Finding A Place (To Be)
I met with a mentor this morning to discuss Philippians together and God’s specific calling for us. We are working through it by internalizing the letter. He pointed out something significant that I totally missed.
The address of the letter, the very first line has the entire church structure laid out:
All the Saints
I want to back up and address this now. You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I’m not interested in models of church governance”.
That’s the point of this post. Why does it matter? Let’s examine where we belong.
Let’s look at the cast of characters listed in the address of chapter 1 of Philippians. I am convinced that we all fit into 1 or more of these groups:
1. (Off-site) Workers – Paul & Timothy
These guys may very well be part of the the network of overseers that help under-shepherd the church in Philippi. However, in this case Paul is mentioning himself and Timothy because the message is coming straight from them.
Later in the letter, Paul says that they are bondservants of Christ Jesus. He is writing from a position of literal imprisonment but he makes it clear that he is bound only to Christ Jesus.
They’ve chosen to be His servants because He chose them to be His sons.
These are workers in the Gospel who are an extension of the Philippian congregation. To use some of Ralph Winter’s terminology, the modality in Philippi is “all the saints”, the gathering arm. Their counterpart, the extended scattering arm is the sodality, Paul and Timothy.
With whom and to whom are you bound?
If you seek Christ Jesus, to know Him more and make Him known, this journey of joy is for you.
2. Congregation – All the saints
There are individuals addressed directly in this letter later on. But right in the first few words Paul states that the letter is to “all the saints” plus a few distinctions. How curious!
Inclusive yet discerning? The clergy and laity separation and ongoing debates are still in full swing. They probably always will be.
As long as God’s people are advancing His kingdom, we will have points of disagreement, mystery and controversy.
But we can honker down and burrow a path where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is plainly calling us.
Yes, the overseers and deacons are included in the all while remaining separate from within them.
Are you a part of the body of Christ, a child of God?
This letter and these prayers are for you.
3. Elders – Overseers
Who are the overseers? Many traditions might call these people bishops or elders. Overseer is a great term because the role is in the title.
But what if you’re not called to be an overseer? Must I recognize their authority or some other apostolic call and it’s place in my life? These questions come from a disconnected view of fellowship.
Church life can’t be separated from personal life. Remember, we are the church.
The ministry and leadership in our churches mean a lot. We must pray for them as family and vice versa.
Do you want to lead those around you and inspire them to vibrant kingdom life? Do you desire to live as overseers do, multiplying the family of God by being spiritually wise in the world and the church?
This letter will show us how the joy of Christ creates a different and new fellowship that endures and even spreads under the pressure of suffering.
4. (On-site) Workers – Deacons
Deacons lead the church in service.
Shouldn’t we all aspire quality to this lifestyle?
Similar to the overseers, these meet certain criteria found elsewhere in Paul’s writings.
This quality of man must qualify.
The focus on both of these groups should not be their titles or “positions” but their character and service. These groups set examples for their congregations, families and the onlooking world.
Do you desire to serve with all your might? Do you desire to build the body from within?
A life of ministry watches the example of leaders (formal or informal) and emulates them by interpreting then appropriately for their context.
All of this drives us deeper into Scripture, knit us tighter in fellowship with each other and rockets us globally to spread His name and expand His fame.