I met these three people yesterday morning: Sharon and Dot, two Deacons and Titus an Elder of a church in a village just outside Sheffield. All had served in the church for over 30 years. They not only loved their church and the community where it sits but they loved their Pastor and his family. I’m thinking of them this morning and others that I meet who may not be standing behind pulpits on Sundays but are definitely the backbone of the church. Their names and faces flash through my mind and I am privileged to have met them and for many to call them friends.
As with the genealogies found all the way through the Bible, the Apostle has his own lists of people in his letters. He is a doctrine man, a leader of the church and God has used him powerfully yet he never forgets to mention people within the church.
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. (Romans 16 v 1-2)
So let us look at Phoebe but have the Sharon, Dot and Titus people in our minds.
- She is ‘our sister’. Phoebe is family. Paul says she is the Roman Church family as much as the Corinthians.
- She is a deacon in the church in Cenchreae (east Corinth). Phoebe rolled her sleeves up and served the church. She worked hard (on top of whatever else she did) for the good of the church community.
- She was a benefactor of many people including Paul. Phoebe (maybe through her business work) had contributed financially to many, even helping Paul himself. She was generous and kind.
Perhaps Phoebe was bringing this letter from Paul to them. He is keen for them to give her a great welcome and to help her with whatever she needs when she arrives.
Paul is the networker, opening doors for further relationships to develop, encouraging unity. We can make it easy or hard for people to move into the next chapter of their life. We can be the bridge or the wall.
Phoebe arrived into family; she was honoured for all she had done in the church in Corinth and she reaped hospitality as one who had sown it liberally.
The Sharon, Dot and Titus people may not be carrying a letter to a far-off city for us. Their next chapter may seem so much more insignificant and yet if you have been blessed by them then it is our duty to encourage them in whatever is before them, to make it easier and to bless them.