Epaphroditus was the emissary from the Philippian Church to the Apostle Paul who was in prison in Rome. He brought the financial gifts to him. He brought word about the church and the many friends Paul had in 16 othersPhilippi. He brought encouragement and prayers for Paul’s deliverance from prison and protection over his ministry. We don’t know much about Epaphroditus. All we know comes from this letter. When he became sick with some unknown physical malady the word got back to Philippi and when he heard that they had heard about his sickness he became discouraged. Certainly he had family there that he loved very much and who were worried about him. In his sickness he wanted to go home. Paul writes about Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:26, “…for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.”

In this phrase we get another short glimpse into the heart of Epaphroditus. He really cared for others. People mattered to him. He could not wait to see his family and friends in Philippi again. His sickness and near death encounter helped him realize, as it usually does, how important family and friends really are. The Church should be like that for us today. The Philippian Church was not perfect at all. We’ve seen that in Paul’s early exhortations to them and we’ll see it again before the letter ends. Yet, there is something special about this church. The believers truly cared about each other. When churches do that the people just love to be there. Grant Richison writes, “It is the people in the congregation that makes the atmosphere of the church. People who are proud of and happy in their church will attract others. The esprit de corps of a congregation is an essential factor in its growth. That is probably the most overlooked factor in church growth. In other words, it is the people that make the difference between a cold church and a warm church.”

Let me add that Richison is also right when he continues, “The esprit de corps comes primarily from the people, not the pastor. Obviously the pastor makes a significant contribution. Neither is it the music, although music is important in forming an atmosphere. If the people of the congregation cluster in little huddles when newcomers come no matter what the service is like the church will be deemed a “cold church.” If the people do not smile and offer a warm hand shake strangers will feel like aliens.” It’s often difficult for us to break out of our comfort zones and reach out to new and different people. Yet Jesus’ whole life and ministry was reaching out to others and training His disciples to do the same thing. Paul’s whole life’s passion was to reach new people with the Gospel. We should share this passion! Many of our hurts, pains, and struggles in life would seem less severe if we embraced Jesus’ mission and put our focus on sharing the good news with those in need.