Text: Romans 16:1-16
Theme: Friends mattered to Paul because people matter to God–individuals with individual stories and uniqueness.
Key verses: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, especially to me. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ…Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me…Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings (v. 1-5, 12-13, 16)
What (I believe) God said to me: Paul loved people, pure and simple. He wasn’t just focused on theology or teaching or preaching or evangelizing. End of the day, he was a person who cared deeply for individuals. Notice how he was careful to mention so many of his “friends” in the concluding part of Romans. Did Paul have a sense that this letter would become the premiere doctrinal thesis for all of Christendom? Did Paul know it would land in the canon of holy Scriptures and be read by countless millions in the centuries to come? Perhaps he had a thought toward that, but it’s unlikely that was on his mind as he closed this letter. He wasn’t thinking big numbers or lofty reaches. He was thinking about people–people whom he loved and who each had unique stories and purposes in my Kingdom. They were all dearly loved by me, and therefore they were important to him as well. Dwayne, may your ministry be marked first of all as one that loved people, all sorts of people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures and statuses. Regardless of how large your ministry impact grows, regardless of how many know your name or your accomplishments, and no matter how large the crowds become who hear you, remember this one thing: Those crowds will always be made up of individuals with individual needs. They are all and each fearfully and wonderfully made by me. Know and remember the names of those who helped you along the way. Pray for them and greet them as you have the opportunity. Let them know they matter to you because they matter to me. While other ministries might be striving to grow larger, let your goal be to grow smaller–all the way down to that little boy or girl or that housewife or working man or senior adult who needs to know they count and that I love them with an everlasting love. That is the way of the Shepherd. It was Paul’s way, and it must be your way as well. See you to it.
What I said to God: Father, I am so blessed today to come to this passage and learn from Paul. His emphasis on individual persons is mind-blowing. Considering the vast impact he and his writing made, to know that he would still take time for the “little guys” is confirmation that our ministry at NLW must have that same emphasis. Forgive me when I just see the crowds as a blob of faces. Those are each people with souls. The persons I pass on the streets or in the grocery stores or preach and sing to on Sundays, each one of them will either go to heaven or to hell. I choose not to dream of growing larger as a ministry and more well-known as a leader. Instead, I choose to make our ministry at NLW about individuals that You lead across our paths. Help us help them. Help us make disciples, one person at a time, for Your glory and honor, O Lord my God.