Paul’s Desire for Team Ministry: Colossians 4: 7 – 18

Christianity is a Team Sport. Paul's Desire for Team Ministry in Colossians.

The hero mentality in today’s culture isn’t the Biblical model of church or church leadership. Jesus, Paul, and Scripture as a whole take a team ministry approach to leadership.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul rebukes those who are drawing lines and claiming to follow Paul or Apollos showing how they work together and God is responsible for any growth.  Paul deeply desires a team approach to ministry, not an award ceremony. The people who have partnered with him in ministry are so intertwined that he cannot talk about his ministry without mentioning them.

To Paul, Christianity is always a team sport.

Christianity is a Team Sport. Paul's desire for Team Ministry in Colossians 4.

Paul Desires Team Ministry

There are two recorded times Paul is alone in ministry (Acts 17 when Timothy and Titus minister in places Paul isn’t welcome, and 2 Timothy 4 when he asks Timothy to come to him), and he’s bothered by it, which often surprises those who see Paul as lone-wolf type. As amazing as Paul was, he didn’t want to be alone. He knew God worked through him in a team effort.

Paul is going to close this letter to the church as Colossae talking about the men who are ministering with him and those who are ministering in Colossae. His desire for team ministry is evident as he shows his gratitude and high opinion of these faithful servants.

Colossians 4: 7-8 – Tychicus’s Unique Role in Ministry

Tychicus is mentioned 5 times in the New Testament:

Here in Colossians 4,  Ephesians 6:21 in a similar way, Acts 20:4 as part of Paul’s team, 2 Timothy 4 when Paul sent him to Ephesus, and Titus 3 where Paul has sent him to take over Titus’s ministry so Titus can come to him.

Tychicus delivers letters and replaces Titus and Timothy in their ministries when Paul needs them to come help him. As a messenger, he’s more than a delivery boy – he read the letter and explained it, answered their questions and encouraged their hearts (see Colossians 2:2 – not nice words but Truth that leads to a full assurance and knitting together of the church in solid theology).

Paul considered Tychicus a “beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow slave,” and he saw and utilized his unique gifting powerfully.

Colossians 4: 9 – Onesimus the Former Slave

Paul tells the Colossians “They will tell you of everything that has taken place here,” which happens in the letter he sends along to Philemon. Onesimus was a runaway slave who is saved while in Rome. Paul sends him back, hoping he can rejoin him someday, but desiring to do things right. Though Onesimus is new in faith, he is a faithful and beloved brother.

Colossians 4: 10 – Aristarchus, Mark, and Justus –  Jewish Brothers on the Team

Aristarchus is Paul’s traveling partner during his 2nd missionary journey. He’s seized and thrown in prison, and goes with Paul from Jerusalem to Rome where Paul will stand trial. He continues to serve with Paul in Rome and is a faithful member of the team.

Mark, who penned the Gospel of Mark from Peter’s teaching, was on Paul’s 1st missionary journey with him and Barnabus. Mark was young and abandoned them along the way. On the 2nd journey, Barnabus wants to bring Mark along again, but Paul won’t. It’s clear that Paul takes someone leaving his team seriously and was hurt by it. Barnanus and Paul go separate ways, Barnabus taking Mark and Paul assembling a new team.

But Mark becomes an important friend to Paul (see the end of 2 Timothy) and here Paul is correcting anyone’s possible poor perception of Mark.

Justus is the Latin form of the Greek name Jesus, which in Hebrew is Joshua, meaning YAHWEH is salvation.  It says much about his character that he would take on a Latin name for the sake of the ministry in Rome. Paul says simply that Justus and the others have “proven to be a comfort to” him.

Colossians 4: 12 – 13 – Epaphras – “One of them”

Epaphras ministered to the Colossian church, and it’s possible he was saved Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. He appears to have left Colossae and gone to Rome to speak with Paul, perhaps concerned about the false teachings he’s seeing in the church. He has stayed with Paul but prays faithfully for the church.

Colossians 4: 14 – Luke and Demas

This is the Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke. He talked to eyewitnesses who saw Jesus so his record of His life would be accurate. He also wrote Acts, mostly following Paul’s ministry, again as an eyewitness or speaking to eyewitnesses. Demas is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4 as having left Paul to do other work, and Paul appears to be annoyed with him then. Both Luke and Demas are with Paul in Rome and greet the church.

This is a powerful group of men gathered in Rome to be part of Paul’s team ministry. The authors or recipients of the books of Mark through Philemon (minus John) are working together!

