SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Acts 16:1-5; -15; 18:5; Philippians 2:19-24; 1 & 2 Timothy
Key Verse: Ye Know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. – Philippians 2:22
Two men played powerful roles in the spread of early Christianity. One was Paul, the great Apostle. The other was his helper, a young man named Timothy. It is safe to say that Paul’s marvelous work could not have been achieved without the loving support of Timothy, whom Paul called his “son in the faith.”
The scriptures reveal the love, respect, and tender regard Paul had for his valued helper. Paul trusted the care of young churches to Timothy. He was confident that Timothy could teach new converts sound doctrine. Paul praised Timothy for his faith, and commended Timothy to the churches he was sent to assist. Paul wept at times when he and Timothy parted, and his beloved helper was constantly in Paul’s prayers.
Large churches frequently have associate pastors who assist senior pastors in their ministry. Sometimes there can be conflict between the senior pastor and his associates. A young associate may feel that his gifts are overlooked or that he is assigned only the work that the senior pastor does not want to do.
During the final years of my pastoral ministry, I had the good fortune of working with an associate who was to me, in many ways, what Timothy was to Paul. While I had nothing to do with Earl Ballard’s conversion, he became over the years like a son in the faith to me.
We disagreed at times, but without conflict. Realizing that I did not need nor desire a “Yes Man,” Earl often helped me to amend my own perspectives by sharing his own ideas, sometimes challenging my thinking. My own understanding was often enlarged as we discussed issues openly and honestly. Together we sought the truth that would best benefit the church we served.
What God gave us was much more than a partnership in ministry. A strong friendship emerged until often we felt that our hearts were beating as one. We were not competitors; we were brothers serving Christ as a team. There was an order. Each of us had a distinct role, but we realized our common mission could only be accomplished by working together in harmony, without concern for personal glory.
Our team spirit was enriched with the coming of a second associate, Jimmy Allen. Jimmy’s gifts complimented our own, and God forged us into an even stronger team. We minimized the concept of subordinates, and maximized the concept of servants.
Christ had brought us together to serve one another, and to serve His people in the church. We believed it. We practiced it. As a result, the church was blessed by our love and respect for each other, and we were blessed with a relationship that ultimately we realized was a gift of God’s grace.
Like Paul, I wept when it was necessary for me to be parted from serving Christ alongside these two beloved helpers.
Paul and Timothy worked together as co-laborers with Christ. They had a beautiful relationship. We can do what they did, if we are willing. We can accomplish so much more in our churches when we work together with mutual love and respect for one another, clergy and laity alike.
The church suffers when conflict hinders the ministry of God’s servants. The church prospers when men and women cease struggling for power and glory, and learn to work with harmony as servants of Jesus Christ.
Let us repent of the conflict, and let us pray for the gift of harmony in our ministry together. + + +