8 Values for Gospel Partnership
We need a Kingdom mindset
A life obsessed with making Jesus known will partner with others to see his kingdom grow.
This is the example of the Apostles and early church. Paul and others were constantly partnering with other believers in churches for the sake of the Kingdom. At the church I pastor, we often say, “We are not here to grow our little kingdom. We are here so that the kingdom of God would saturate our city and the world.” Our churches should not be working to advance our kingdom and our glory but God’s kingdom and his glory. To do that, we need to work together. We need a “kingdom mindset.”
Colossians: A case study in gospel partnership
When you consider Paul’s ministry, you will quickly find that he partnered. Like a lot! He was constantly working with others for the sake of the gospel. At the end of his letter to the Colossians, he has one of the more lengthy sections in the New Testament concerning his partnership with others. Paul (to our knowledge) never visited the church at Colossae. It was planted by Epaphras, who most likely came to faith through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus during his first missionary journey. Throughout the letter, Paul speaks as one partnered with the church indirectly and has much to say about gospel partnership. In his closing of the letter, he lists 11 gospel partnerships. What he describes is a great example of how Paul partnered with others for the gospel. I see 8 core values.
Paul had diverse partnerships
Paul had a lot of different partners, ranging from the poor Onesimus to the rich Nympha; from the Jewish Artistarchus to the Gentile Epaphras; from the faithful Luke to the reconciled John Mark. It seems that Paul was willing to partner with anyone who was faithful to the gospel and willing to labor with him. Other distinctions mattered little.
Paul depended on his partners
When writing Colossians, Paul was in prison. He had to trust that Tychicus would faithfully deliver his message and that he, along with Onesimus, would faithfully communicate his heart. He had to trust that his co-laborers would minister faithfully in his absence. There was a deep trust in his partnerships.
Paul worked alongside his partners
Tychicus is called a “fellow servant” (4:7), Onesimus a “faithful brother” (4:9), Aristarchus a “fellow prisoner” (4:10), Mark and Justus were “fellow workers for the Kingdom” (4:10-11). There was an obvious cooperation implicit in their partnership. It was not simply an on-paper partnership. Partnership meant co-laboring.
Paul was comforted by his partners
In chapter 1, he explains how Epaphras ministered to him. In chapter 4, his three Jewish companions “were a comfort to him” (4:11). Partnership meant encouragement. Our main attitude toward those we labor alongside shouldn’t be, “How can I criticize you?” Or “How can I compare myself to you?” It should be, “How can I encourage you to keep going?”
Paul had deep relationships with his partners
There is so much love expressed by Paul for his partners. Tychicus and Onesimus are “beloved brothers” (4:7,9). Luke is called the “beloved physician” (4:14). All of Paul’s descriptions of his partners imply a depth of relationship. Our partnerships are not simply functional. They are familial. We don’t just value each other because of what we bring to the table. We love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul honored his partners
He commends Tychicus, Onesmius, his Jewish partners, his Gentile partners, almost everyone! Paul showed clearly that we are not competing against each other. We are laboring with each other. It’s good for us to honor one another, especially in ways we are seeing faithfulness displayed.
Paul exhorted his partners
It is significant to see Paul’s statement to Archippus at the end. He says, “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord’” (4:17). This is not a mere encouragement. This is exhortation. Apparently, Archippus was losing heart or failing to do what he needed to do. He needed correction. Both encouragement and exhortation are good for gospel partnership. We need accountability.
Paul prayed for (and asked for prayer from) his partners
Paul describes Epaphras as one who is “always struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (4:17). Paul began his letter with a lengthy section about his prayers for the church. And in this final section he asks that they “pray also for us” that 1) God would open a door for them to preach the gospel, and that 2) they would be clear in that proclamation. We see prayerfulness permeate Paul’s gospel partnership. Prayer fuels our mission. And it must fuel our gospel partnership.
A final encouragement: You don’t suffer alone.
Paul ends the letter to the Colossians with something unique. In the last verse of the letter, having just talked about missional living and missional partnership, he says, “Remember my chains” (4:18). In other words, “Don’t forget all I’m going through. Remember the cost of what it means to labor for the Kingdom!” Sometimes, faithful gospel living will lead us into suffering. It is often the fear of suffering that keeps us from living in a faithful way. But there is something beautiful in remembering that, although the gospel often involves suffering, we do not suffer alone. We can charge headfirst into the battlefield knowing that our brothers and sisters are beside us, our Lord is before and behind us, his Spirit is living within us, and his gospel will succeed!
We need a heaven-sized vision of God’s kingdom. The goal is God’s kingdom and his glory, not our kingdom and our glory.
It may be difficult to honor those you labor with when it seems that God is giving so much blessing to their ministries and labors. And not yours. But this is why we need a heaven-sized vision of God’s kingdom. The goal is God’s kingdom and his glory, not our kingdom and our glory. We can rejoice in the grace of God displayed in our gospel partners. We can also lift them up when they feel tired or discouraged. We labor together. We suffer together. We rejoice together. We do not labor alone. And we do not suffer alone either.