Reconstructing Community

January 29, 2023

Josh Pollard

Paul Closes out the Letter to the Colossians with greetings and instructions that are profoundly insightful for how we understand Christian Community.

Reconstructing Community

January 29, 2023

Josh Pollard

Paul Closes out the Letter to the Colossians with greetings and instructions that are profoundly insightful for how we understand Christian Community.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT | Colossians 4: 7-18

Hi everyone. My name is Josh Pollard. I’m the Adult Ministries Pastor here at Renovation Church.

Today we’ll be wrapping up our study on the book of Colossians with a section that many people skip right over as seemingly unimportant. But I assure you that God never wastes his breath.

Let’s all open up to Colossians 4:7-18 (page 806). This where Paul closes his letter. Some scholars sight this as evidence that Paul was actually from Minnesota because of how long it takes him to say goodbye.

Let’s read the first section, verses 7-9

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant[a] in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our[b] circumstances [he is in jail] and that he may encourage your hearts.

Tychicus was a very mature believer and a high level leader in the Early Church. In fact, in the book of Titus, Paul says he plans to send Tychicus to lead all the churches they planted on the Island of Crete.

9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

You may remember Onesimus from our study in last May on the book of Philemon. Onesimus was a runaway slave. He’s not a minister like Tychicus, but he is none-the-less a dear brother. As a slave, he was probably young, teens or 20s, poor, and apparently from the city of Colossae, but, as a slave, possibly a native of somewhere outside the Roman Empire.

So Paul is sending a super high capacity tested church leader, and a brand new youngster to deliver what would be considered holy scripture.

Ok now let’s get to the Greetings portion.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews[c] among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.

There are three notable things about this section.

1) these are the only Jews that have been traveling with Paul. So, all the other’s that Paul worked with were not Jewish at all. Instead, they were from all over the Roman empire (and in the case of the slave Onesimus, possibly even outside of the Empire).

2) Aristarchus, wasn’t a Jewish name. He’s named after a famous Greek astronomer, and yet he’s counted among the Paul’s Jewish coworkers! So he wasn’t ethnically Jewish, but rather a convert to Judaism before hearing the gospel of Jesus the Jewish Messiah. So He’s been on quite the spiritual Journey.

3) He is sending Mark (also known as John Mark) and says that he has been a comfort to him. Now that’s notable because in the book of Acts, we see that years before Paul wrote this letter, Mark abandoned Paul on the mission field. It’s one of the more notable examples of interpersonal conflict in the early church. Here we see that Mark and Paul have made amends.

12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

We talked about Epaphras at the beginning of our Colossians series. He is the one who shared the gospel with the Colossians in the first place and then he came to Rome to share news of that church and got put in Jail with Paul. Here we see that he is a prayer warrior for his church. He’s a good example for us all to always be wrestling in prayer for our church.

14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.

So on one had we have Paul’s great friend Luke, and on the other hand we have Demas, who Paul mentions in a letter that he wrote a few years later called 2nd Timothy, where he says to 2 Timothy in 4:9-11

9 Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. … 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

[back to Colossians 4:7-18 (page 806) slide]

So we see a steadfast friend, Luke, a redeemed friend, Mark, and a friendship that was destined to be a source of pain. Church can be messy sometimes because it’s made of real people.

15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea (a town just a few miles away), and to Nympha and the church in her house.

To be able to host regular church gathering in your home meant that you probably had a sizable home. So Nympha was probably one of the wealthier members of that church and was able to provide materially for the needs of the church.

And lastly we get to the closing of the letter which contains 3 final instructions:

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.


What I find most fascinating about this whole list of people is that they were all so different from one another. Even in this short list we see Romans, Jews, men, women, doctors, and slaves - some that excel in providing intercessory prayer for the church, some that excel in providing materially for the church, some new to their faith, some major church leaders, some needing encouragement to stay in the mix, others writing scripture from a prison cell, people that needed forgiveness and people that will be a challenge. And yet all of them an important part of each other’s walk with Christ.

Which should make us ask a very important question -What does it mean to be a church? It is a foundational question for all Christians because it will set the mental framework for how you live as a Christians. Theologians call this your ecclesiology – your understanding of the church. If we understand what the church is wrongly then we dishonor Christ, just as if you understand marriage wrongly, you are likely to dishonor your spouse.

