A Canonized Thank You Note

I’ve been reading the book of Philippians lately and from it I have been gaining wonderful insights the area of ministry partnership development. Don’t you love Philippians? The tone that Paul carries throughout it is so warm and kind. Full of encouragement and vulnerability, it is a book that houses one of the most famous verses in the entire bible “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” 4:13 and it carries my personal favorite very-zealous-teenage-self verse, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philip 1:21

Do you happen to know why Paul wrote the Philippians? I didn’t know until I became a ministry partnership development coach and started digging for areas of bible study on financial giving. Here’s what my New Living Translation Bible has to say about the book of Philippians:

“While under house arrest, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians to thank some dear friends who had sent him money. In this letter he told them about a joy that does not depend upon external circumstances because it is rooted in Jesus Christ, who gives it freely. Paul began by expressing his thanks to the Philippians.”

My New King James Bible says it this way:

“Paul wrote Philippians as a thank you note to the believers of Philippi, for their help in his hour of need.”

So essentially the whole book of Philippians is an example of a canonized thank you note to supporters?!?! A CANONIZED THANK YOU NOTE!!

Before sharing some of the insights I’ve had from realizing this amazing-ness, let me back up a little and set the stage of Paul and the Philippians.

While writing the Philippians Paul was on house arrest in Rome. The Philippians sent Epharoditus with their support on a journey that took approximately a month for Epharoditus to reach Paul. That is quiet a difficult journey (Epharoditus got so sick that he almost died! 2:27, 2:30) and an investment for the Philippians.

In the midst of the Philippian church sacrificing so much; Paul was old, tired, and on house arrest.  Therefore most likely Paul was not in much need of finances at the time. Paul and the Philippians most likely had a growing relationship but were not extremely familiar with one another. In the past the Philipi church had supported him in an ongoing way (4:10, 4:15, 4:16) after Paul had only visited them on a short visit. The letter suggests they potentially had stopped their support before due to difficulties getting Paul the finances (4:10). Their newly continued financial support (and their commitment shown by sending Epharoditus) probably came as a surprise and a blessing to Paul. Something of the equivalent to Paul of a financial supporter buying you a new car.

Paul was so moved by this that he sent Epharoditus back with the letter to the Philippians. Consequently I think we can learn a lot from Paul’s thank you note to the Philippian church.

Here are 2 insights from Phillipians I trust you’ll find helpful:

1. True Vulnerability, Concern, and Friendship with Our Supporters

In Philippians we find true vulnerability from Paul as he shares his thoughts on his suffering and dying state in chapter 1. He remains venerable and honest with the Philippians throughout the book, giving the entire book a warm and encouraging tone:

“For I have told you often before, and say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.” Philippians 3:18

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Philip 1:3

“Dear brothers and sisters, I love you and long to see you, for you are my joy and the reward of my work. So please stay true to the Lord, my dear friends.” Philip 4:1

Throughout the book Paul gives us a great model of relationship to strive for with our support team: they should be the joy and reward of our work. As in, they should be true friends and partakers with us in ministry. Do we see our team as actual partners in the work we are doing? Or do we view them merely as a necessary means to an end? Do we view our relationships with our team members as our joy and reward? Are we communicating honestly, vulnerably, and with concern to our financial supporters? Are we treating them like friends?

2. Don’t Just Seek The Gift

Philippians 4:17 blows me away every time I read it:

“Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” Philip 4:17

Paul isn’t merely seeking the gifts of the Philippian church as he writes the Philippians his thanks. His worldview is given away here, showing us Paul’s true motivation – and it’s not money. He is motivated by the desire to see the Philippians reward in heaven as true partakers in the Great Commission. This perspective and worldview of our support team may not be instantaneous, but I can say from experience as a coach: those ministers that seek to grasp this concept, that view their team as real partakers in the Great Commission, make the best support raisers I know. Once we stop thinking of our fundraising as a means to an end we will succeed in fundraising – as it will come secondary to enhancing the kingdom of God – which is our primary concern as ministers (and Christians!) anyhow. Are you just wanting money from your team? Are you desiring what will be credited to their account in heaven? Do you see them as partakers with you in ministry?

One of the most quoted scripture verses of all time is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” Now that I know why Paul wrote the Philippians and that he wrote it with so much concern, love, and vulnerability to his support team,  verse 14 means so much more to me:

“I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

Let your team share in your “troubles”. May they be an active and vital part in what you are doing. Let your heart towards them not be about money, but that they are credited in heaven for their vital part in the Great Commission. May they become your friends and truly a “support team” around you. May your relationship to your team be like Paul and the Philippians.

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Author: Jenn Fortner

Jenn Fortner is a seasoned fundraising coach with over 10 years of experience. Currently Jenn serves Eurasia Assembly of God World Missionaries and provides guided training and coaching to over 100 missionaries. Right out of college Jenn began to raise her own funds for ministry assignments and quickly realized a heart for not only ministry, but for the people who served as her financial and spiritual team throughout years of ministry. Jenn began a journey of coaching others called to ministry to develop a relational approach to raising their funds, and has coached over 300 missionaries throughout their journey of fundraising.

2 thoughts on “A Canonized Thank You Note”

  1. I have to say that Philippians 4:17 is my key verse to being transformed in my thinking about raising support. It’s what convinced me that I wasn’t burdening people to ask them to support us, but that it was going to bless them and add to them. I love this book and encourage all those raising support to know it well as it will renew your mind. It takes our focus off of “me and my needs” and on to how God will benefit others.

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