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Philemon Series: Marks of Effective Ministers (Phm 1:1-7)

Updated: Mar 20

Marks of Effective Ministers

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Philemon 1:1-7 (NET)

What are marks of effective ministers? In Philemon 1:1-7, we see the introduction of Paul’s letter to Philemon. Word of Philemon’s faith in Christ and love for all saints had reached Paul’s prison cell in Rome; therefore, Paul thanked God for him all the time (v. 4). Philemon was a wealthy landowner in the Colossian church. In fact, his house was so big one of the Colossian churches met there (v. 2). Because of Philemon’s generosity and ministry to others, Paul said this in verse 7: “I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.” Obviously, Philemon’s home was like an oasis in the desert where people came to be refreshed. Philemon was a faithful and effective minister of Christ. From Paul’s words about Philemon, we can discern characteristics of an effective minister. However, they are not only discerned from Philemon but also from Paul who was at this time imprisoned in Rome for his witness for Christ.

Intro to Philemon

What is the letter of Philemon about? The letter to Philemon is very unique amongst Paul’s letters to churches and individuals. Paul wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament epistles and in all but four of them, Paul begins those letters declaring his apostleship (Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). This was a means of establishing his authority to say what he was about to say in those letters. However, with Philemon, Paul does not do that. This was a very personal letter between two friends. Paul calls Philemon his “dear friend and colaborer” (v. 1). Paul had never been to the church in Colosse (cf. Col 2:1); however, he had met many of its members during his missionary journeys. In fact, it is believed that people who accepted Christ during those journeys, and maybe specifically at Ephesus, founded the church (cf. Acts 19:10, 20, 26, Col 1:6-8). More than likely, Philemon was a convert from Paul’s ministry at Ephesus as well. Maybe referring to this, in Philemon 1:19, Paul said that Philemon owed him his very life. Probably soon after his conversion, Philemon returned to Colosse and helped establish and minister to the church, along with Epaphras, one of the main pastors there (Col 1:7, 4:12, Phile 1:23). Paul’s purpose in writing this letter was to petition on behalf of a runaway slave named Onesimus. Onesimus means “useful” or “profitable.” He at some point ran away from his master Philemon. We don’t know why he ran, but maybe there was some type of conflict between them. Onesimus ran to Rome, probably to disappear, in the great crowds there, and he might have stolen some of Philemon’s money to do so (cf. v. 18). While in Rome, he somehow in God’s providence ran into Paul. Maybe, he heard about the great crowds that were gathering to hear the apostle preach from his rented house while he was under house arrest. He had heard of Paul through his master and decided to visit. While hearing the gospel, he was convicted, repented of his sins, and became a follower of Christ. He then became indispensable to Paul by serving him and meeting his needs (v. 11-13). Though Onesimus was a tremendous help to Paul, Paul knew that Onesimus had committed a crime by running away from his master. Paul wrote the letter to Philemon to ask him to take Onesimus back but not only as a servant but a Christian brother in the faith (v. 16). Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus as if he were Paul and if he had stolen anything to charge it to Paul’s account (v. 17-18). Paul was confident because of Philemon’s character that he would fulfill his request and even more so (v. 20). Some speculate that after Onesimus returned eventually he was set free from being a slave and many years later became the bishop of the Church of Ephesus, as the bishop there shared the same name.

Slavery in the Rome

As a note on slavery, though slavery is an injustice against humanity and is often based on prejudice and racial discrimination, that was not necessarily true of slavery in the Roman world. There were slaves of every race. Because of the tremendous differences in wealth between the rich and the poor, slavery was at times preferred over being a free person. Slaves typically were more comfortable than day workers who lived off of what they earned in a day. Slaves had housing and food provided. Often, they were educated to make them better workers, and some even received wages. Certainly, they were commonly mistreated and abused by their masters, but many had good relationships with them and preferred to stay with them. With that said, one of the radical changes that came with Christianity in the ancient world was the teaching that all people were equal, including slaves and masters. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Because of this teaching, people might visit churches and find that a slave was the primary teaching elder there and that slaves, masters, and other free persons intermingled as family. Therefore, though Christianity never tried to overthrow slavery as an institution, it taught principles that eventually led to its demise. All people are equal before God, and we should treat people the way we want to be treated (Matt 7:12). It also regulated the institution by teaching that masters were accountable before God for how they treated their slaves and that slaves should honor their masters (Col 3:22-4:1). Because of these teachings, Christian slaves began to go for higher prices on the slave market because of their submission to masters as a way to honor God. Their witness demonstrated the beauty of the Christian message and helped spread the gospel throughout the empire (Tit 2:9-10).