You see, when you become one of God’s people the reason for gathering as a church changes. Before you give your life to him you come to church primarily for information. You’re here to learn if God is trustworthy. Once you trust Christ you come to church primarily for formation. Because we have realized that he is more trustworthy to us the we ourselves are. When we gather as a Church on Sunday it is to worship God, and to be moved by the teaching of God’s word which God has given to us for our wholeness and His Glory, as a little glimpse of God’s eternal kingdom.

But there is an issue that we face in American ecclesiology that we need to work through if we’re going to mature as Christians. In the American church we mistake Chemistry for Community.

(They want people like themselves)

There is a pastor named John Mark Comer that points this out where he describes Chemistry as that sense of instant natural connection that validates who you are in the existence of another person that’s like you. It’s those people we make fast and easy friends with that give us what researchers call a sense of “belongingness.” Yes belongingness is a weird word, but researchers are usually math majors and not English majors, so let’s just go with it on this one.

So in our culture of instant gratification and easy satisfaction we’ve been conditioned to seek out an emotional and shallow sense of belongingness through the chemistry we get with likeminded people who match our age group, or consumer group, or voting block, our lifestyle, or shared hobby. Those chemistry bonded relationships train us to value people like ourselves the most because they seem to satisfy, at least for a while, our need for a sense of belongingness. They validate us.

So when we come from the that world and into church we bring that with us – that tendency to seek out people just like ourselves. If you think about it, it’s really quiet a self-centered way of building relationship…. You like that person because you really just like yourself and they remind you of you.

Which is the first of three ways we mistake Chemistry for Community in the church: We want people like ourselves.

Mistaking Chemistry for Community.

1) We want people like ourselves.

But friends, the way of Jesus is not like that. And Jesus Himself did not act like that. Just look at how he lived his life for one second and you’ll see he didn’t just hang out with the holy, righteous people that he liked and were just like him. No, he hung out with zealots and prostitutes and tax collector.

The great leader of the Reformation, Martin Luther, said it like this” “The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?” –Martin Luther. He’s heavy handed, but he’s right. Jesus didn’t look for his sense of belonging in other people, No, he gave other people their sense of belonging. Jesus doesn’t belong to us, we belong to him. The way of Jesus is not to satisfy our needs but to satisfy each other’s need for belongingness by showing them the love of Jesus whether there is natural chemistry or not. Think about it, do you think Onesimus, the young runaway slave and Nympha the rich older lady had natural Chemistry? They couldn’t be more different, but Church Community, is not just about Chemistry. It is about deeply valuing one another because we belong to Jesus. 1 Corinthinans 12 says it like this:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…..

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21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,….

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26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

If the introvert suffers, we all suffer, if the new believer suffers, we all suffer, if the young men are honored, we all find joy, if the older women are honored, we all find joy. We are interconnected not because we are the same, but because we belong to the same Jesus. In Colossians, Paul says it like this, “remember my chains.” We carry each other’s burdens. If you are lonely, we are all lonely.

Which is why we love house groups so much. They are able to function as a healthy Christian Community much better than just Sunday Morning can.

But some people, and to be honest myself included, struggle with House Groups some times. I get it! For me it’s because I’m an introvert and being in a little group isn’t my natural environment. One time I was in a small group in college for a class and we were talking about highs and lows of the day and when it was my turn to talk about the lowest point of my day I said, “well probably having to be in this small group, but I’m an adult so I’ll get through it…” I didn’t know them so it was very unnatural – but it was good for me and I am an adult so I went to group. But I get it, it can be not instantly gratifying or easily satisfying sometimes. So we are tempted to think it’s a waste of time to try.

But that brings us to the 2nd way that we mistake Chemistry for Community. We want it now. We want deep fellowship Now.

Mistaking Chemistry for Community.

1) We want people like ourselves.

2) We want it now

But friendship takes time. This is perhaps why 1 Corinthians 13 says “Love is patient.” And Galatians 5 lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our community as “love, joy, peace, patience….” Christianity takes patience. As Aristotle once said “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” In fact research suggests that the biggest factor in how deep a friendship is is not chemistry or shared life stage, or hobby, no, it is time spent together intentionally. But even then, the average time for an acquaintance to become a casual friend is about 94 hours together! casual friends become friends around 164 hours, and friends become good friends after spending around 219 hours together. If you are hopping around looking for community you’ll need to stop hopping if you are ever going to have a chance of finding it. The temptation to hop and find our people, our consumer block, that will satisfy us is so engrained in us but it is a losing game. especially as an adult! It doesn’t take that long to log 219 hours together in college, but it could take years to hit 219 hours once you get busy with kids or a Job!

