Churches, Partners, Friends
When I was first entering into the ministry, a seasoned pastor named David Somerfeld told me something I have never forgotten. He told me to find an Aaron and a Hur. I had no idea what he was talking about and so he explained. In Exodus 17, the Israelites, led by Joshua, were fighting the Amalekites. Moses was watching from the top of a mountain and so long as his arms stayed in the air, Israel won. But when his arms dropped, they’d begin to lose. As the day wore on, Moses got tired and his arms began to fall and Israel began to lose. Aaron and Hur grabbed a stone for him to rest and each took an arm and held it up in the air and the Israelites overcame the Amalekites. Find yourself an Aaron and Hur. I remember the advice. But I also know that I’ve never truly followed it because friendship and partnership is hard.
It’s not just hard for individuals, it’s hard for churches too. Last week, I briefly touched on how we need to be partnering with other churches, even if we don’t agree on every piece of doctrine. I’m not longer just broaching the subject this week. I’m focusing on it. As we look at the text this morning, I see three types of churches we can be at Highland View. And as we go through, we ought not think that we can only be one. We can be all three if God so moves.
The first type of church we see in the text is a sending church. The second type is a sister church. And thirdly, we can certainly be a supplicating church.
A Sending Church
A Sister Church
A Supplicating Church
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
A Sending Church
A Sending Church
The first type of church that we can be at Highland View is the type of church that sends people. We either send people away on mission or we send them away to plant other churches. Both are vital to kingdom work. Look at what Paul wrote to the church of Rome.
This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.
Last week we saw, and this week we see again that Paul’s ministry, as he knew it, was coming to an end. He is looking to move on to a new ministry, a ministry in which he proclaims the name of Christ were it has never been mentioned. But he can’t do it alone. He needed a sending church.
Now, you may not see that in the text. But we’ll get there in a moment. Before we do, let’s take a quick look at how Paul began the ministry that he saw coming to an end.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Paul and Barnabas had been valuable resources for the church at Antioch. But when the Holy Spirit said it was time to go, it was time to go. So Antioch became their sending church. The word that Luke used there translated as sending, actually means to free them. They set them free from their responsibilities at Antioch so that they could go and plant churches in whatever place they were led. But that ministry, with all its ups and downs and separations and partnerships, was coming to an end.
Paul was planning on going to Spain! Antioch would be about 3,800 miles away. It was too far to be a sending church anymore. He needed a closer church partnership. Rome was less than half that distance. Plus, he’d be sent off by mature believers. But you say, “Chris, the text says nothing about being a sending church.” Not in the ESV, but the word that Paul used that the translators put in as “to be helped on my journey there” literally means simply “to be sent to there.” By whom? The church at Rome.
Notice in these verses we are reading how urgent this request is. He mentions twice that his time there can’t be long. He will be passing through and staying only a little while. He is telling them now of his plans so they can prepare for what will come.
Beloved, we are a small church. There is no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot or should not plan to be a sending church. There are places all over the United States, especially in the Northeast and Northwest that have little to no gospel witness. How amazing would it be to partner with church planting efforts? How rewarding would it be for us to be a sending church, where some of our members actually go and plant a church somewhere?
But like I said earlier, it doesn’t have to be strictly church planting, but missions as well. We have two mission opportunities this year for you to participate in. One is in just a few weeks, and another in July. We, as a church, will be sending some of you off to ministry and be on mission. I’m so excited about that!
A Sister Church
A Sister Church
So the first type of church we can be is a sending church, and that is what we are becoming. But a second type of church that we can be is a sister church. Sister churches are often churches of different denominations coming together for projects and supporting one another. Though they are often just simply churches in various parts of the world or even city that work together and support one another in each other’s efforts to build God’s kingdom. This is what we see in Romans.
At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.
Paul, who was from Tarsus in modern-day Turkey, spent much of his life in Jerusalem, but went all over the Roman Empire to spread the gospel. And when the Christians in Jerusalem were in trouble, he found churches to partner with them to help. It would not only be Macedonia, which is in northern Greece and Achaia in western Greece whose capital was Corinth, that would help, but those were the two at the moment.
Think about the ministry in Macedonia and Achaia, while they may be similar in some ways to one another, they would be vastly different than the ministry in Jerusalem. The people, the cultures, the situations were different. The same gospel was used, but the ministry looked different. Macedonia included the cities of Berea, Thessalonica, and Philippi, among others. Obviously we need only read the two letters to the Corinthians to see what they dealt with, in terms of temple prostitution, meat offered to idols, and such to know that Jerusalem did not deal with such issues. But one church ministering in one area of the world was willing and able and happy to help another church ministering to a different people in different ways in a different part of the world.