As mentioned, as we consider Philemon 1:1-7, we can discern marks of effective ministers from Philemon, whom Paul praises in the introduction for his character and good works, but also from the apostle Paul himself. We must give deep thought to them and implement them in our lives, so we can be more effective in our ministry to Christ and others.

Big Question: What marks of effective ministers can be discerned from considering Philemon 1:1-7?

Effective Ministers Are Willing to Suffer for Christ and Others

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer,

Philemon 1:1

In verse 1, Paul calls himself a prisoner of Christ Jesus. He was at this time imprisoned in Rome because of his ministry to Gentiles. Though imprisoned because of the Jews’ anger at his message, Paul did not see himself as their prisoner or the Roman Emperor’s. He was Christ’s prisoner. In fact, Paul suffered throughout his ministry for Christ. When Christ originally appeared to Paul in a vision to call him to apostleship, he specifically showed Paul how much he would suffer for his name. Christ said this to Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:15-16:

But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.

Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul described much of the sufferings he experienced throughout his ministry. He said,

Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches.

This is the reality of following Christ. In following him, there will always be a cost. In Luke 14:26-27, Christ said:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

There will always be difficulties in following Christ, and we must bear them willingly. It’s a characteristic of an effective minister. Faithfulness has a cost, and every true servant bears it. Sometimes it means being considered weird or different because of our views or beliefs in an antagonistic society. Sometimes it results in physical suffering. First Peter 4:3-4 says,

For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to do what the non-Christians desire. You lived then in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, carousing, drinking bouts, and wanton idolatries. So they are astonished when you do not rush with them into the same flood of wickedness, and they vilify you.

Effective ministers will experience some form of suffering—some form of our Lord’s cross—and Jesus promises blessings to those who do. He says,

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.

Matthew 5:11-12

Effective ministers willingly suffer for Christ and others. Practically, that may mean staying up late to care for someone hurting, getting up early to serve those in need, or simply bearing the emotional pain of caring for somebody who is hurting or making bad decisions. There is a cost to ministry. Paul’s cost meant being in jail for four years, two in Caesarea and two in Rome. Are we willing to bear the cost of ministering to others?

Application Question: Would you say that persecution towards Christians is growing or lessening? In what ways have you experienced suffering for your faith or in caring for others? How does God use Christian suffering for the good?

Effective Ministers Submit to God’s Sovereignty in All Situations

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer,

Philemon 1:1

As mentioned, Paul calls himself a prisoner of Christ, not of the Jews or the Romans. He was in prison because Christ allowed it—Christ was his captor. Paul saw Christ as in total control of his circumstances, even over his persecutors.

We see this attitude in many of God’s faithful servants. When Job’s flocks and camels were kidnapped by raiders, he didn’t blame them. He saw God as in control. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!”(Job 1:21). When Joseph’s brothers begged for mercy for selling him into slavery, he said, “What you meant for bad, God meant for good” (Gen 50:20, paraphrase).

These servants saw God as sovereign over everything, even the workings of evil men and Satan himself. This is important because if God’s servants don’t see him as sovereign, they often become bitter when bad things happen. They focus on their own failures, the evil works of men, and the evil works of the enemy, and they lose focus on God.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.” Bitterness in the heart causes people to miss God’s grace in their circumstances, and it also causes trouble and defiles many. Instead of being bitter, faithful servants see God’s sovereignty over everything and can even rejoice in their trials (cf. 1 Thess 5:18, Phil 4:4). Paul knew he was a prisoner of Christ—not of Rome or the Jews.

Do we see God as in control of all things? Our God holds the king’s heart in his hand like a watercourse (Prov 21:1). Even the roll of the dice is of him (Prov 16:33). Our God is sovereign, and he works all things for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28). Apart from seeing God as in control of our trials and submitting to him, trials will typically cause bitterness in our hearts towards God or others and hinder our ministry. Effective ministers submit to God’s sovereignty in all situations, including trials, because they see him in control of all things, and they trust him.

