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 servant 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 of that quality and took on the likeness of humankind. As a man He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death; dying for all of us on a cross. We believe that for His faithfulness to God the Father, God has now highly exalted Him so that when the Name of Jesus is spoken every knee, in every place, will bow and every tongue will 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). (If you're interested in seeing pictures of ancient Philippi, check out http://www.bibleplaces.com/philippi/).
In its earliest days of the church, 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 when persecution in Jerusalem moved these believers out of the Temple and as the Gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire, its outreach came to include 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 church writings we have called 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, rites such as baptism and community building activities such as breaking bread together served to define the fledgling 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 a (shall we say) 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 a higher social status for women was not as common then as 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 they 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 you 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 asking you to do to change it (Phil. 1:3-6; 2:12-16; 8:17; 4:4-9)?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https:www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre