It's a Team Sport
I remember once, a person leaving church, pointing out how they were tired of all the sports analogies. I appreciate they can get tiresome.
Let’s consider a list: sport teams, choirs, symphonies, marching bands... What other groups can you think of where people offer their individual gifts/labors and add them to the larger group?
In addition to the above, I can think of most jobs, the military, and church! Yes, the church.
The point is that we follow Jesus individually AND as part of a group—the church.
At times, people have a negative image of the church. To counter that, you will hear others qualify the word church, apologizing for the church. They will draw distinctions between the institutional church and some less formal group of Christ-followers.
I get it—being in a group is hard. Consider the examples that started at the top of this reflection. I expect that when you think about groups like these, you can think of some great, and some not-so-great, teams-choirs-bands-employers—and churches. Either from personal experience, or stories in the news.
Groups may disappoint us… big time. The answer, however, is not to withdraw. Following Jesus doesn’t work that way. We are part of Him—along with all the others who are following.
In the verses today, we see Paul really building these men up and encouraging the church to welcome them. Do you think they were perfect? I don’t. It seems from the text that the people at Philippi know them. I expect if they know them, then they have both positive and negative experiences with them (that’s just life; no one is perfect, except Jesus). Paul, in his letter, is challenging folks to receive them with a positive attitude—why?
Because following Jesus, being church, is a team effort. They need Timothy and Epaphroditus—and Timothy and Epaphroditus need them.
Understanding this isn’t hard, it is a simple concept—yet it is hard to put into action.
Don’t throw these verses away. Sit with them. Chew on how you are doing when it comes to being part of the church. Go back and re-read all of chapter 1 and 2, and then think about where your heart is regarding your church—and talk to God about it in prayer.