On Sunday morning we continued our NextSteps series with a talk entitled “Partner”. What follows is a brief summary of that talk and some questions to help you reflect either on your own or in your small group. You can also listen to the talk or download it from our Sunday talks page (the talks are usually available a bit later in the week).
I remember the moment I realised God was calling me to a career in ministry. I was a 19 year old doing a gap year internship at my local church and when God told me he wanted me to devote myself to a life of preaching and teaching people about the good news found in the Bible. I was excited and in the days and weeks that followed, I slowly began to develop a plan to change the world! What can I say? I was young, zealous and idealistic and I had no idea of how hard it was going to be to work as a minister. I had yet to experience the discouragement, criticism or loneliness that can sometimes come to anyone in a position of leadership.
I am still learning how to manage my expectations, accept that I will never please everyone, and surround myself with people that partner with me and make my job a little easier. I am learning from the wisdom of those with more experience than me, including Paul and Timothy who managed to establish a church in a place called Philippi were they enjoyed a very strong sense of partnership and unity in serving the Lord.
Ministers and leaders were never meant to do everything alone and they also need to know that they are not alone- that the church is with them through thick and thin. I’d be willing to bet that you also need to know that you’re not alone when you’re facing discouragement. What I’d like to suggest to you this morning is that everybody wins when we share in something bigger than ourselves in partnership with others and that there’s no bigger opportunity in your life than the chance you have to partner with God and his people on the mission he has invited us to be a part of.
The question I have for you today, particularly if you’ve been a Christian for a while, is this: “Would it be accurate for us to think of you as a partner in what we’re trying to achieve rather than as a consumer of a service we offer?”
Before you answer that question for yourself, perhaps you’ll listen to what Paul and Timothy had to say about partnership in chapter 1 of the book of Philippians. Read Phil 1:1-7 here
Paul and Timothy start this letter identifying themselves as servants of Christ Jesus. They didn’t view their role as an opportunity to serve their own agendas or the agendas of the people they worked with. They didn’t view church as a democracy where leaders serve the will of the people. They saw it as a theocracy where everyone at every level seeks to serve the will of God. They did not consider themselves to be the only ones with this holy calling. They saw the whole congregation of believers as God’s holy people, together with the elders, leaders and themselves. I wonder if that’s how you would identify yourself this morning, as one of God’s servants and Holy people, together in unity with the elders and leaders in your church?
Paul and Timothy wanted the entire congregation to experience grace and peace. Paul says that he is thankful for the Philippians every time he remembers them and that he prays joyfully for them. Do you want to know why Paul and Timothy felt this way? The answer is found in verses 5-7. Paul’s viewed the Philippian Christians as partners in sharing the good news about the grace and peace that we can have with God and extend to each other through Jesus Christ! That doesn’t mean they were always perfect partners to one another. It’s clear that Paul viewed the Philippians as a work in progress, being changed by the grace and peace of Christ until one day, God’s work would finally be completed in their lives.
If you want the people around you to thank God for you and to think joyfully about you, you don’t have to be perfect. People can look past your failures when they can see that you’re genuinely committed to being with them through the good times and the bad. These believers were there for Paul when he faced opposition and criticism and even imprisonment for sharing his faith. That’s why Paul saw it as right to view the Christians in Philippi as partners in ministry.
So, in light of how Paul and Timothy describe partnership, I’ll ask my question to you again: “Would it be accurate for us to think of you as a partner in what we’re trying to achieve together rather than as a consumer of the service we offer?”
Questions for reflection and discussion:
- Have you discovered your identity in a partnership of God’s holy servants here at ABC?
- Have you embraced your purpose in playing your part alongside others at ABC in sharing the good news about Jesus?
- Are you ready to support others and be supported by them as we serve God together as mission partners here at ABC?
- When something isn’t working right, will you complain or offer to help, sharing in the responsibility to make things better?
- Do your words and actions towards the people serving here communicate that you consider them a partner rather than a service provider?
- Why not check out the NextSteps area or webpage to look for the many opportunities there are for you to get more involved as a partner in the work God is doing in, around and through the people of ABC?
- Have you signed up for the “ALL in” course yet?