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Posts from the ‘Discipleship’ Category

Every Spiritual Leader Needs an Epaphroditus


Prof. Howard Hendricks, a well known and respected professor at Dallas Theological Seminary has stated that every pastor needs a Paul and a Timothy in their life.  This is indeed true.  Every disciple of Christ needs a spiritual father or mother to help shape their life in Christ.  That, indeed, was Paul’s relationship to Timothy.  Paul grounded Timothy in the faith, preparing him for a lifetime of Kingdom effectiveness through a real life exchange of modeled mentorship.

Likewise, every growing disciple needs someone to pour into; someone with which to teach the basic tenant of the Christian faith.  Therefore, each maturing person in Christ also needs a Timothy.  The growing disciple of Christ finds people to pur themselves into to carry on the work of the Gospel.  This is the act of strategic discipleship that has the mark of true generational transference.

In the same way, each ministry leader or pastor, in addition to having Paul and Timothy-like relationships, should have an equally important Epaphroditus relationship. The evidence for this is found in Philippians 2:25-30

 But for now I have considered it necessary to send Epaphroditus to you. For he is my brother, coworker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to me in my need. Indeed, he greatly missed all of you and was distressed because you heard that he had been ill.  In fact he became so ill that he nearly died. But God showed mercy to him—and not to him only, but also to me—so that I would not have grief on top of grief. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you can rejoice and I can be free from anxiety.  So welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him,  since it was because of the work of Christ that he almost died. He risked his life so that he could make up for your inability to serve me.

In Philippians chapter 2 we see that Paul wanted to send Timothy to the church in Philippi but could not at the present time until more questions were answered regarding his present situation.  In the mean time, Paul had a trusty back up to Timothy.  He could send Epaphroditus.  Looking back at the text for a moment, it is interesting to note  how well Paul speaks of Epaphroditus. He is considered a ‘brother, coworker, and fellow soldier; a minister in Paul’s time of need’.

So, who was Epaphroditus and why does every spiritual leader need one?  Let me give you three reasons to consider and evaluate whether or not you have an Epaphroditus already, or need to develop one as a leader working with God’s people.

  1. Essentially, in leadership you need to have capable ministers who will be able to minister to you in your time of need and minister to others in your absence.  From the text we can see that Epaphroditus was sent from the church in Philippi to minister to Paul in his imprisonment.  He was competent as a minister to both Paul and the believers in the area. In addition to his faithfulness, availability and skill to minister, he was effective in his ministry assignment.  As you look for an Epaphroditus, look for someone who is capable and confident in ministering to others.  Keep an eye out for someone who will be a vital part of building up the body of Christ, and especially even in encouraging you in your trials.
  2. Make it your aim to have men and women who will love ministry so much it may nearly kill them.  There is no doubt that Epaphroditus was a hard worker.  The text says that he nearly died carrying out his labor in the Gospel.  Epaphroditus was a workaholic yet Paul does not condemn his ministry mindedness as a detriment to his charachter.  He was willingly ready to pour out his life, like Paul, for the sake of the gospel. In that sense, Epaphroditus understood that life is short and only what is done for Christ will last.  Though his life was marked by priority to the cause of the gospel, it may have not been tempered with balance.  As you seek out an Epaphroditus, look for people who do not hold their own life dear to themselves for the sake of the gospel yet demonstrate remarkable personal stability and balance.
  3. You need to have trustworthy men who will handle finances and be able to be busy with the concerns of Jesus Christ.  Church tradition states that Epaphroditus was a bisop at the church in Philippi. He was found trustworthy not only with handeling God’s people, but also God’s money.  He was sent to take a gift to Paul in his time of need and faithfully carried out his task with the support of the church.  As you seek out an Epaphroditus, look for their experience handeling money and the follow through on commitments they make with their finances God has entrusted to them.  For, as Jesus said, where a person’s treasure is (in this case a leader in the church), that is where their heart is.

Learning Biblical Exegesis

As we take a second look at Isaiah 55, it important that we take scripture within its contextual time and place.  Out of the text below, you will read passages that are probably all too familiar to you.  It is easy to take scripture, quote it, and super-impose our meanings over what is said.  Instead of eisogesis – which I just described, we must study the text exegetically.  This manner of studying scripture is essentially an inductive method starting with the text rather than with ourselves.  So, in order to understand what God is saying to us, we need to properly understand the text.  Bible study does not start with us but with God and his word.

Read the following from Is 55:5-11:

“Look, you (Israel) will summon nations you did not previously know; nations that did not previously know you will run to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he bestows honor on you. Seek the LORD while he makes himself available; call to him while he is nearby! The wicked need to abandon their lifestyle and sinful people their plans. They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them, and to their God, for he will freely forgive them. “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans. The rain and snow fall from the sky and do not return, but instead water the earth and make it produce and yield crops and provide seed for the planter and food for those who must eat. In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend.”

Some questions to ask in your study here in Isaiah 55 are questions like: who, what, when , where, how, and why.  The method of study is observation, correlation, interpretation, and application.  Usually, in our haste, we skip steps 1 and 2 and just do interpretation and application.

Prof. Howard Hendricks at DTS says as one reads scripture, it should be read repeatedly, thoughtfully, patiently, selectively, prayerfully, imaginatively, meditatively, purposefully, acquisitively, and telescopically.

I encourage you to work through this passage, in light of the context of Isaiah 55, and get to the heart of what God is saying.  Spend most of your time in observation of the text asking questions, considering the historical setting, and looking at textual relationships (verbs, pronouns, subject/complement relationships, metaphors, simile, repeated words, figures of speech, structure, etc.)

As you do this, you will see the words of God’s truth unfolding like a flower before you illuminated by the Holy Spirit.  Take some time to do some Bible study and you will see God open truth that will transform you as you walk with Him daily.

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