Application Questions: How can God be in control of all things including evil and yet creatures make free choices (cf. Eph 1:11, Is 45:7)? Do you find God’s sovereignty over all things, including evil comforting or disturbing (cf. Rom 8:28-29)? Why or why not?

Effective Ministers Develop Strategic Ministry Relationships and Christian Friendships

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house.

Philemon 1:1-2

One of the things that is clear about Paul’s ministry is that he was no lone ranger. Though extremely gifted, he relied on others to complete the tasks God called him to. At the beginning and end of his letters, he commonly greeted friends in the cities he wrote to and mentioned those with him. In fact, at the end of Romans, he mentioned thirty-three people by name. Likewise, here at the beginning of Philemon, he mentions some of his partners: Timothy was with Paul in Rome. Though mentioned in the introduction, Timothy was not in prison, nor did he write the letter. Throughout the letter, Paul writes in the first person, as the sole author. Timothy was with Paul in Rome, encouraging him and supporting him in ministry. Paul calls Timothy “our brother” because Philemon and the others at Colosse knew him. Timothy was with Paul in Ephesus when they probably all met. Philemon was a colaborer with Paul serving the churches in Colosse. His name means “affectionate” and apparently that was an appropriate name for him since he was such a caring servant. Apphia was probably Philemon’s wife, and Archippus was a fellow soldier in building God’s kingdom. Some believe that Archippus was Philemon’s son; however, though possible, we can’t be certain about it. He was most likely one of the elders in Colosse. While Epaphras was visiting Paul in prison to get counsel about how to minister to the false teaching and teachers in the Colossian churches (Col 1:7), Archippus may have been the primary elder in the church in his absence. Maybe because of these circumstances, Paul said this about Archippus at the end of Colossians: “And tell Archippus, ‘See to it that you complete the ministry you received in the Lord’” (Col 4:17). These were some of Paul’s ministry partners.

Likewise, to perform effective ministry, we must realize our weaknesses and partner with fellow believers to do God’s work. Even Christ chose not to do ministry alone, he raised up many disciples, including the Twelve (Lk 9) and the Seventy-two (Lk 10) to partner with.

Hindrances to Christian Partnerships

Because of the importance of Christian partnerships in ministry, we must be careful of negative tendencies that might hinder these relationships and the abundant fruit that comes from them. For example:

1. We must avoid the temptation of attempting to do things alone apart from Christ’s body.

Doing things by ourselves will at times be easier, but for most ministries, it’s not a sustainable model. We’ll eventually burn out, and it leaves other church members unequipped because they’re never trained and entrusted to perform ministry. As mentioned, as gifted as Paul was, he didn’t try to do things alone, and neither did Christ. We must learn to rely on others in the body of Christ, especially those with gifts and experiences we don’t have. Solomon, one of the wisest people to ever live, said this:

Two people are better than one, because they can reap more benefit from their labor. For if they fall, one will help his companion up, but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Good friends and ministry partners are necessary to have an effective ministry. There is more productivity from the labor of a few than one. Also, good friends are necessary for protection. If one falls by himself, who will help him up? Ministry, and life in general, are fraught with discouragements and difficulties. We need people to help us get through them. Therefore, we must avoid the temptation of trying to navigate life and ministry alone. God never meant us to do so. In fact, like Paul, we must not only seek to have a multitude of good friends and ministry partners, but we must also invest in others to raise them up for future ministry. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul said this to Timothy: “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.”

2. We must avoid the temptation of becoming discouraged because we look down on our gifts and role in Christ’s body.

In 1 Corinthians 12:15, Paul rebuked some members who were doing this. He said, “If the foot says, ‘Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,’ it does not lose its membership in the body because of that.” God has made all believers different with different roles in the body. First Corinthians 12:18 says, “… God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided.” God has ordered the body perfectly, including our role in it. Therefore, we should be careful of overly exalting others and looking down on ourselves. God has only called us to be faithful with our gifts and the ministry he has given us. If we are discouraged, we will fail at what God has called us to, including partnering with others.

3. We must avoid the temptation of pride where we exalt ourselves and look down on others in Christ’s body.

Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 12:21-22, Paul said this, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor in turn can the head say to the foot, ‘I do not need you.’ On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential.” This person was prideful for how God was using him and therefore despised others. Maybe, like the Pharisees, he took every opportunity to use his gifts in public so others would admire him, and like them, he despised others, maybe because of their lack of education, giftedness, work ethic, or commitment. Like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, he despised those God had accepted because he saw himself as better. We must be careful of this judgmental attitude as it will hinder working with other believers.

