It is clear that Paul’s work was not just Paul’s work. He saw his work as a catalyst for a much greater final work that would involve people from all over to be involved and be part of what he was doing.
In Romans 16, by my count, Paul tells the church in Rome to greet at least 27 people, not counting those that are in the households of those that Paul names. And these aren’t people that Paul has heard about. It seems that he knows these people personally, and it also seems that they have come from many different locations but have now moved to Rome, or moved back to Rome for whatever reason and are now part of the church there.
So I think that it is fair to say that Paul has been not only evangelizing, but he has also been making disciples and building up leaders, then sending these different leaders as part of the work that he has been doing to spread the Gospel everywhere. Here, he names 27 different leaders, amongst them 7 are women, including the first two that he names.
As leaders and catalysts of the church of Christ, we have a choice in how we will do our work. There may be additional variants, but we can choose between gathering people around us or sending people to do the work. We can either be the center of the work making people dependent on us, or we can equip them to do the work, teaching them to hear from God and do what he has called each of us to do. In the extreme, I would also say that we can create our own kingdoms or we can unleash the Kingdom of God.
A network of relationships and churches
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.Romans 16:16
As he wrote this letter, Paul has now created a network of churches across Galatia (central Turkey), Macedonia (northern Greece), Achaia (southern Greece), and Asia minor (southwest Turkey) through three different missionary journeys. What is more, the disciples that he has made are now going on to make disciples and plant churches in those areas and far beyond, leaving Paul to say back in Romans 15 that he doesn’t have any further place to work in these regions and he is ready to move on to Spain with his work of the Gospel.
Paul has left a legacy of disciples and churches in his wake that we should learn to imitate. He has, of course, been the leader. No one would dispute that. But he hasn’t set up a hierarchical organization with himself at the head. He has equipped and sent, equipped and sent, and those that he is greeting in this chapter are those that have worked alongside of him, or even those who enabled him to do his work as he mentions in the case of Phoebe who evidently helped support Paul’s work along with the work of several others.
This is the way that the Kingdom of God is intended to grow. Jesus sent his disciples to make more disciples and each of those disciples were intended to fully become the disciples that Jesus intended them to be. Yes, there are different giftings, but there are no limitations. Paul followed Jesus’s example in making disciples and would go on to do the work, not simply come to be part of a church community, but be engaged and deployed in the work of taking the Gospel to the front lines where people have not heard and then making disciples of Jesus amongst those people.
So, let’s pray for more catalysts. Let’s pray for more equippers. Let’s pray for more people that will teach and send and care for others as they do and let’s be about the work that Christ has called us to do. We should no longer “go to church”, we should go to be the church in the places that need to hear, and as we do, we will see the body of Christ grow in numbers and in depth of connection to the head, Jesus Christ because they only, and fully, belong to him, not to us.