Pull up a slab of rock, light a candle and grab a quill, ink and a scrap of papyrus to take notes. We’re journeying together back to the year AD 58 to a Roman prison cell to listen in as Paul pens his letter to his Christian brothers and sisters in the city of Philippi. What can his letter speak to us some 2,000 years later?
“I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for you all because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil 1:3-5).
There are friends, acquaintances and co-workers — and then there are PARTNERS. There is a huge difference between the first three and the latter. In the church tradition where I serve (Evangelical Covenant), such relationships were called “Mission Friends.” They were friendships bound by our common mission of advancing the cause of Christ. Choosing to follow the Revolutionary Way of Jesus means we are choosing to go against the flow of the mainstream culture—and that mainstream includes many of our friends, family, classmates and co-workers.
When we begin to follow Jesus we find ourselves welcomed into a new family. Just like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings we become an essential member of a new fellowship—a fellowship defined around a common mission and adventure. Frodo and the boys made up the Fellowship of the Ring. Revolutionary followers of Jesus make up the worldwide Fellowship of the King. Christian fellowship is united around our common “participation in the gospel” as we follow Jesus together advancing his Kingdom on earth. This is no small task, and we must learn to depend on each other in this battle.
As Paul traveled around the ancient world spreading the good news of Christ, he relied on trustworthy partners who joined in the mission. He couldn’t do it alone. He also knew that every fellow Christian who partnered with him in the mission of the gospel was a gift from God. I experienced this kind of strong, mission-focused bond of unity with my Revolution friends in Mound — Pastor Chad, Joe, Melissa, Bryan, Rachel, Greg, Charlie, and others — who helped spearhead a youth ministry movement recently.
And so with absolute joy and gratitude I, like Paul, would thank God every time these fellow Revolutionaries crossed my mind. Notice that these friends are not just there one day and gone the next. The truest, most irreplaceable friends are those who stand along side us through thick and thin, hell or high water — “from the first day until now.” We need people who will go the distance with us — until the mission is accomplished or God calls us elsewhere.
So, are you plugged into your own local Fellowship of the King? Are you a partner in the mission of spreading the good news of Christ? Do you have certain people in your life who bring you tears of joy and gratitude everytime they cross your mind? Do you have friends who will stick by you for the long haul? Do you thank God for them daily?