At a time when traveling evangelists were looked upon with suspicion, Billy Graham determined to have integrity in his ministry. As a part of this decision, he crafted four rules that governed his conduct: (1) operate with financial transparency; (2) avoid even the appearance of sexual immorality; (3) avoid criticizing other pastors and churches; (4) be painstakingly honest in all publicity. He held himself accountable to a board of directors who publicly set his salary.
Paul also relied on other believers in his ministry. He had a large and diverse group of ministry partners who provided both encouragement and accountability for him in ministry. Many of them risked their lives by their close association with him.
In today’s reading, Paul mentions two of those associates, Tychicus and Onesimus. Tychicus was Paul’s letter-bearer. In a world without a postal system, letters were carried by friends or couriers. But Tychicus was certainly more than just a courier. Paul says he will “tell you all the news about me” as a “dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord” (v. 7). He would likely explain the details of Paul’s imprisonment and current ministry to the church. Tychicus was a close companion of Paul who traveled with him to Jerusalem, then was sent by Paul to Crete and Ephesus (Acts 20:4; Titus 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:12).
Onesimus was a runaway slave who had come to faith under Paul’s ministry. His former owner happened to be a part of the Colossian church. Paul let the church know that this former slave was also a dear brother, and now “one of you” (v. 9). Paul sent Onesimus back to his former owner along with another letter, which we now know as the Book of Philemon.
The apostle Paul’s life is a testimony of the importance of sharing one’s ministry. Paul had Barnabas, Tychicus, Timothy, Titus, and a host of associates to encourage him along the way. Do you have friends you consider partners in faith? Thank God for those with whom you can share ministry and who help you stay faithful to Jesus.