4. We must avoid the temptation of unforgiveness.

Certainly, it must be known that our Christian friends and church members will fail us. They are not perfect, and Satan always seeks to use these imperfections to cause division and hinder God’s work. Paul and Barnabas argued over Mark’s inclusion on a missionary journey and went different ways (Acts 15). Though they split, they still forgave each other and partnered in other situations. However, that argument could have hindered their spiritual growth and God’s ministry in general if they weren’t careful. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.” Also, Psalm 133:1-3 says,

Look! How good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together! It is like fine oil poured on the head which flows down the beard—Aaron’s beard, and then flows down his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, which flows down upon the hills of Zion. Indeed that is where the Lord has decreed a blessing will be available—eternal life.

Dwelling in unity brings God’s blessing, and walking in discord and unforgiveness opens a door for Satan to attack us and others. Therefore, we must avoid this negative tendency in ministry relationships and Christian friendships. It’s not uncommon to find worship teams, children’s ministers, youth workers, and elders fighting amongst themselves in a church. Satan is always looking to cause discord to open a door for himself in the church and hinder its ministry. Therefore, we must be quick to forgive and seek reconciliation to close the door to Satan’s work.

No doubt, Paul avoided all of these negative tendencies as best as possible. He didn’t try to work alone. He recognized his role in the body and didn’t look down on it. He also didn’t exalt himself and look down on others but instead tried to build them up and equip them for greater service. He also strove as much as depended on him to walk in unity with others by forgiving quickly and seeking reconciliation (Rom 12:18). We must do the same. Effective ministers develop strategic relationships and Christian friendships to do ministry and receive it.

Application Question: Which potential hindrances to Christian relationships stood out most and why? Why are Christian relationships so important for our spiritual life and ministry in general? How have you benefited from them? What steps do we need to take to better foster them?

Effective Ministers Prioritize Family

to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house.

Philemon 1:2

As previously said, when Paul mentioned Apphia and Archippus along with Philemon, many believe they were Philemon’s family. Apphia was his wife, and Archippus may have been his son who had become one of the pastors in Colosse. What makes Bible students come to this conclusion? Primarily, because the focus of the letter is a domestic matter—Philemon receiving his slave back as a Christian brother. In those days, the wives often oversaw the slaves in the house. That’s clear even from the description of the Proverbs 31 woman. Proverbs 31:15 says, “She also gets up while it is still night, and provides food for her household and a portion to her female servants.” Therefore, Paul addressed Apphia since the decision of receiving Onesimus back would have been her decision as well. The same reasoning is used for assuming Archippus is part of Philemon’s family. If they were not part of the family, then there doesn’t seem to be much reasoning for mentioning them along with Philemon in a domestic matter, when they were already included in the church that met in Philemon’s house (v. 2). With that said, if Archippus was an elder in the church (and not also his son), then maybe mentioning him was an extra form of accountability.

Either way, it seems clear that Philemon made his family his first ministry. He led his family in opening their home to the church weekly (and maybe daily). This was certainly more than simply having people over. Hosting means cleaning and probably preparing food, such as with the Lord’s Supper which was a fellowship meal back then. They might have eaten it every time they met. If Archippus was indeed Philemon’s son, when Archippus felt a call to ministry, Philemon didn’t squash his dreams and tell him to pursue something that would better pay the bills. He encouraged and supported him. Philemon built his family up spiritually which allowed them to serve the church as a family.

The need to put our family first in ministry is taught throughout the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul taught this was a requirement for anybody being considered for the position of elder. He said,

He must manage his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity. But if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for the church of God?

A person who neglects their family is disqualified from serving in other ministries. Also, in 1 Timothy 5:4 and 8 (NIV), Paul said this to people about caring for their mothers and grandmothers when their husbands died:

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God… Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Our religion should start first with caring for our families. As Ephesians 5:25-27 says, husbands must wash their wives with the Word even as Christ does the church. They do this by involving their family in a Bible-preaching church, so they can hear God’s Word faithfully explained. They also do this by having regular times of reading and praying God’s Word together at home. Ephesians 6:4 says “fathers,” which can also be translated as “parents,” should raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This no doubt includes reading Scripture with them, helping them memorize it, understand it, and apply it to their lives. Discipling children also includes praying with them and teaching them to pray. Parents are the first disciplers of their children before children’s workers and youth pastors. And by doing this, like Philemon, they can partner with their spouses and children in serving the Lord. Otherwise, the family will all be going in different directions which hinders their unity and God’s blessing.