Colossians 4: 15 – 18 – The Team Ministering in Colossae and Closing

Paul reminds them to share the letters with Laodicea and read the letters sent there, and greet Nympha who lets the church meet at her home. He greets Archippas, who is probably leading the church in Colossae at this time.  He encourages him to preach the Truth he’s received – the whole Gospel.

The men with him, the men he sent to them, and the men in Colossae are all a team working together for the Gospel.

Someone writes the words for Paul but he signs it himself to authenticate the message.

Other sermons in this series: 

Colossians 4: 2 -6 Paul’s Instructions on How to Speak

Paul’s Instructions on How to Speak: Colossians 4:2-6

We don't need more people praying. We need more people praying in line with God's character.

Before we jump into our passage, let’s review what prayer is, since that’s the first instruction Paul will give on how to speak.

Prayer is very simple, in that at its core it’s communication with God. But Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount that there’s a right way and a wrong way to communicate with God.

Jesus tells Israel in Matthew 5: don’t pray like the pagans. This is an insult to the Jewish people of Jesus’ time because they had put paganism aside during the intertestamental period. But still, they, and the church today can struggle to see the difference between biblical and worldly prayer.

Biblical prayer is understanding the character of God and going to Him in light of who He is. It requires some things of us, though. First, it requires time to learn about God. Then it requires a soft heart that allows Scripture to correct one’s thinking. And then it requires thought and consideration to allow one’s prayer to be affected by this knowledge and understanding. It’s simpler to pray route prayers or ritual prayers, but Biblical prayer requires our proper theology drives our practical theology.

We don't need more people praying. We need more people praying in line with the character of God.

We’re almost to the end of Colossians, and these verses are really the end of a section that began in 3:17 with, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (ESV).  From 3:18 – 4:1, Paul went over the deeds, or actions, the Colossians needed instruction on and now he’ll talk about the words.

An important side note before we get started: Salvation is a free gift from God. Doing and saying things the way He instructs us to aren’t what saves us. Rather, God gives salvation freely, the Holy Spirit transforms us through the Word of God (see Col 3:16 and Ephesians 3:18-21), and so we live according to God’s very character because of this gift, not to earn it.

Also, the phrase “In the name of the Lord Jesus” is commonly misunderstood and misused. It’s used as though the words yield some magical power or are the end all, be all to make your words carry weight. But as we’ve discussed many times as a church, at this time a name meant the nature, or character, of the person. So to say or do something in the name of Jesus means that the words or actions align with the very nature or character of God. We don’t use those words to make Him agree with us, instead, we carefully and intentionally match our lives to His.

Let’s get into the passage.

1. How to Speak to God

Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” So the first words we are to say according to the character of God are our prayers. “Continue steadfastly” (ESV) or “devote yourselves” (NASB) indicates effort and work. Work hard at it! Being watchful is the same wording used for watching for the return of Christ. The next verses indicate what to be watchful for: Ways for believers to participate in God’s unfolding, redemptive plan in history. And keep an attitude of thanksgiving, a fundamental part of prayer, that you get the privilege of participating.

Verse 3 shows what specifically Paul wants the Colossians to pray for: “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word…” Paul desires that the Colossians look for ways to participate in God’s work themselves, and for God to make ways for Paul and those with him to do the same.

It’s so important to see that though Paul is in prison (verse 3), he doesn’t ask them to pray for new circumstances for him. Instead, he wants God to use him within his circumstances.

He also doesn’t ask them to pray for converts, but for the only part of conversion in which he has a role – clarity in his sharing of the Gospel. He prays for a door for the Word of God, not for himself.  It’s not enough for the Word to go; a human agent goes with His Word to explain it. God sends people with His Word.

” …to declare the mystery of Christ…” This is something that was once hidden and is now received and revealed. The Truth was in the Old Testament, but now they can see it.

“…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak…” Why would Paul need clarity of speech? Paul was a better writer than speaker, but he wants to communicate clearly. There’s a God-ordained method for proclaiming the Gospel and Paul desires to do it that way.

2. How to Speak to Others

Colossians 4:5 starts, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders” (ESV) or “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders” (NASB). Wisdom isn’t intelligence but knowing God and living out those Truths. How the world sees believers is important.

“Making the most of the opportunity” (NASB) or “making the best use of the time,” (ESV) is literally in Greek, “redeem the time!” We teach others with our lives.

And finally, verse 6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Have clarity toward others no matter where you are, or where your “mission field” may be. Your words should preserve, or be impactful when you talk about the Gospel and they should be rich and enjoyable. Don’t be offensive – the Gospel may offend but you should not.