Paul’s opening words place his stamp of approval on and indebtedness to the founding mothers of the Philippian church.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5, emphasis added).
Clearly, that “first day” was especially meaningful to Paul.
Paul valued women as indispensable church planting partners because they ministered the gospel with him. Just as things were moving forward, a brutal wave of persecution broke out inflicting physical harm on the apostles and ultimately driving them out of town.
Turns out those women church planters were equal to the task. Not only did Lydia provide hospitality for the apostles, she courageously hosted the threatened fledgling church. After the apostles left town, the women steadfastly carried the gospel mission forward.
Paul singles out two Philippian women church planters—Euodia and Syntyche—and describes them as indispensable allies—“women who have contended [or labored] at my side in the cause of the gospel” (Philippians 4:3). Paul’s words speak metaphorically of gladiators fighting side by side in the arena and imply united struggle in preaching and suffering for the gospel.
The women of Philippi stood with Paul for the gospel in the face of persecution, and he stood stronger in battle because of them.
Paul also valued the women as indispensable church planting partners because they ministered to him. No other Pauline letter is as vulnerable or affectionate. They held a special place in Paul’s heart. Even for Paul, it was “not good for the man to be alone.” They opened the door for Paul to be honest with how he was doing. Without the benefit of cell-phone pings, they doggedly tracked his whereabouts and showed up to care for his needs—something no other church did for Paul.
When he was driven out of Philippi to Thessalonica, they followed him with aid and support. As he writes to them from a Roman prison cell, a Philippian, Epaphroditus, is by his side, sent to Rome from Philippi to find Paul, minister to his needs and deliver gifts.
A Stronger Affirmation?
It’s hard to imagine a stronger affirmation of women as indispensable church planters than Paul gives the women of Philippi. Church planting efforts multiplied because he broke with tradition to partner with his sisters in Christ.
The mission Jesus entrusted to his church is demanding, so demanding that it requires a Blessed Alliance of men and women working together. In this challenging post-Christian world, we are learning afresh of God’s desire for the partnered ministry of women and men in seeing the gospel embodied and advanced through the planting of new churches. We must reclaim the biblical and apostolic conviction of the indispensability of women church planters!
This article about women church planters originally appeared here.