Celebrating Partnership

13 December 2016

On the evening of December 11th, 3 churches from Bristol, Providence, and Cape Cod,  gathered together to celebrate our partnership in the gospel, and to be encouraged toward increased partnership in the coming year. This post is an adaptation from a sermon given by Philip Van Steenburgh, church planting pastor at Grace Harbor Cape Cod. 

In the letter of 3 John, we read about a man named Gaius, who had taken care of some journeying missionaries, even though Gaius didn’t know them personally. John affirms what Gaius did, since these men were his brothers, and their mission to spread the name of Jesus was worthy of support. Then John’s words in verse 8 give the universal application –  become instructive for all God’s people.

“Therefore, we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”

This verse teaches us that we have a responsibility to support Gospel work and Gospel workers.  And there’s a good result that comes from this support – we become partners, or fellow workers in spreading the truth about Jesus. 

This gathering tonight is evidence that we share the kind of Gospel partnership John is talking about. Three separate churches under the same roof, meeting to encourage each other and praise God for bringing us together in the region for Gospel work. By God’s grace, there is a Gospel partnership already formed between us.

Tonight, I’d like to celebrate what God has done with 5 encouragements from our partnership together.

  1. In this partnership, we get a reminder of what Christ did for us at the Cross.

The partnership that we enjoy together is because of Christ’s purpose to make us His people.  Before Christ came and died for us, “partnership” is not a word that applied to our relationship with God.  We were against him, and in hostile relationships with each other.   But Ephesians 2:14-16 tells us how our separation from God was transformed into union with God. 

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 

The benefit of our “togetherness” is one of the many rewards we get from Christ giving his life. 

This is both a joyful and necessary place to begin. Joyful because we have our eyes again set on our Savior who has done everything for us.  Necessary because without union to Christ, our partnership loses its significance and its effectiveness. Unity with God cements and directs our partnership together.

2. We see Christ’s commitment to carry His Gospel to all ends of the earth.

The mission Christ gave to his apostles was to take the Gospel out, and as it went the rule and kingdom of Christ grew. This kingdom extends as Gospel proclamation leads to Christians created by the Gospel who then come together as Gospel churches. 

The Holy Spirit and the promise and power of God’s Word is our assurance that Christ is committed to his mission among us. Percentages of the unevangelized around us may discourage us, the unwillingness of friends, family, and neighbors to listen to the Gospel may dishearten us.  But there is proof here that the Spirit and the Word are at work in Providence, Bristol, and Cape Cod.

3. The love OF Christ, and the love FOR Christ is alive among us. 

This week, I overheard my wife teaching our 3-year old son about sacrifice – and that when we give up things that we really want in order to good others, that is real love. A good litmus test for the “realness” of our love is how much sacrifice there is in it. 

Sacrificial love seems to be what John commends in Gaius. He didn’t know these brothers, but he welcomed them, supported them – loved them, as verse 6 says.  Gaius’s love for Christ, and for the spread of Christ’s truth, led Gaius to love Christ’s truth-carriers.   

Gospel partnerships trade on the currency of sacrificial love shown through mutual support.  Praise God for how Christ’s love – self-sacrificial love in perfect form  – is living among us. 

4. We are sharing the rewards of our Gospel partnership.

John tells Gaius that there is a sweet reward that comes from partnership.  He says in the second half of verse 8 – “that we may be fellow workers for the truth.”  It’s as if John is saying – “Do you realize that when we support people who are working for Christ, WE GET to be part of the work they’re doing?!  We get in on that!”  Partnership is a tremendous privilege, because it pulls us into more opportunities of making Christ known, and seeing lives changed as Christ is known. 

For the last 3 years, my family has been living in Dubai, where I was helping pastor an international church.  In order to do that, we raised financial support – which was not something I ever thought I would do.  When we first started that process, I needed help thinking through how to think about fund-raising.  One of my friends offered me this advice, which transformed my perspective:  He told me that raising support for missions is not a sales pitch, it is an invitation.  You are telling people how God is glorifying Himself in another part of the world, how He is redeeming people from sin, and how He is shining the light of His Gospel through His church – and then you are extending an invitation to them to be part of the team. 

When we pray, when we give, when we hear from our partners of God’s work and lift up praise to God – we are actively taking part in the work our partners are involved in!

So, if you’re discouraged tonight because you feel like your individual labors aren’t doing much for the spread of God’s kingdom, I hope you’ll see that as a part of your church, invested in this partnership, the fruit you see is fruit you helped work for. 

Sharing other people’s work for Jesus brings joy and encouragement, and can be a wonderful motivation to us to dive deeper into partnerships that will bring more of those rewards. 

5. Jesus is receiving glory.

John encouraged Gaius to support Gospel partners because of the mission those men were on.  He says in verse 7, “they went out for the sake of the name.” These missionaries wanted Christ’s name to be known wider and wider. Think about the many ways Jesus gets glory from the Gospel going out:   

  • When we live our lives to make him known – people see Jesus is more valuable to us than our own ambitions.
  • When we share His Gospel, Jesus is glorified – his act of obedience, death, and resurrection, deserves recognition and admiration for the greatest act of humility, love, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, justice, that ever was!
  • Jesus is glorified in our reliance on the power of the Gospel to save sinners.  When we tell the lost the good news, we glorify Jesus by trusting Him to use His Word, as He promised, more than we fear how people will respond.
  • And of course, Jesus is glorified when sinners repent and praise Christ for His grace to them, and willingly and joyfully submit their lives to His lordship. 

This partnership we have in New England is centered on the hope that by linking arms with each other – Jesus will be known more, and so receive even more glory.  Praise God for how he has already used us to shine the spotlight on Christ.  We pray for more and more glory for Jesus through our partnership. 

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