I’ve been mulling my way through the Book of Philippians since the start of the year. I know, I know… it’s only four chapters long, and here it is February. What’s taking so long? Well, I get to lingering in the words, and my heart halts my hand on passages that I just can’t leave alone—sometimes for days on end.
One such passage has been Philippians 2:19-30. No, it’s not the “Christ hymn” passage. No, it’s not the “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” passage. And, no, it is not the “lights in the world” passage. Those were great, and I hung out in those for a few days to be sure. But, this passage comes after all those. This passage is about Timothy and Epaphroditus.
I’ve been with these guys morning after morning for a full week now, and here’s what keeps stirring me up: You and I—we’re young adult pastors or ministry leaders or program directors, even volunteers, and in these various areas of ministry where we serve—we need someone we can send and someone we can receive. We need a “Timothy,” and we need an “Epaphroditus.” Follow me…
Timothy was a steadfast companion in the gospel ministry, with deep, legit concern for others.
Too many folks—good folks, well-meaning folks, and bad folks alike—seek their own interests. I catch myself doing it often enough. It’s a tangle-up of humanness and fearful living. Folks we love and serve tend to look after number one. They sort of hedge their bets…
Just in case something goes bad or under, I won’t be left alone or broke or without.
Chalk it up to a bent toward self-preservation, I suppose.
Timothy was otherwise. At least Paul paints him as such. Paul says he serves like a child with his dad. Imagine the son that lives and serves and works side by side with his dad in the field or the shop or whatever the family trade was. Imagine a son who is watching and learning and standing so close by as to actually share the same tool, the same stroke, the same swing. And, he’s there with full will and without fail. He’s a steadfast companion.
You and I—we should find one of these in this work of ministry. Someone we can send with all confidence that the work they do would be the work we’d do, which would be the work our Savior, Jesus, would do.
Epaphroditus was a fearless visitor in the work of the gospel—a gift bearer to the soul.
Who visits pastors and ministry leaders anymore with no agenda other than to be an encouraging presence and giver of things helpful? Not many folks. Mostly, folks dawn the door of the pastoral study or directors office with burdens and weights and fears to unload.
His or her shoulders look strong enough, I’ll just put these bags right there.
It fits our sin-bent schema. Folks’ minds are all a flood with personal concerns and consciousness, and we pastors and leaders become the altar more than the priest.
Epaphroditus seemed otherwise, though. He was a messenger from the church in Philippi. He was a gift-bearer of hope and good news and probably even money. He travailed with courage, in sickness and health, to deliver to Paul the heartening gifts that would cheer his soul. Paul calls him a worker and a soldier. Got that picture? He was a fearless gift-bearer.
You and I—we need one of these in the work of ministry. Someone we can receive, who comes knocking with fists full of just what we need, though we never knew we needed it before it arrived. We need brave ones in our lives who’ll risk their own life to ensure our work in the gospel continues. I imagine it is someone who has our back in one sense, but more so, someone who faces our front, someone we can receive the gift of encouragement from—no matter how it is packaged.
So, what do you think? Yes? We need these people? I’m convinced. We need someone to send and someone to receive, like Timothy and Epaphroditus. Maybe you have them already. Maybe you don’t. Maybe if you set your mind to it, you’ll notice they are there after all, ready to be named. Maybe take time to find them this week; greet them, and thank them, for in many respects, they make our gospel ministries more joy-filled.
ANDY WEEDA has been serving young adults for 20 years. Currently, he is Pastor of Emerging Adult Ministry at Sunrise Baptist Church in Northwest Washington, where he leads The Branch: an emerging adults community, and directs LEAD Academy, an academic leadership initiative of the local church. You can read more from Andy on his blog.