There is nothing on earth like serving Jesus. The only thing better is serving Jesus alongside partners in the gospel. This lesson I learned early on in ministry.
During my first full-time pastorate, I stood at the bedside of Lloyd Mahanes at the Sayre Christian Village Assisted Living in Lexington, KY. At 86 years old with labored breathing, he managed to give me a piece of spiritual truth that would stay with me for the rest of my ministry. You see, I was a brand new pastor at Boone’s Creek Baptist. The man lying in this bed had pastored this church for 33 years (1940-1973). He had become a mentor to me over the previous six months but it was clear he would see Jesus soon. As I leaned in, this is what he told me:
“Remind the church they are partners in the gospel!”
I promised him I would. I reminded them for the next eight years as we partnered with churches and missions organizations until God gave me a new assignment as Lead Pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church (ARBC) in Centennial where I have pastored the last twelve years. At his funeral, I was reminded of Philippians 1:3-6:
“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. 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.” (Philippians 1:3-6).
We need each other. God never intended for churches to serve Jesus by themselves. Why do we shy away from gospel partnerships?
For ARBC, doors have been opened to Trinidad and Tobago (for pastors workshops, school ministries, and church planting), Hungary (partnering with IMB and Josiah Venture missionaries), Sugar City (assisting Eddie Nicandro and Hands of God Ministries in food distribution), and now partnering with Credo Homeschool Cooperative who meets every Thursday in our church building.
We need each other. God never intended for churches to serve Jesus by themselves. Why do we shy away from gospel partnerships? Could it be that you don’t think your church is big enough to help? Could it be that we want to try to show everyone we can make an impact without help? Could it be that asking for help in partnership means that this invalidates our own ministries? Could it be that we just don’t want other churches or ministries messing with our stuff?
We are not a large church by most metrics. Yet, thankfully God does not call us to be gospel partners if you meet a man-made metric. He calls us to partner. Period. Why? Paul helps us from the passage above.
Partnerships Keep Us Thankful
Christians in general and pastors specifically struggle with loneliness. Most of the conversations I have surrounding depression and anxiety stem from a feeling of loneliness. When you feel you are on an island trying to accomplish work for the King of kings and Lord of lords, that is a heavy burden to bear no matter how strong your spiritual life is.
Having partnerships gives us a lifeline—gospel friendships fueled by gospel work! So when the loneliness and anxiety hit and Satan tempts you to think that you are all alone, God will bring those partnerships to mind. Then, you can echo what Paul told his beloved Philippian brothers and sisters, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” God provides the gift of partnerships to fill our tank up with thankfulness.
when the loneliness and anxiety hit and Satan tempts you to think that you are all alone, God will bring those partnerships to mind
Partnerships Fuel our Prayers with Joy
Paul was a man of prayer—and the Philippians helped make those prayers joyful. “… always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” In a recent article Zack Thurman, Pastor of Overland Church in Fort Collins, wrote about how God put Colorado on his heart by connecting his church in Kentucky with our church for a youth mission trip here in 2015. Our church prayed with joy that Zack’s team from Buck Run Baptist in Frankfort was coming to help us. Then when we heard he was coming to set up gospel work in Fort Collins, our joy was doubled. Who knew that that partnership of a week-long youth trip to help with a VBS camp and construction would turn into this? Oh wait—God did! And more joy ensued!
That’s a big piece of gospel partnership—blessing each other.
Gospel Partnerships Help Complete Christ’s Work in Us
The gospel partnerships in which we have engaged over the years has helped in our spiritual formation. Personally, I’ve had a long relationship with a Baptist church in Trinidad and Tobago. Roddie Taylor has pastored that church for over 30 years and I have taken 14 missions trips and over 40 people to that church over the last 20 years (with hopefully more to come). Each of our people have benefitted from their interactions with other believers in those cultures.
One encounter with Pastor Taylor sticks out most in my memory—a memory that drove home that partnership understanding. In 2008, I went there for a rare trip by myself to help with some ministry matters. Toward the end, Pastor Taylor and the church gave me a gift. When he presented it to me in his office, I told him I couldn’t take it. “I didn’t come here with any gift in mind; I just wanted to help.” After two or three rounds of back-and-forth, Roddie finally told me, “Matthew Perry—why are you trying to take away our blessing?” He had me. And from then on, whenever someone gives me a gift in gratitude, I take it and say thank you.
That’s a big piece of gospel partnership—blessing each other. And that spiritual formation that takes place in these relationships is one of many ways Christ completes His work in us.
We cannot do everything but we can do something for the cause of Christ. Help others and, should you need it, allow others to help you.
Bloom Where You’re Planted - By Helping Others and Being Helped By Others
God has placed you where He would have you. We are called to serve the churches and ministries we have, not grow distracted because they are not the ministries we wish we had. There are ways we can help each other here in Colorado and around the world. By praying for these ministries, giving to help these ministries have resources for gospel work, and by going to actively help them in that work, we can find ourselves in a spiritually enriching and beneficial gospel partnership.
At our most recent annual meeting, I encountered pastors who asked if our church could help them in their various projects and ministries. Lots of options exist here in our state if we only have ears to hear and eyes to see. We cannot do everything but we can do something for the cause of Christ. Help others and, should you need it, allow others to help you. And one day, when we are all sitting around the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we can come together and be reminded of these relationships that God sovereignly brought into our lives. We will have much in which to rejoice, to be sure, but those gospel partnerships will add much to that chorus of praise.
“Remind the church they are partners in the gospel.” I was reminded of this in 2003. I’m thankful to see this truth in action and remind you of it in 2023.