We build relationally. In the New Testament we see picture after picture of love and affection expressed in mutual care, encouragement, financial and prayer support, shared participation in acts of love, and gospel advance. While the primary location of accountability and care is rooted in the local church, we see in Scripture and value the role partnership plays in enabling us to see the broader work of the gospel of Jesus Christ beyond our local churches. We see in the New Testament a vibrancy of relationships that crossed from city to city. Those relationships knit hearts together, produced joy, and provided a foundation for counsel, encouragement, and mutual care. It was very meaningful to the local churches to know that brothers and sisters in other cities carried them on their hearts and gave practical demonstration to their love for one another, along with the encouragement and support that partnership with leadership brought to the local churches. We see in the New Testament that the grace gifts of Ephesians 4 were primarily expressed through relationship, and it is no different today.
In the early church great emphasis was placed upon care, and especially through encouraging one another. Endearing descriptions such as “holding you in my heart,” “to know of your welfare,” “cheered by news of you,” and “that he may encourage your hearts” all depict a depth of love and mutual affection the churches had for one another. We long to see the love demonstrated in the early church also demonstrated from church to church today, flourishing in our partnership and beyond.