As a pastor, how you know and love your fellow leaders could make the difference between success or failure in ministry. The Apostle Paul presents a superior example for us in this area. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to the Colossian church to encourage them in their faith and to make a stand for orthodox Christology. Since he had never been to Colossae, he sent them a kind of verbal “group photo” of his band of workers (Col 4:7-14). And in this group photo, we find Paul’s excellent example of how he knew and loved the leaders who served with him.
KNOW YOUR LEADERS
You cannot love well those you do not know well. We see from Paul’s “group photo” that he knew his leaders thoroughly.
Tychicus the Trustworthy
“As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts…” (Col 4:7-8)
Tychicus was the letter carrier and messenger to the churches of Ephesus and carried Paul’s letter to Titus. He even carried Paul’s last letter ever—his second letter to Timothy. He apparently had an ability to connect with believers so Paul entrusted him with the task of being his representative. But, “all my affairs” has a broader meaning. This is not just news about Paul, but additional instructions and interpretation for the words Paul had written, “that he may encourage your hearts.” Tychicus would have been the public reader of Paul’s letter and he apparently was to give sermonic instruction from the letter. Thus, he was certainly the first man ever to preach from Colossians.
Paul knew Tychicus well. He called him a “beloved brother,” which expresses not only affection but authorization for him to speak for Paul. Paul knew he was faithful in his service to the Lord and referred to him as a “fellow bond-servant” showing that Tychicus displayed sold-out love for Christ. He was the guy who could do the seemingly unimportant, like being a mailman, all the way up to proclaiming and teaching the Scriptures as Paul had taught him. He was a man that Paul completely trusted.
Onesimus the Outstanding
“…and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.” (Col 4:9)
Onesimus was Philemon’s slave and a member of the church at Colossae. He was a young man, likely in his early 20’s. He had run away with stolen property, met Paul, and come to saving faith in Christ. Now he was being sent back to reconcile with Philemon armed with a letter from Paul addressed to Philemon and the whole church teaching on forgiveness. In Paul’s letter to Philemon, Paul calls Onesimus a “beloved brother” and a “son” to Paul—Onesimus had become a key member of the ministry team!
Not only was Tychicus to speak, but the slave Onesimus was to speak as well. He was a slave in the human economy, not to mention a thief. But by God’s gracious providence he repented in faith and now acted as a valued part of Christ’s church being sent home as one of Paul’s representatives.
There are numbers of theories about the future life of Onesimus, but the strongest tradition with the most evidence places him eventually as a pastor in the church of Ephesus and an eventual martyr at the hands of Emperor Trajan. You can sense the fatherly pride that Paul had in Onesimus because of his salvation testimony and his life after salvation in service to the church.
Aristarchus the Audacious
“Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings…” (Col 4:10)
Acts 27 identifies Aristarchus as a Macedonian from Thessalonica. He traveled with Paul on his third missionary journey. He was with Paul during the riots in Ephesus (Acts 19) and was in fact dragged into the theater with fellow Macedonian Christian Gaius. Ephesus was rioting due to the decline in the silver idol trade because so many people were getting saved and Aristarchus was right in the middle of the action! He was likely a volunteer prisoner staying by Paul’s side. Aristarchus was fiercely loyal to Paul. No wonder Paul so valued his service!
Mark the Mature
“…and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him)…” (Col 4:10)
Mark was Barnabas’s cousin and author of the Gospel of Mark. He first appears in Acts 12:12 when believers are meeting in his mother’s house. He joined Paul and Barnabas on their very first missionary journey, about 12–14 years before writing of Colossians. But Acts 15 records that Mark deserted them in Pamphylia. No reason is given in Scripture, but it must not have been a legitimate one in Paul’s eyes because he wouldn’t take him on the second journey.
They would eventually reconcile and at the end of his ministry, Paul called Mark “very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim 4:11). The instruction to “welcome him” shows that he had done something to earn Paul’s trust once again.
Justus the Just
“…and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.” (Col 4:11)
Justus means “upright, honest.” This nickname was given to him because of his character. He was one of three Jewish Christians with Paul of whom he said, “They have been a comfort to me.” Those men were a small living proof that God was not done with the Jews.
Justus had to have made a radical lifestyle change as a believer. He demonstrated the fruit of true repentance and validated the reality of his salvation. His character and reputation of being upright and honest showed the legitimacy of his salvation.
Epaphras the Enthusiastic
“Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Col 4:12-13).
In the opening and closing of the letter Epaphras is significant to the Colossians. He is the founder of the church in Colossae, bringing the gospel there likely after getting saved in Ephesus under Paul’s preaching. Epaphras agonizes in prayer on behalf of the church. He has the heart of a church-planter—burdened for the church to grow in maturity.
Luke the Light-Giver
“Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings…” (Col 4:14)
There is no doubt Luke used his skills as a physician for Paul and wherever they ministered the gospel. It was in his nature to be a care-giver. He was essentially the first medical missionary.
Luke would be the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. By word count he wrote more of the New Testament than even Paul! He is the only gentile writer of any part of Scripture, the great historian of the faith, writing the first and only inspired church history. He was highly intelligent, noted by scholars for his considerable literary skill and artistry. How did Luke use his intelligence? To be a support and encouragement to Paul, to serve those around him with his skills, and to take the time to proclaim the light of the gospel.
This “group photo” would have been just about perfect. But if such a photo actually existed, the last one in the picture would make everyone else groan in regret and disappointment…
Demas the Discontent
“…and also Demas.” (Col 4:14)
When Paul wrote Colossians, he was proud to have Demas on the ministry team. But, we have the benefit of being able see how things play out. Even in this text, there may be a hint of difficulty since every other leader is given some sort of character description. Perhaps Paul was heeding his mother’s admonition that if you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say it at all?
Sadly just a few years later Paul writes, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica (2 Tim 4:10). Anyone in ministry for any length of time has experienced a Demas. It is the single hardest thing to endure in gospel ministry—the discontented leader or church member.
So, in these few verses, Paul makes it apparent that he knew his men. In ministry we all interact with current leadership or leaders we are developing. You need to know them. You should be able to look at a group photo and give detailed descriptions of them. Their families, triumphs, heartaches, strengths, and weaknesses. But it is not enough to know them. You must also love them.
LOVE YOUR LEADERS
Loving your leaders starts with an attitude of vulnerability. This means taking risks and deciding to be real. Allow your heart to be knitted together with the hearts of others with whom you serve Christ.
We can see in Scripture that Paul was vulnerable in his relationships with Mark and Demas. He left himself open to the risk of being hurt. For Paul, it ended up working out with Mark, but with Demas, Paul was left with the hurt of the lost relationship.
Loving your leaders starts with an attitude of vulnerabilitySometimes we try to prevent ourselves from being emotionally hurt. We do this by keeping our distance or maintaining a somewhat professional relationship rather than true, real relationship. But a lack of vulnerability can actually make you more susceptible to failure. When ministry gets challenging, you won’t have the vital depth of relationship to stand upon and you may find yourself in a conflict instead of a discussion.
Your love for your leaders should be a living picture of Christ’s love at the cross. That love will be contagious and they will in turn love those around them, thus replicating your love for them and Christ’s love for all of you.
I exhort you to take time to develop 3–5 action items with which you will know your leaders and love your leaders.