One place where we see this play out is in intergenerational fellowship. People often want to be with people their own age because that where chemistry is most likely to happen. It seems to be most challenging for 2 groups of people. Recent high school or college graduates, and older adults (usually recent empty nesters). Which makes total since because these people have all lost foundational parts of their community and are starting from scratch. Their challenge isn’t that they don’t know people their age, it’s that they haven’t spent enough time with anyone to have built meaningful, valued relationships yet.

And when you spend the time to build valued relationships the become such great sources of encouragement to your faith. Twice in the last month I was having a conversation with women in their 20 that said, totally unprompted, that when they came to Renovation they realized that what was missing from their Christian walk was relationships with older women and how valuable that had been for them. On another occasion last month an older gentleman came to me and told me how a young man in his twenties told him that he’s still got a lot to offer the world and so he came out of retirement and is now serving our community in a major way.

Intergenerational fellowship might be hard work, partly because we’re just not that used to it, but it is necessary and good and biblical. Check out these instructions from Paul:

1 Tim 5:1-2: Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

Notice, Paul didn’t say “Everyone get is small groups of people that look just like you and ignore everyone else.” This is the family picture of Biblical community. Think of the older men and women in your house group. Do you treat them biblically? Think of the younger people in your house group, do you treat them biblically? Or do you devalue them because they are not just like you?

1 Tim 4:12 says: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

If you are the youngest, or also the oldest, person in your house group, be proud of that fact. You are in a great place to be an example and encouragement to your group.

Lastly, we can see that we’ve all got jobs to do when it comes to intergenerational fellowship in Titus 2:2-6

2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands (which we taught on two weeks ago), so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

(They want it to serve them)

Notice in this Titus passage that it was all about teaching each other. So many of us come to a church to get something out of it, but Christian Community just as much about helping each other be more like Jesus. Which brings me to the third way that we mistake Chemistry with Community. We want it to serve us.

Mistaking Chemistry for Community.

1) We want people like ourselves.

2) We want it now

3) We want it to serve us

It’s so easy to mistake Church for a service provide that you come to as a consumer instead of a community of humble servants that you are invited to join into. Look at all the people that Paul mentioned in this list at the end of Colossians in today’s verse. They are all serving each other. Paul describes these people as “minister, servant, prisoner, co-workers”. They are wrestling in prayer for each other and working hard for each other, and hosting churches, and providing comfort, and bringing greetings to one another. And even being in Chains all for the Gospel. You know, you can tell a church is maturing when it’s people go from wanting to be served, to being willing to serve as long as they are not treated like servants, to realizing that it’s an honor to be a servant of Christ because he first served us.

There is an old Hebrew Story that illustrates this well, my favorite version of which goes like this: In both heaven and hell everyone sits together at a long banquet table filled with the most delicious food you could ever imagine. The thing is that in both heaven and hell no one has elbow. In hell, everyone tries to feed themselves, but can’t and so they all starve to death, while in heaven the all feed their neighbor and enjoy the feast. Everyone get’s well fed and who cares if you don’t have elbows.

Our church is like that. We are all broken and have needs. We are all in danger of loneliness and we are all products of this culture of instant gratification and shallow relationships. Our church, is not organized for you to get from others, it’s organized for you to serve others. Because it’s in service that you gain the most and our God is glorified the most.

Just like the community of people that Paul mentions here at the end of the letter to the Colossians, the unifying factor of our church community is not age, not life stage, not hobbies, not race, not gender, not socioeconomic status, it’s not history. The only unifying factor of Christian Community is the I have Jesus and you have Jesus, I want to become more like Jesus and you want to become more like Jesus, I am here to serve like Jesus, and you are here to serve like Jesus. What a difference from the way the world has taught us to live by seeking out self-serving validation. And as a result, just like the Colossians, we get this super diverse group of believers. Diversity is not necessarily a church goal in and of itself, diversity is a gift to the church. Diversity is not foundational, it's consequential. When you have a church of Christians that resist their love of the world and embraces biblical fellowship, the inevitable outcome is a fellowship of people that are different ages, different life stages, different races, different abilities, different in every way, except 1 – they have Jesus.


Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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