Camaraderie in Ministry

Philippians 2:19-24

Camaraderie. The fictional world portrays camaraderie through iconic duos such as: (1) Mario and Luigi, (2) Batman and Robin, (3) Phineas and Ferb, (4) Han Solo and Chewbacca, (4) Christopher Robin and Pooh, (5) Sherlock Holmes and Watson, (6) Bert and Ernie, (7) Nemo and Dory, (8) Calvin and Hobbes, (9) Frodo and Sam.

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together,” such as (1) soldiers, policemen, and firemen in action who trust one another with their lives, (2) football players who have one another’s back in a tough game, (3) high school or college students who have been through years of schooling together and graduate in the same class, etc.

Camaraderie means you’re not alone and that other people have your back and you have theirs. The Bible describes camaraderie this way:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up ... Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:9-12)

We find examples of camaraderie in the Old Testament (OT) when we read about the friendship of David and Jonathan, the closeness of Ruth and Naomi, and the courage of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. And we find examples in the New Testament (NT) when we read about Mary and Joseph, the twelve disciples, Aquila and Priscilla, Barnabas and Paul, and the friendship we’ll look at today – Paul and Timothy. We also see church-wide camaraderie in the NT, as followers of Christ supported and worked together with one another both within and between churches.

As followers of Christ, our joy increases not only as we commit ourselves to Christian service (or ministry) but as we do so together, in partnership with other believers in the church. Teamwork makes the dream work, it’s true. And teamwork is how we serve Christ effectively and fruitfully as a church.

In our passage today, we’ll see how Paul enjoyed camaraderie with a man named Timothy and how he also enjoyed camaraderie with the church at Phillip. We’ll learn four key principles about how healthy, Christlike teamwork functions in the church.

Ministry entrusts responsibility to others.
But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.

This is our first principle for Christlike teamwork in the church, that ministry entrusts responsibility to others.

We need to remind ourselves about the background of this letter. As Paul wrote, he was enduring a months-long, maybe years-long incarceration in Rome for his faith, because some viewed him as a threat to peace both in Israel and in Rome at large.

While imprisoned and awaiting his trial and sentence before Caesar, a believer named Timothy made an extended visit to assist Paul however he could. Running errands, delivering mail, receiving visitors, providing company, meeting health needs, etc. Because of Timothy, Paul was not alone.

Timothy was a man younger than Paul whom Paul had met when Timothy was only a boy or teenager. He had met Timothy during his earlier ministry travels (Acts 16:1-3):

He came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him.

In the years ahead, Timothy would join Paul on his ministry adventures, during which Timothy would observe and learn from Paul about how to follow Christ faithfully and how to help others take their next steps in following Christ.

By personality, Timothy was naturally timid and reserved, lacking social confidence. For this reason, Paul taught Timothy to overcome this tendency and weakness on purpose (2 Tim 1:7-8):

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.

Over time, Timothy’s confidence, spiritual maturity, perspective, and ministry skills improved. As a result, Paul deliberately and gradually entrusted Timothy with increasingly significant responsibilities and opportunities for Christian service. These responsibilities ranged from carrying out basic daily ministry tasks, to carrying Paul’s letters to distant locations, to leading churches and helping them appoint pastors.

It is this practice of entrusting responsibility to others that enables a church to persevere through multiple generations and through multiple waves of challenges and trials. Even with Paul imprisoned in a distant city, vital ministry and communication could still occur thanks to his mentorship of Timothy and his willingness to entrust him with responsibility.

From a strategic standpoint, we call entrusting responsibility to others “delegation.” God the Father introduced delegation by creating people and assigning us the task of governing his Creation in his place. Then Christ himself set the ultimate example of this practice when he delegated the task of gospel ministry to the twelve disciples. Today, the pattern of delegation has been established as God’s special plan for the church:

He Himself gave some to be … pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ … from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:12-16)

So, it is a responsibility of pastors not to do everything in the church but to identify, train, and involve as many members as possible in ministry responsibilities throughout the church. Church ministry – and church joy for that matter – diminishes when one of three inefficiencies occur:

  • Any member does nothing or does far less than he or she is capable of doing.
  • Any member does too much by exceeding his or her capacity and neglecting other key responsibilities in life.
  • Members who serve fail to include, involve, and teach others less experienced in the ministry that they do.

