and contribute to Doulos Global is precious and beloved. We thank God for you every day, praying the same Holy Spirit inspired prayers Paul prayed for his partners. We expect the same results!
Thank you for being our partner in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You are beloved, blessed, and always in our heart.
For [we are] confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for [us] to feel this way about you all, because [we] have you in [our] heart… For God is [our] witness, how [we] long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6-19