Paul wrote that not only were they pleased to do it, but that they were obligated to do it. There’s that word again: obligation. They owed it to them. It was because of the church in Jerusalem that there were churches in Macedonia and Achaia in the first place! The gospel came out of Jerusalem and spread to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world! Supporting the saints in Jerusalem was the least the churches in other parts of the world could do.
We at Highland View Baptist would do well to find a sister church, or sister churches. They don’t have to look like us, they don’t have to minister as we do, they don’t have to sing the same songs as we do, and they don’t even have to think like us in every area of doctrine, so long as the primary are in place. When Paul was in prison writing to the Philippians, he noted that some were preaching Christ to bring more strain on him. But he was happy to let them do it so long as Christ was being proclaimed. When the disciples tried to get Jesus to stop a man who was casting out demons in his name, he told them not to forbid him, even though he wasn’t following with the disciples.
For the one who is not against us is for us.
There is a church in Stevensville, Montana called Bitterroot Family Church. I’ve been in touch a few times with their pastor and he was wondering if we’d like to partner with them. To support one another in prayer, in ministry, in sending teams to help each other, and even worship together through live streaming. What an opportunity to partner with a church in another part of the country, some 1600 miles away and 24 hours to get there if driving with no stops. Again, the July missions trip is a partnership with FBC, St. Peters. If anyone decides to go, it would be to a sister church with them, and by extension with us.
A Supplicating Church
A Supplicating Church
So we as Highland View, much like the church in Rome have the opportunity to be a sending church. Like the churches in Macedonia and Achaia have the opportunity to be a sister church. But we also have the opportunity to be a supplicating church. Supplication is a fancy word not just for prayer but a type of prayer that seeks God’s supply. It is a prayer that fully relies on God to do what only God can do: supply our needs.
I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
Paul knew that he could be walking into danger. He could be walking into a landmine that was filled with angry Jews and disgruntled Christians. There was not much he could do about it, and so he asked for prayer. He appealed to the church of Rome for prayer. We could translate that word as “urge.” If you’ve heard of the word paraclete before, as in the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete, our counselor, our helper, our encourager, this is the verbal form of that. And actually could rightly be translated, “I call on you for help.” He urges prayer based on the authority of Jesus, but also by means of the love of the Spirit. And then he asked them to strive together with him in prayer. That word for strive is agonizomai; it’s where we get our word “agonize.” Paul is not asking for some quick blessing prayer. There are times where quick blessing prayers are appropriate, and there are times with agonizing prayers are called for.
In many ways, knowing the end of the story, we may be tempted to believe that the prayers did not work. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem because of the angry Jews. He was kept in prison for 2 years before being transferred to Rome and put under house arrest. But let’s not think too hastily. The Jews wanted him dead. They tried to kill him in the streets, then upon arrest to get the authorities to let him go and let them deal with him, then to ambush his transfer from one prison to another, then to try it again. Like Jonah who was saved by the big fish, Paul was saved by imprisonment. And it did send him to Rome. The saints in Jerusalem were thrilled with his ministry. So yes, prayer worked.
On Sundays, Pastor Matt and I often pray for other churches and missionaries around the world before our sermon. We have prayer lists with missionaries that we support, along with a list of loved ones who do not know Jesus. We put it on Slack for you to print or look at and lift them up to our Father asking him to do what only he can do. We have prayer meetings on Tuesdays at 6:15 and so offering the opportunity to strive together, agonize together over the plight of the sick, the lost, the traveling, the church, etc. Would that we would be a praying church, not just praying individuals, though that is important. But a church that strives together in prayer!
And though we strive in prayer, agonizing over those in need of what only God can supply, we ourselves receive peace. Peace in the midst of agonizing prayer.
May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
As we finish this section of Romans up, we have seen three types of churches that we could become: a sending church, a sister church, and a supplicating church. We can be a church that sends our people on mission and sends our people to plant churches in places that need them. We can be a church that partners with other churches doing ministry in other ways, so that the kingdom of Christ is built up. We can a church that strives, agonizes in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ, for lost loved ones and strangers. How great would it be if Highland View Baptist was known to be a sending, sister, supplicating church!?
If this is the kind of church you would like to see us become, would you pray with me now?