As you evaluate your life today, do you see any of these inefficiencies in your life today? If you are doing nothing or much less than you should be doing, you are either leaving ministry needs and vacancies or increasing the likelihood that other members will do more than they should. If you are doing too much, then you are preventing other members from learning and participating in Christian service. The key is to get involved and then involve others with you!

When we talk about delegation in the church, we need to be aware of more than the practical advantages though, for delegation is more than a strategy. Delegation reveals a heart of interdependence, recognizing on one hand that (1) you need the assistance and input of others and (2) others need the assistance and input of you. In other words, delegation is an outworking of humility.

No follower of Christ is so skilled and sufficient that he or she can isolate or withdraw themselves and thrive spiritually. At the same time, no follower of Christ is so skilled and sufficient that he or she can serve effectively without the assistance of others, either. We need one another and we need you.

So, joyful ministry requires entrusting others with responsibility in the church. Next …

Ministry requires shared commitment to the mission.
For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.

Here Paul speaks to the kind of heart that Timothy exhibited. First, Paul describes Timothy as being “like-minded,” which means “of equal soul.” A modern equivalent might be a “bosom friend” or a “kindred spirit.” So, Paul says he knows of no other believer with whom he enjoyed such a close connection and mutual understanding.

Second, Paul describes Timothy as someone who “will sincerely care for your state.” This means that Timothy would show a genuine interest in the spiritual condition and experience of the church at Philippi. His interest would not be merely professional, surface, or for some personal agenda or advantage. He would truly care about them.

Third, Paul describes Timothy as someone who did not “seek his own but the things of Jesus Christ.” This means that Timothy did not serve Paul or minister to the church at Philippi for some ulterior motive or to benefit himself somehow. What’s more, he didn’t serve to impress Paul or earn his good favor, either. He was ultimately committed to the mission of Jesus Christ, helping people know Christ as God and Savior and then helping them take their next steps in following him. He didn’t serve Paul or the church to benefit himself or impress Paul. He served because he wanted to advance the cause of Christ. He was not loyal to Paul, he was loyal to Christ – even if that required him to be uncomfortable, take risks, or suffer.

As we follow Christ and serve him in the church, we must honestly evaluate our motives. Why do we serve? Do we serve to be noticed? To we serve to impress others or to benefit ourselves somehow? Or do we serve for one preeminent, motivating reason – to please Christ and help others know and follow him? To serve persevere in joyful service to Christ, we must be free from our own self-interests and private pursuits.

Guy King, a British pastor, once wrote, “In a bygone day when a prominent soldier was returning from foreign duty, a newly hired driver was sent to the station to pick him up. When he asked how he would recognize the soldier, the soldier’s aged mother said, “Look for somebody helping someone else.” And sure enough, when the train pulled in, the driver saw a man assisting an old woman, and it was the soldier!” So it was with Timothy.

I wonder whether our present generation, young and old alike, are too self-absorbed in general. Even for Paul, such a person as Timothy was unusual rather than the norm. Are you too self-absorbed to serve Christ and to serve him with Christ-centered motives, willing to sacrifice your own self-interests to achieve his will?

So, joyful ministry requires entrusting others with responsibility in the church and doing ministry to advance the cause of Christ. As we do this …

Ministry builds family-type relationships.
But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.

In this case, Paul describes his relationship to Timothy as that of a father to a son. This does not mean that Paul was his biological father, of course, nor does it mean that he had somehow adopted Timothy. Instead, it means that the way their relationship functioned was “like” a father/son relationship.

