How’s this for an imaginary webpage? Welcome to the Church at Philippi~ where the breadth of the Gospel lives! Our history: we began as a small gathering of believers who met by the Krenides River to pray. Our fellowship grew tremendously after a traveling evangelist named Paul and his entourage arrived. We then moved to the home of Lydia the dye-maker for weekly study and prayer. No matter what walk of life you find yourself in- from slave to civil employee to wealthy business owner, you are welcome to join us! Our statement of faith: We strive to have the same attitude as Christ, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be held tightly and instead emptied Himself, taking on the likeness of humankind. As a man He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. We believe that for His faithfulness to God the Father, God has now highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. So at the name of Jesus every knee, in every place, will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father! (Phil. 2:5-11) Our Ministries: We are actively proclaiming the Gospel in the forum and market place and also have a vibrant prison ministry. We believe everyone, male and female is called to serve in the cause of the Gospel. See our ministry leaders Epaphroditus, Clement, Euodia or Syntyche for further details (Phil. 2: 25-30; 4:2-3) or join us for our weekly gathering at Lydia’s Place on the Via Egnatia (Acts 16:15, 40).*
In its earliest days, the community of believers was basically comprised of Jews who’d come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. As devout Jews they continued their association with the Temple and the practice of Jewish prayer. But that changed with persecution which drove these believers out of the Temple and the spread of the Gospel to the Gentiles. We can see in passages such as Acts 2:42; 5:42; 11:26 and 13:1 that the first generation believers gathered to remember and discuss Jesus’ sayings as well as to reflect on the Scriptures and what they meant in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (Lk. 24:25-27, 44-45; Acts 8:32; 17:2-3, 11). Prayer played an important role in these gatherings too with the Lord’s Prayer holding a prominent place (Mt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4). Matthew’s version is found in one of the earliest Christian non-Biblical writings we have, the Didache (teachings). Expressions like “Father”, “Maranatha” and “Amen” were part of formalized prayer (Rom. 8:15; 1 Cor. 14:16; Gal. 4:6). Besides fixed forms of prayer, there were also heartfelt, spontaneous prayers as well (Acts 4:24-30; 12; 5; 13; 3). Along with prayer, rites such as baptism and community building activities such as breaking bread together served to define the fledging church as an entity in the world they lived in. Against incredible odds due to cultural pressure, the church grew just as Jesus said it would (Mt. 16:17-18).
The church at Philippi is a great example of how the early believers drew from their culture and interacted with it. For example, while many purport that there is (shall we say) a “pecking order” of sorts within the church (men, women, then children), Scripture and early church writings prove otherwise. Even within the Roman culture women were able to attain positions of prominence and authority. While it’s true it was not as common as we might say it is today, it was more common than some are willing to admit! Women in Philippi were responsible for the initial gathering of believers (Acts 16:13), spreading the Gospel (Phil.4:2-3) and for providing a home where the believers could meet to hear Paul teach (Acts 16:15, 40).
The benchmark of the Philippian church was its attitude of love. It was demonstrated in a number of ways, but most significantly in the sacrificial gift that was sent to minister to Paul while he was imprisoned in Ephesus (Phil. 1: 8-9; 4:10-19). How are you participating in the ministry (ministries) of your church? Does your church have an attitude of love like that of the Philippian church when it comes to supporting those who proclaim the Gospel? Does your congregation illustrate the breadth of the Gospel and welcome people from a wide variety of backgrounds? If so, great! If not, what is the Lord telling you to do to change it (Phil. 1: 3-6; 2: 12-16; 3: 8-17; 4: 4-9)?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 3/5/2017
* Pictures of Ancient Philippi can be viewed here: http://www.bibleplaces.com/philippi/