Recently I was reading through Philippians 4, and I was struck by how practical Paul’s advice is to the church at Philippi. In fact, mostly I’ve thought of these promptings as having value on a personal level, but it occurred to me this time around that those exhortations were given to a church.
They are important not only on a personal level, but for church ministry as well.
There were four main things Paul shared in this passage that struck me as necessary for church communities. I believe these 4 things will help us do ministry well.
1. Unconditional Joy
Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” If you’re like me, you’ve heard this passage dozens of times in your Christian walk. Well, this time around a few things stood out to me.
First, I noticed that the passage doesn’t say, “always be full of joy in your circumstances.” It says, “always be full of joy in the Lord.” In other words, even when our circumstances are trying or difficult in some way, we’re still called to be joyful. This can be difficult, of course, but is so important to the long term health and success of a community.
Also, I noticed that the very next verse reads, “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.” Usually, we stop quoting after the first verse, so when I read the second one I started wondering why Paul would include those two thoughts together. How are they connected? That’s when I realized:
Whether I choose to complain about my circumstances or be joyful, I’m impacting those around me. My call to choose joy isn’t just personally important. It’s communally important.
My attitudes affect those around me.
What would it look for us to be considerate, to be full of joy in the Lord—not just as individuals—but as a community of Jesus followers? Are you doing a good job of leading your people in rejoicing? Are you doing a good job of rejoicing yourself?
2. A Peaceful Heart
Paul goes on to say: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (v. 6, NLT).
If you’ve ever been involved in ministry in any capacity, I think you can attest to the fact that it can be taxing, confusing, and a little bit chaotic.
To be effective in ministry, you need to be able to flex with last minute changes, to stay focused in the midst of confusion, and ultimately to maintain a heart of peace even when you aren’t sure how things are going to turn out.
Thankfully, Paul gives us a really clear directive for how to do this: pray.
3. Focused Thoughts
In addition to prayer, the other thing pastors and church leaders need in order to stay on track in their ministry (especially in times of confusion, busy-ness or transition) is focused thoughts. The more focused the leader is toward the vision and mission, the more focused the team and congregation will be.
Paul teaches us how to keep a laser-like focus. He says:
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (v. 8, NLT)
How often does this actually take place in a church community? Wouldn’t you say, most often, we tend to focus on what’s dramatic, what’s unfair, what’s broken, what’s frustrating, what needs to change, what we don’t agree with, and what everyone else is saying about it?
What if we changed our focus? I have a feeling we’d change the reality we’re manifesting around us.
4. A Gospel Mindset About Money
Too often, we find ourselves thinking about money in a way that Paul and the early church never thought about money. Paul thanks the church in Philippi for their generous gift and praises the Lord they were concerned for him.
Then he says:
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (v. 11-12, NLT)
When I read this, I realize Paul has tapped into an attitude about money all Christians would benefit to remember, especially those of us who are in full-time ministry: we can be content with plenty or with little. The gifts we receive are ultimately from the Lord, not from people.
God will provide for all of our needs.