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What Epaphras has to Teach Us About Small Groups

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“You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:7,8

Paul starts off by talking about Epaphras. Now Mr. E wasn’t just another follower of Jesus. Oh no, he had an important part to play in the lives of the Colossians. He’s the one who they learned from. Learned about Jesus and learned how it changes their lives. It changes everything. And the lessons of Epaphras can be applied to small groups today.

What Epaphras has to Teach Us About Small Groups

But out of the gate we’ve got a problem with the Apostle Paul and Mr. E. To be called a servant today is just about the ultimate insult. I can’t think of a more powerful word that puts a person down more than servant. Yes, there are many swear words and phrases that are meant to hurt, but I think servant is all the more hurtful.

When you’re a servant, it means that you don’t have the right to do things on your own. That you don’t have control over your life. You can’t make decisions for yourself. And when someone tells you to do something, you have to do it. There’s no room for discussion. No negotiation. Just blind obedience.

Funny thing though, Jesus doesn’t seem to have a problem with the word or the idea when it comes to our relationship with God and one another. It’s a voluntary submission to God and one another. Heck, Jesus even talks about himself like this.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:26-28

I know that we’re so much smarter and more sophisticated than those poor slobs back in the first century. But that’s what Paul calls Epaphras. But he’s not just any servant. Paul says that he’s a three-dimensional servant.

  1. Our – He’s not out there all alone, and neither is Paul. There’s a community within the followers of Jesus. A fellowship that must be fed, encouraged, cherished. Moving from being a friend to being an “our” takes time. You have to want it.

  2. Dear – Their relationship isn’t that he’s just one of the guys, but someone who’s beloved. There’s a God kind of love between them. They want nothing but the absolute best for each other and are willing to back it up with their time, energy, and resources.

  3. Fellow – They don’t just wear the same jersey because they’re on the same team. There’s a closeness that comes from time spent together. Doing things together. Working hard and sweating together as they give up their choices for the good of the group.

But this wasn’t enough. Mr. E. was oh so much more important to the Colossians. Yes, he was our dear fellow servant, he also was a minister. But Paul’s not thinking of a minister as the person up front behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings.