Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons
If you are a Christian, you likely attend a church. As you see all that God has done for, in, and through your church consider for a moment that at some point your church did not exist.
Every church was planted by a group of people who gathered under a leader to start a new ministry family. It has been reported that upwards of 80 percent of church plants fail – meaning that after a few years they cease to continue. So, it is amazing to consider how much of God’s grace through human effort goes into starting a new church. Our family has had this privilege as my wife Grace and our five children planted The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona three years ago.
When God used the Apostle Paul to plant the church in Philippi, he was without a wife or children to work with him. You can read more in Acts 16, but the summary is as follows. To plant the first church in Europe, Paul likely walked nine miles to the city. There was virtually no Bible knowledge or believers in the city of Philippi. To open a Jewish synagogue required 10 believing men, and the entire city did not have enough men to qualify. Instead, there was a women’s prayer meeting that included an affluent businesswoman named Lydia who was saved, baptized, and opened her home for the church plant. As soon as the gospel of Jesus Christ started to be preached in the city, there was immediate demonic resistance surrounding a young girl who had fortune-telling powers by a demonic spirit. In response to her becoming a delivered Christian, Paul and Silas were attacked and beaten with rods by a mob and thrown in prison where God saved more people and supernaturally delivered them from prison to plant the church.
The church became perhaps the most healthy and godly in the entire New Testament. In fact, the word “sin” does not appear in the entire book as the church was not perfect but was godly overall. Paul does not introduce himself as an Apostle at the beginning of his letter to the church, likely because they respected and honored him so much that it was not needed. You can read the entire letter to the Philippians in about 15 minutes and, as you do, you will continually hear about joy that can only be found in relationship with Jesus Christ. What makes the theme of joy even more shocking is that Paul is away from his friends in the church, imprisoned in Rome and unsure what his fate might be. Our problems are big, but God’s joy is bigger than our problems. That is the message of Paul from prison.
Do you know the story of the founding of your church?