To read the rest of the Philippians series click here.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5
Partner, as defined by the Strong’s Concordance, means sharer, associate, or companion.
Batman and Robin. Rocky and Bullwinkle. Starsky and Hutch. Jake and Elwood. Bert and Ernie. Mario and Luigi. Those are some famous partners!
As I continue reading through Philippians I noticed Paul uses the phrase “partnership in the gospel” to describe his relationship with the Philippian church. Thinking through the idea of what it means to be in a partnership I came up with a few guiding principles.
- The best partner is strong where I am weak
- The best partner understands that if he or she fails to do their part, the union will not function properly
- The best partner will have the same moral compass as I do
- The very idea of a partnership implies community and fellowship
- Therefore it would be wise to partner with those whom you are like-minded.
Isn’t the local church basically a partnership, as Paul implies in these verses? It is probably more than that, but it is at least that, right? Let’s look at these one by one and see how they relate to the church.
- The best partner is strong where I am weak. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 that there are many spiritual gifts, all empowered by the same Holy Spirit, but that not all gifts are given to everyone. For instance, to some the Spirit gave [insert spiritual gift here] and to some the Spirit gave [insert a different spiritual gift here]. You might be better at “this” than I am, but I am better than you at “that.”
- The best partner understands that if he or she fails to do their part the entire partnership will not function properly. 1 Corinthians 12:17 and 20 says, “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? …As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” If the eye fails to function as an eye the body cannot see. If the ear fails to function as an ear the body cannot hear. If we fail to use our spiritual giftings as God has chosen to give them to us we are doing more harm to the body than good.
- The best partner will have the same moral compass as I do. The moral compass is the Holy Spirit gently guiding and leading us. For all the different gifts the body possesses, there is only one Spirit directing us to use these gifts for their main purposes – to glorify God and edify the church.
- The very idea of a partnership implies community and fellowship. Take some time to read 1 Corinthians 12:21-26. Basically it states that the eye can’t say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” There are no dispensable body parts (one could argue against the appendix, but I digress). In fact, the ones that seem dispensable actually deserve more honor. Furthermore, if one member suffers, they all suffer. If one rejoices, they all rejoice. The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. We need each other. After all, what good is a body without a big toe?
- It’d be wise to partner with those whom you are like-minded. The Bible calls the body to unity of mind (1 Peter 3:8). No matter how different our giftings we are to be unified in purpose and plan. We are to work together, combine our strengths (I’m thinking Captain Planet here), and fill in each other’s weaknesses – all for the common goal of the furtherance of the Kingdom.
What does this all mean? Paul is writing from prison and he can say that his prayers are filled with joy. Why? Because he knows that he doesn’t have a congregation relying on him to do all the work. His joy is based on his partnership in the gospel with the Philippian church. They got it. They weren’t perfect, but they understood their giftings and were getting work done for the Kingdom.
The church needs you. It needs your gifts, talents and treasures.
Is your view of the church, of your church, reflective of the “partnership principle,” or are you a consumer of church goods? Do you take, take, take from your church, neglecting your giftings and leaving it to walk around with only one eye or no left hand, or are you a contributing member of the body?