A few weeks ago, I had the joy of attending the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Empower conference in Irving. It was an amazing event in every way. Church leaders across our state were encouraged, equipped, and empowered to pursue the Great Commission.
But the most impactful part of this event for me was interacting one-on-one with so many church leaders from across our state. I heard countless stories of leaders advancing the gospel in incredible ways through their local churches. It reminded me of how special this network of churches called the SBTC really is. I was so encouraged and thankful to Jesus for the privilege of being a part of this cooperative effort to reach our state, nation, and world with the gospel.
As I thought further about this experience, Philippians 1:3-5 came to my mind, and it articulates how I feel as a fellow pastor in our convention. The apostle Paul writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” In essence Paul is saying, “Every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” Consider what is happening here. Paul is writing this from prison and is currently suffering for preaching the gospel. Yet, even while captive, just the memory of this church brings joy to his heart, it blesses him, and it leads him to offer prayers of gratitude to God. God has used them to give joy to Paul in the most difficult of seasons. But what is it about them that makes him so encouraged when he thinks about them?
In verse 5 he gives us his reason. He says it is “because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Paul clearly says the joy they bring into his life is rooted in their “partnership in the gospel.” The key word here in Greek is koinonia, which is often translated “fellowship” or “partnership.” But, when it is simply translated as “fellowship,” it can often be watered down in our church culture’s understanding of fellowship. I grew up in a Baptist church and loved “fellowships” because they were potluck meals. While my affections and appetite are still stirred by potlucks, koinonia is describing much more than just meeting and eating with fellow believers. It’s a term that means “joint venture.” It’s the idea of being linked together by a common investment that in many ways defines the relationship. Paul is overwhelmed by this church because they were linked together in Jesus and share in the “joint venture” of advancing the gospel together.
This is what stirred my heart again at the Empower conference! I was reminded of the “joint venture” we share as a network of churches. We are nearly 2,700 churches united in Jesus, sharing a common vision of reaching the world with the gospel through this cooperative effort. We are made up of churches of all styles, ethnicities, sizes, and age demographics but who are working together in a koinonia or “partnership in the gospel” to advance the Great Commission.
So, let me echo Paul’s words to the Philippian church about our own convention: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel…” This is the way I feel about our network of churches and why I am so thankful to serve as a pastor of an SBTC church.