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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.