Are we making our family our first ministry? Sadly, many neglect and destroy their family by putting the church or even work first. If our family members don’t know the Lord, we should pray for them diligently and ask others to do the same. We must by our lifestyle show them that God has changed us which beautifies the gospel before them (cf. Tit 2:5, 10). We must patiently and wisely look for opportunities to share the gospel with them, trusting that only God can open eyes and bring the new birth in their lives. We plant seeds and water them, but God makes them grow (1 Cor 3:6-7). Therefore, we must rely on God and trust his timing as he transforms our family members in his time.

Is our family our first ministry? Effective ministers focus on their families before others. Ministers who don’t often lose their right to minister to others (cf. 1 Tim 3:4-5). In Joshua 24:15, Joshua declared this to Israel:

If you have no desire to worship the Lord, choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship the Lord!

Let us make sure that our families are worshiping the Lord and not the gods of this world as well. Amen!

Application Question: What are some ways to prioritize our families as our first ministry? How have you seen or experienced families who did this well and those who didn’t? What was the difference? How is God calling you to better prioritize ministering to your family?

Effective Ministers Excel in Serving Others and Consequently Experience a Deeper Knowledge of God

I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ.

Philemon 1:6

In verse 6, when Paul says, “I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ,” this is the most difficult verse in Philemon to translate and interpret. Much of the controversy is over the word “share.” It is the Greek word koinonia which means “to have in common with.” It is often translated “fellowship.” However, in an active sense, it means “participating in or share in.” Because of this, the verse has been interpreted in several senses, as referring to (1) the fellowship of believers with each other as far as having a common faith (2) the sharing of the gospel with unbelievers, and (3) the sharing of good things with others.

Consider some of the different translations:

Philemon 1:6 (NET) I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ.

Philemon 1:6 (HCSB) I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.

Philemon 1:6 (ESV) and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

Philemon 1:6 (NLT) And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.

Because in verse 5, Paul talks about how he had heard of Philemon’s “love for all the saints” and in verse 7, he says “the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother,” I believe Paul is referring to Philemon’s generous ministry to other believers, including his excelling in hospitality. He had opened his home for the church to gather and was generous in other ways as he cared for the saints (v. 2). The word “refreshed” in verse 7 is a military term. It was used of an army taking a rest after a long march. As is clear from the Colossian letter, there were false teachers causing discord in the church (Col 2:8, 16-23), some members had fallen victim to this cult, and no doubt, many were experiencing the regular problems of life like sickness, financial and family struggles, etc. However, in the midst of this, Philemon was there to encourage those who were hurting, build them up through prayer and the Word, and open his home to refresh people physically. He was an effective minister and because of that reality, God was going to bless him. Paul prayed that his sharing of his faith may “deepen” his “understanding of every blessing” that belonged to him “in Christ.”

This is a reality for all maturing believers. One of the greatest ways we grow in the knowledge of God and his calling on our lives is through serving others and receiving reciprocal grace. Certainly, we must read Scripture and learn doctrine; however, doctrine without practice is of little benefit. They must both be happening in our lives. When we are learning God’s Word and living it out by loving the saints, sharing the gospel, and serving others, we grow in our knowledge of God and his blessings. Consider how Christ taught this in Mark 4:24-25:

And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

If we obey God’s Word, he gives us more—including a deeper knowledge of God and his Word and favor over our ministry. And if we hear God’s Word and do nothing, there will be a taking away, a hardening of our hearts. We will find ourselves more spiritually dull and apathetic to the things of God and ministry.

This is the reality of every local church—some are putting their faith into practice and therefore growing quickly as God reveals more of himself to them. While others in the church aren’t putting their faith into practice and therefore are becoming more spiritually dull and inclined to sin and its consequences. We must ask ourselves which one are we?

William Barclay explained this great principle of ministry this way:

There is a great thought here ... It means that we learn about Christ by giving to others. It means that by emptying ourselves we are filled with Christ. It means that to be open-handed and generous-hearted is the surest way to learn more and more of the wealth of Christ. The one who knows most of Christ is not the intellectual scholar, not even the saint who spends all day in prayer, but the one who moves among others in loving generosity.

