Paul highlights two prayers for the church at Colossae - one of thankfulness and one of intercession. These two prayers are linked by a direct reference to missions. Together, the passage shows us the potential we have in any missiological opportunity.
First, Paul thanks God for the church's faith and love, grounded in hope. This is not a church Paul has visited. Instead, he has heard about them from his world Christian friend, Epaphras. Yet Paul's love for the church flows throughout the letter, and it's easy to forget that he wasn't the church planter. The unity of the body shines in Colossians! The foundation of their faith and love - the hope laid up in heaven - is the same as Paul's.
Before laying out how he prays for them, Paul highlights how they heard of this hope. Epaphras is one of those Biblical characters I long to know more about. All we know is that he took the Gospel to Colossae, prayed fervently for them (Col. 4:12), and was a prisoner with Paul (Philemon 23). Yet Paul calls him by name, something he doesn't even do for one of the most well-known Christians of his day (2 Cor. 8:18). He was a faithful minister and took word of Colossae back to Paul and his team. What a picture of a cross-cultural worker - sharing the Gospel and bringing word of this whole other world back to the church at home!
Finally Paul lays out his prayer for them. Not just his prayer - but the prayer of his team. Specifically, he prays that the church would be filled with the knowledge of His will - requiring spiritual wisdom and understanding. As a result they would:
- Walk in a way pleasing to God
- Bear fruit
- Know Him more
How does this relate to becoming a world Christian? If we are on the "going" end, we should do as good a job as Epaphras of relating something of the personality of the church on the other end to the church at home. We should help the church at home learn to love the body on the field as much as we do! If we are on the "sending" end, or even if we just encounter a cross-cultural worker, we should ask questions and get to know the people they serve. Every missionary I know loves it when people ask more than surface questions. They can give a five-minute summary, but they really love to pour out their heart. Learn to ask questions that give them open doors to share that heart. Some practical notes:
- Allow plenty of time for conversation - a 30 minute cup of coffee will barely scratch the surface.
- Ask the right questions. This will vary based on what your friend does, but here are some questions that have worked for me to get you started:
- * What is the most encouraging thing you've seen since your last furlough? The most discouraging?
- * What are the strengths/weaknesses of the church?
- * What is a worship service like?
- * What are their needs?
- * Are there solid leaders in the church?
- * What do you do when you go to their homes?
- * What is going on politically/culturally that can help me understand your life and the church better?
- Spend extended time in prayer after hearing about the church. Pray for your friend, but also for those he or she serves.
- Learn about the country and people group he or she serves. Read articles online and in the international section of newspapers and magazines.