Article 2019-02 More Co-Workers
Chapter 52: More Co-Workers
Paul’s team grew from 2 to 12, and so the Holy Spirit brought balance between local and foreign ministry. Of 22 other workers only Demas fell away. Today’s church fails to recruit enough new missionaries. The church’s spending on international missions is pathetic. When this does not change, we won’t see the great commission finished. What can we learn from Paul’s example, when we want to change this?
Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila … They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila … Apollos … was a great help to those who by grace had believed … He sent … Erastus to Macedonia … (Acts 18:18,19,27; 19:22)
It all started with John Mark’s ‘desertion’ and the resulting conflict between Paul and Barnabas. From that time, with the temporary disappearance of one would-be missionary, the band of missionaries grew. The facts are almost hidden between the lines of Paul’s missionary journey stories, but they’re there nevertheless! First of all, John Mark was not lost for the mission field; he was just re-deployed under Barnabas’ leadership. Paul had chosen Silas and together they recruited Timothy. Although we haven’t heard from him for a while, we must not forget Titus, who had already worked with Paul before the latter started his first missionary journey with Barnabas and Mark. Luke, the silent witness and recorder of it all, has to be counted as a full-fledged missionary himself. The fruit of his ministry would be of equal significance in comparison to that of his preaching colleagues. How many missionaries would Luke have recruited, by writing his book of Acts? Only eternity will tell!
The next couple of co-workers were a Jewish/Christian couple that had been expelled from Rome by emperor Claudius. Their names were Aquila and his wife Priscilla. They were tent-makers, a trade that Paul had also learned in his young years. Paul worked side-by-side with them, first in their secular profession and later in ministry. When Paul left Corinth for Antioch, he traveled with them via Ephesus and left them there to minister. When he was in Antioch, these new colleagues in Ephesus met a believing Jew from Alexandria, Apollos. He knew the Scriptures well, had the gift of teaching and was good at defending the Christian faith. Aquila and Priscilla had no trouble recognizing that Apollos would be an asset to ‘St. Paul’s World Missions Team’. They invited him into their home and told him all about Paul and his teaching, which enriched Apollos greatly.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles … Greet Urbanus, our fellow-worker … (Rom. 16:7,9)
The story, continued
When Paul is in Ephesus, after starting his third missionary journey, he trained another co-worker, Erastus, whom he later sends on a mission to Greece with Timothy. Other people that worked with Paul, and who he himself called ‘apostles’, were Andronicus and his wife Junia who were Jews from Corinth, and Epaphroditus from Philippi. It doesn’t stop there, because the ones who were not called ‘apostles’ played their role as brothers, co-workers and deacons. Their names have been recorded: Achaicus, Apphia, Archippus, Aristarchus, Clement, Demas, Euodia, Syntyche, Fortunatus, Justus, Mary, Onesimus, Persis, Phoebe, Quartus, Sosthenes, Stephanas, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Urbanus. Paul calls them ‘fellow-slaves’, ‘partners’, ‘toilers’, ‘fellow-soldiers’ and ‘fellow-prisoners’.
Is it not beautiful to realize that your name and mine plus hundreds of thousands of others, have been added to that list in the mean time? It is written in one of God’s books and will be opened when the time has come to receive our reward!
It is hard to miss the message: Paul recruited co-workers all the time. He chose them in dialogue with the Holy Spirit’s vocation on their lives, which he recognized. He was an inspiring example to them, never demanding a price from them that he was not willing to pay himself. He showed them how he worked, then watched them do the same work and eventually sent them out on their own, just like Jesus did. Nobody else in the original apostolic team of twelve recruited and trained new missionaries.
Isn’t it weird, that when Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey, twelve apostles served a population of three million Jews, and just two for the rest of the world?!
That situation is symptomatic of today’s church practice: the vast majority of the church does nothing about local evangelism and even less about cross-cultural missions.
Missionaries on the field perform their ministerial tasks, almost to the total exclusion of recruiting and training disciples to succeed them in world missions. Worldwide, the church’s financial spending pattern shows the pathetic little sum of less than one percent of its income being used to evangelize unreached people groups. If the church continues like that, it will be a long time before the great commission is finished. Let’s go back to the missionary methods, as exemplified by Jesus and Paul, if we want to see true progress in world missions.
Discussion & dialogue
- Did YOU make plans – in addition to your own ministry – to select, train and send new missionaries to areas where the gospel has not yet been made available?