Are we putting our faith into action by generously serving God, his church, and others in need? If so, we’ll experience God’s tremendous blessing. Effective ministers generously serve God, and God generously blesses them. Proverbs 11:25 (NIV) says, “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul said this as a promise to those who were generous in their giving to God and others: “And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.”

Are we generously serving others? Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.” First Corinthians 15:58 (ESV) says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” A deeper knowledge of God and his blessings await those who abound in serving God and others.

For many effective ministers, this is the fuel of their ministry. Serving others is primarily a chase after a deeper knowledge of God and his blessings. Let us chase a deeper knowledge of God by serving others and building God’s kingdom on this earth! In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen!

Application Question: How have you experienced this reciprocal blessing of experiencing and knowing God more as you serve others generously? In addition, how have you experienced spiritual dullness and apathy when neglecting serving God and others?

Effective Ministers Are Encouragers

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our dear friend and colaborer, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your house. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that the faith you share with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Philemon 1:1-7

Observation Question: In Philemon 1:1-7, in what ways does Paul encourage Philemon?

Finally, as we consider Paul’s introduction to Philemon in totality, we must recognize how great of an encourager Paul was. Effective ministers are great encouragers. They do this in many ways: (1) They encourage people simply by greeting them at church or work by remembering and saying their names instead of ignoring them and being self-focused. Paul greeted Philemon and other believers in Colosse in the introduction of the letter. (2) They check in on how people’s families are doing and greet them as well. They not only care about individuals but groups of people. Paul not only mentioned Philemon but the members of his family and the church as a whole. (3) They give thanks to people privately for their good works and at times publicly. Paul gave thanks to Philemon for his acts of service and his thanksgiving would have been read before his family and the church. (4) They spend time in prayer for others and also humbly share their prayer requests for mutual encouragement. Paul shared about how he was praying for Philemon’s acts of service to lead to a greater knowledge of God and his blessings. In this letter, Paul doesn’t specifically share his prayer requests as in other letters (cf. Eph 6:19-20, Col 4:3-4), but he does ask for a room and say that he believes he will be restored to them because of their prayers in verse 22. Therefore, it’s clear that Philemon and the Colossians knew Paul’s prayer requests and were faithfully bringing them before the Father.

Paul, as an effective minister, was a great encourager. He knew that because of people’s sins and living in a sinful, cursed world, people are prone to get depressed and discouraged, so he sought to lift them up.

As we consider all the ways Paul encouraged Philemon, we must ask ourselves: Who is God calling us to remember their names and greet them as a way of encouragement? Who is God calling us to check in on and see how they and their family are doing? Who is God calling us to thank both privately and publicly? Who is God calling us to pray for and maybe share our prayers with?

Effective ministers are encouragers. May God help us encourage and refresh others every day. Lord, help us! In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen!

Application Question: What are some of the primary ways that you experience and appreciate encouragement from others? How is God calling you to grow in encouraging others? Is there a specific person God is calling you to encourage and how?


What are marks of effective ministers?

1. Effective Ministers Are Willing to Suffer for Christ and Others

2. Effective Ministers Submit to God’s Sovereignty in All Situations

3. Effective Ministers Develop Strategic Ministry Relationships and Christian Friendships

4. Effective Ministers Prioritize Family

5. Effective Ministers Excel in Serving Others and Consequently Experience a Deeper Knowledge of God

6. Effective Ministers Are Encouragers

Application Question: What stood out most in the study and why? What questions or applications did you take from it?

Prayer Prompts

• Pray for God to equip us to suffer for Christ and others. Pray that as we suffer, God’s grace may be made perfect in our weakness and that we would trust God’s sovereignty over our circumstances.

• Pray for God to increase our fellowship and partnership with other believers. Pray that these relationships would be mutually beneficial in encouraging us, helping us grow in Christ, and build God’s church.

• Pray for God to bless our families, that they would be protected, prosperous, and growing in the Lord.

• Pray for God to enable us to excel at serving the church and others and that in serving we would know God more deeply and experience his blessing.

• Pray for God to encourage us and help us encourage others. Pray that God would set us and others free from discouragement and depression and that we would have the Lord’s supernatural joy.


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