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The Unexpected Joy of Gospel Partnership

As a young couple in our 20s, God called us to church planting among the unreached. A hurdle we initially faced in the discerning process, was the concept of raising support. We needed to build a community of people who would give financially every month, but also commit to praying for us regularly. 

Stepping forward in obedience meant we needed to accept this reality—and it wasn't easy. Our childhood on the farm instilled in us a strong work ethic and a sense of self-reliance. The idea of relying on others for our paycheck felt uncomfortably out of sync with our upbringing. Like putting a t-shirt on backwards, it just didn’t feel right.

Nevertheless, we understood our calling. The step of obedience meant gathering up the courage to ask others to give so we could go.

Partnership Defined

Paul's heartening letter to the Philippians reflects the intimate, treasured connection he feels to them. His love pours onto the pages from a grateful heart for their partnership in the gospel.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5).

The Greek word for partnership in Philippians 1:5 is koinonia, which often translates as fellowship. It’s a bond defined by mutual interests and sharing.

Gospel partnership begins in Christ; his fellowship with us, which in turn extends to each other. We are united together in Christ, we are his body, adopted into his family. Through him we are redeemed and restored into a people of his very own.

We never imagined the immense blessing and love that could blossom from our relationship with our supporters, but it did. During our return trips home, we'd bring a small gift, meet with each of them, share stories from Africa, learn more about their lives and be mutually encouraged. There were family and friends, members of our church, people we'd known growing up, churches we'd grown up in, others who were strangers to us, but heard about us from our teammates and courageously took care of what remained when we still hadn't raised enough.

For us overseas, it meant taking the time to update everyone monthly, to schedule visits during our time at home, to plan presentations and events, and to communicate well. Yes it was a significant effort on our part, but we knew our supporters were better equipped to pray and help when they understood our ministry.

The Lord was not only calling us to obedience, he was calling others. We were blessed to watch him at work in the lives of others as they responded to the prompt to give their time and resources.

We are not called to work alone. In this culture, we gravitate toward self-reliance, but there is tenderness, affection and support that comes only through relationships with others. We need these partnerships for our own daily faithfulness and to bear fruit for the kingdom.

The thing is, true gospel partnership isn't easy, it's not seamlessly woven into the church. These fruit-bearing relationships require effort, sacrifice and intention from each of us, but that’s what makes the fruit all the sweeter.

If we look through Philippians 1, we see characteristics of gospel fellowship we may not have expected and how these relationships bring joy.

quote from philippians 1 about gospel partnership

Characteristics of Gospel Partnership

1 Partners are servants of Christ.

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1)

In the greetings to the church at Philippi, Paul identifies himself and Timothy as servants of God—specifically as bondservants. While he was their spiritual father, he wasn't lording authority over them, he wasn't identifying himself as their leader, but instead as a slave of Christ—the echoes of humility born out of a right view of self. 

No matter our role in the church, we are foremost servants of Christ. 

How would our relationships within the church change if we viewed ourselves as servants of Christ first?

2 Partnership involves mutual care

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5).

Paul’s letter is a thank-you note in response to the Philippian church sending Epaphroditus with a financial gift. The tone of his writing is one of gratitude and thanksgiving as he reflects on the history of their relationship and how even from the beginning they shared in his troubles and in advancing the gospel. 

This type of give-and-take relationship refreshes the soul. It wasn’t simply about an etransfer to help out a bit, but genuine concern for each others’ wellbeing. A picture of being “devoted to one another” (Rom. 12:10), “carrying each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), and of bearing with one another (Col. 3:13)—the character of true fellowship.

What would our church relationships look like if they were marked by mutual care? How are you already doing this? 

3 Partnership has a shared vision

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7).

Fellowship is more than friendship, more expansive than camaraderie around a cup of coffee or a craft night. Gospel partnership shares a vision for God’s work in the world in and through us. Our weekly gathering could be thought of as a staff meeting, where coworkers gather to praise the boss for bringing us all together in him, for spiritual refreshment, and to gain a clear purpose for our tasks in the work week ahead.

We slip into a mindset of consumerism, that we’re at church for our own personal benefit. But, when we leave our worship service, we’re all attending places of ministry for the next 6 days til we meet again. We've been refreshed by the Living Water through worship, now we go out in his presence to be his aroma wherever we are.

What would change in our lives if we saw each other as coworkers?

4 Partners pray

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil. 1:3-4)

Gospel centered friendships are attentive, thankful and enduring. Our ministry overseas desperately needed prayer. Not only for ourselves as we waded through the murky seaweed of culture and language, but also for the Spirit to work in hearts generationally entrenched against Christ. 

This is one way we remember dependence because we cannot force, negotiate or believe for anyone else. We rely on the work of the Spirit to reveal himself to those around us. So we pray for each other. 

Are we quick to give thanks for others? Do we commit to praying for their spiritual needs?

5 Partners trust

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

The beautiful complexity of human relationship weaves threads of uniqueness and difference with varying colors of preferences and values. Even as we’re united in him, we’re diverse in our skills, experience and passions.

Gospel partnerships trust that God is renewing and transforming each other into his likeness. Rather than critiquing or putting each other down because of our personal preferences, we seek to understand each other through the lens of knowing God is at work through them. With this perspective we become better listeners and better partners, for we have the glory of God in view.

How well do you trust God’s work in the lives of your brothers and sisters in Christ? What could you change to live this out?

Joy in the Unexpected Blessing

In the midst of discomfort, our faith flourished, and we were rewarded with unexpected blessing through the humble, persistent task of raising partners. The feeling of joy and fulfillment washed over us as we witnessed the genuine support and generosity of others.

We’re called as disciples of the Lord Jesus to gospel fellowship, and I pray we grow in valuing these relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, spurring each other on in our calling for the glory of God and the good of others, just as the apostle Paul: For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Rom. 1:11-12).



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