As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he was a prisoner. His aim was to encourage a church that he loved. As is typically the case, Paul also corrected some problems in the church that had arisen which was hindering their ministry and fracturing their unity.
As Paul was coming to a close, he made the following statement:
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 1Philippians 4:14–16
Paul commended the church’s sacrificial gifts that had sustained Paul in his time of need. However, it’s worth noting that Paul stated that no other church was willing to help Paul early on in his ministry. However, the young church plant in Philippi was willing to officially partner with him in gospel ministry.
Paul was a lightening rod. Wherever he traveled for ministry, he oftentimes ended up in the jail or was the center of controversy through riots and upheaval as a direct result of his gospel preaching. The church at Philippi was willing to be identified with Paul. For that, Paul was extremely grateful.
Partnerships and Marks of Identity
When we partner with individuals or ministries, in a sense we are giving our seal of approval. This can be the case as a church sends offerings to missionaries in other countries who are laboring to preach the gospel and plant churches in hard locations. It’s also true of churches who partner with parachurch ministries or evangelical denominations. Partnerships matter.
In recent years we have witnessed much change within evangelicalism in America. In 2018, the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel was a true fault line that divided ministry partnerships. As things continued to develop with social justice, COVID-19 rocked the world. In many ways, the fault lines of social justice also determined how churches responded to COVID-19 creating more division and separation.
We must approach partnerships in gospel ministry carefully. When we place our seal of approval upon a partner in ministry, we are communicating something to a broader circle of churches and evangelical ministries. This is precisely why our church exited the Southern Baptist Convention at the end of 2021. For us as a local church to continue to partner at any level with a network of churches and ministries that was committed to error and was unwilling to receive correction on major issues would be a violation of our conscience and it would serve to further legitimize failed leadership.
I can recall my grandmother correcting me for something I had done wrong as a boy. I had been with a group of friends who were acting inappropriately. Although I had done nothing wrong, I was grouped with my my friends and punished too. My grandmother said, “Son, always remember, birds of a feather flock together.” That little lesson taught me much about life.
In my role as president of G3 Ministries, I have had to make the call to decline requests for specific ministries and educational institutions to be included in our exhibit hall at our national conference. We have had men speak in our conference in the past who are not invited back to the pulpit in our conferences for various reasons. If we welcome ministries into our exhibit hall or preachers to our pulpit, at some level it is perceived as us platforming those ministries and placing our seal of approval upon them. Due to these major fault lines, we have had to separate ourselves from specific ministries as a result of ongoing capitulation.
Is separation a bad thing? We must remember that truth separates. In fact, in Luke 12, Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”2Luke 12:51 While we must avoid a separatist approach to ministry that forces division on all secondary matters. We can be charitable with people with whom we disagree so long as it’s not an issue or ideology that attacks the truth or alters the gospel.
For instance, we can partner with individuals with various differences of eschatology. If we are planting churches through a network, the level of agreement must be much closer in nature. In such cases, Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians will likely not be working together for church planting projects. However, if we are coming together in a conference setting, Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians who disagree on significant matters of doctrine can work together to preach the gospel and encourage local churches.
In gospel ministry, we must evaluate our partnerships and consider that we are being identified with our partners and our partners are being identified with us.
Partnerships and Financial Stewardship
Paul addressed the church at Philippi and commended them for their financial partnership. The church at Philippi determined that their financial investment in Paul’s ministry was a good investment. It was used as fuel for his gospel labor and he communicated that to the church.
When we stand before the Lord of glory, we will give an account of how we used our finances. Did we waste the treasure that the Lord entrusted to us? Did we invest it well? As I stated previously, our local church separated from the SBC because we believe that our financial giving matters. When we invest our money and where we invest our money for the work of gospel ministry should be taken seriously. That goes for all churches regardless of size and financial contribution. However, to engage in SBC politics is a “pay-to-play” system. We did not believe that it was wise to give of our finances in order to play in the political arena.
It would be wise for every pastor and every local church to evaluate how the money is being used within their local church for partnerships in gospel ministry. Commenting on 2 Corinthians 8-9, John MacArthur stated that “stewardship with integrity, then, is marked by voluntary, faithful giving, proportionate to what one has, in submission to godly pastors who silence the critics by handling the money faithfully. It is motivated by exemplary love for God and others, and is completely free from selfish greed and covetousness. All giving must be measured by those noble standards.”3John MacArthur, 2 Corinthians, Moody Publishers, 2003, 309-310.
It is not sinful to reorganize your church’s giving practices and separate from ministries that have compromised. In fact, it would be sinful to invest finances in ministries that capitulate and misuse finances or support leaders who have failed. To continue giving to a denomination or a ministry simply because of emotional attachment with the knowledge that the ministry or denomination has failed is to misuse the treasure entrusted to your care. Be a good steward of your finances and use it for the glory of God.