Like a healthy father/son relationship, Timothy respected Paul and desired to honor him and see him succeed. Similarly, Paul had grown to appreciate Timothy after years of investing into his life, affirming him and desiring for him to succeed.

Most importantly, Paul affirms Timothy as his spiritual “son” because he – like Paul – had established that his primary loyalty was not to one or the other but to the gospel. Like Paul, Timothy had learned to make the gospel the driving motivation of his life. The gospel – the good news of Christ becoming a human, living a righteous life in our place, dying an awful death in our place, and resurrecting from the grave to forgive our sins and give us a new relationship with God – this message was what shaped and motivated Timothy’s life choices.

As a pastor, I urge each member of the church to make the gospel your primary motivation in life – not a secondary subpoint or an occasional reference point, but the main point.

Before we wrap up with our final main observation here, let me point out the meaning of a key word in this verse: proven character. This is one word in Greek and means “to be by the fire and refined.” By describing Timothy this way, he affirms that Timothy was more than an upstart young man, someone with a flash of potential, a willing smile, and an interest in serving Christ. He was someone who have proven, over time, that he was up to the task and truly committed to serving Christ at any cost.

For years, Timothy had followed Paul through arduous road trips on foot, shipwrecks, mob uprisings, public accusations, trials, and imprisonments. He had risked his own life and reputation for the gospel, proving that his character was indeed genuine. Does this describe your character as well – proven and tested by the fires of life and shown to be focused on and committed to the gospel above all?

In another letter to the church in the city of Ephesus, Paul wrote (Eph 2:19):

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

Christ himself spoke about this “household of God” in even more direct terms when he said (Mark 12:46-50):

 “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? … Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Ultimately, when any pair or group of believers commit themselves to serving Christ and the gospel together first and foremost, they will encounter challenges and difficulties along the way. Yet over time, they will forge not only a strong Christlike joy, confidence, and enthusiasm that is proven and genuine, they will also form close, family-like relationships, just as close and meaningful as parents and children, brothers and sisters. We learn what it means to be “members of the household of God.” A church is a spiritual family.

Ministry values contact and communication.
Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

In the closing verse here, Paul underscores the value of communication. Though Paul was hundreds of miles away from the church at Philippi, he still made a serious effort to contact and communicate with them. That’s why he wanted to send Timothy and that’s also why he was making tentative plans to visit them in person if he was going to be released from prison.

This dynamic is why, for instance, our family visited Christian friends both in Denver, CO and Lincoln, NE in our recent family vacation, why Sarah and I visited Christian friends (including the Terpstras) in Phoenix, AZ on our wedding anniversary this year, and why our church sent several of us over to serve with the Galbraiths in Havant, England. It’s why I endeavor to find ways for our former pastors to stay connected with us here at Brookdale, either through personal visits or online videos, etc.

Close Christian ministry forges relationships that span distance and time. They compel us to communicate with each other so that we can continue to encourage each other to persevere in our mission of helping people follow Christ.

As we conclude our consideration of what these verses teach us about living The Joyful Life, let me encourage you in two ways:

  • Is God working in your heart, giving you a desire to be a part of the Brookdale church family so that you can serve God, live for the gospel, and help people take their next steps in following Christ? If so, please speak with me or Pastor Will after the service about taking our New Life Study – which you can download from Our Resources on our church website. Through these 7 simple but very helpful lessons, someone can teach you the basics about having a real relationship with Christ and prepare you to become a special member of this church family!
  • Is God working in your heart – if you are a member – about serving in some way? There are plenty of opportunities to serve Christ and your involvement is so vital to our church’s success and also to your progress towards living a joy-filled life. Perhaps you’re one who’s been involved in the past, but you’ve drifted away from serving. Now would be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the church and mentor someone else through serving Christ. There are some ministry surveys available in the lobby today! If you would like to fill one out, please place it in the mail slot of Pastor Will or myself in the church office.

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