Paul’s Advice to Euodia and Syntyche: “Agree with Each Other” (Philippians 4:1–3)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.



Toward the end of the first chapter in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, he called his brothers and sisters to let “their manner of life be worthy of the gospel.” What does that look like? This call is lived out as we are seen “standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel”! How does God bring us to that place?

Paul describes the attitudes of the Lord Jesus that we must embrace if we would live in this “manner worthy of the gospel.” As our Father builds into us the very heart of His own Son through the ministry of His Word and the power of His Spirit, we see how to live out this new Kingdom lifestyle in our church. Then God gives us the power of the indwelling Christ to make these relationships possible!

Later in his letter, just in case we are still confused about how to do this, the apostle gives us a real-life model to follow. Two women in the church at Philippi were struggling in their relationship with each other. Paul provides wise counsel for them, telling them how to navigate through this great difficulty:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2–3)

What is happening in Paul’s heart as he is reaching toward the conclusion of his letter? After writing about the strategic partnership they share, the glory of the gospel, and our willingness to suffer for its sake, the power of the cross and the surpassing worthiness of Jesus, does he just now remember that he did want to make a comment on this situation between these two ladies before finishing his letter?

Absolutely not! Two issues prompted the writing of this letter by Paul to the Philippian church. One was his desire to thank them for the deep and full partnership they shared in the gospel, not only financially but also suffering with him and confirming the gospel together before the eyes of the watching world. The other issue that prompted this letter was the division between Euodia and Syntyche.

Sins, Hurts, Disagreements, and Disappointments

We do not know what had happened between these women. It does seem obvious that they were not arguing about whether Jesus is truly God, or whether He had in fact risen from the dead. This was a personal issue. Something had happened, perhaps a hurt or disappointment, a failure or sin of one against the other.

Paul sets the solution clearly before them. He calls them to agree with each other. He then asks co-workers to help them to that place. He had begun what we have designated “chapter 4” with a second call to “stand firm.” Nothing shakes us quite like divisions in intimate relationships!

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)

Why is this personal issue so important to the apostle Paul? We have already seen in this letter that Paul is “all about the gospel.” He is discipling this wonderful church to orient all that they are and all that they have around the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything that distracts us from the primacy of the ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us is an enemy of the gospel.

Surely, you have seen in your own family, or perhaps your church, how great a distraction problems in relationships become. Issues with one another seem to immediately consume all the energy available to us. Every conversation, every prayer, every moment of time, and every resource of strength must now be focused on solving this problem.

Whatever had happened between Euodia and Syntyche was affecting not only their relationship with each other but also the unity of the church at Philippi. This issue was distracting them from the work of the gospel, and Paul tells them how they must get through this: they need to agree with each other.

We Cannot Do This

Why does Paul place this exhortation where he does in his letter? He has just portrayed so beautifully, with such eloquence and power, the humility of Jesus. The very Son of God did not grasp on to what was rightfully His; He came as a servant. He laid down His life. Jesus humbled Himself.

What would it take for Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other? They would need to humble themselves. When Paul calls them to agree with each other, this does not come across to these sisters as a mystical exhortation; there is no confusion about how they must respond. Jesus had modeled before them vividly how to do this, and now He lives within His people to make this possible and the normal response of His children.

But we know very well that we cannot do this. In our churches in the West, and even increasingly throughout the world, it is not possible for us to walk in what is most basically Christian. Why can’t we do what the apostle Paul is calling these two ladies to do—to agree with each other? There are two devastating reasons.

First of all, we highly value the independence of the system in which we live, and we have learned to see the gospel through the eyes of our culture. Our independent spirit and the individualism we so highly value make it very difficult to submit to one another. Alongside this reality is our commitment to what we have learned to see as our highest good: the need to be right. We pursue our “rightness” and defend the positions we hold at any cost.

How much will we sacrifice for the sake of maintaining our rightness? We will destroy our marriage; we will split our church; we will walk out of an intimate and treasured relationship, because being right is more valuable to us than anything else. In fact, there is nothing we will not give up for the sake of being right. It is our highest good.

God Is Other than What We Are

The second reason we cannot do this is because we love justice more than mercy. We are not like our God, whose holiness defines both His person and His nature. What does it mean for God to be holy? Surely He is pure and without sin. Yes, God is completely separated from everything evil. But the first definition of holiness is “other.”

God is “other” than what we are. In every way, His uniqueness and separation from everything that we are fills our eyes with wonder, just as it does the angels around His throne. Sometimes we celebrate this aspect of God’s holiness when we sing together, “there is none like you!”

This is the place where we see most clearly that “we are not like God”: He values mercy over justice, but we value justice over mercy. That is why we would not have promised mercy to Adam and Eve in the Garden when there was no repentance on their part, or confession of their sin, or any sense of responsibility for their actions. We would have reminded them about the consequences of their choices. We are not like God; He is other than all that we are, in every way.

This is why we cannot do what Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche to do. Our commitment to justice over mercy prevents us from humbling ourselves and agreeing with each other for the sake of the gospel. Being right is a higher good than the ministry of reconciliation, and at whatever cost, whether it is a broken marriage, a broken friendship, or a broken church, we will hold out to defend our “right position.”

You may well be struggling with much of what I am saying here. On one level, this is very confrontational concerning who we are and our culture as Christians. On another level, it might seem very confusing when we talk about the attributes of God like this.

When we list the attributes of God or the characteristics of His Person, we must know that He is forever, and at every moment, fully every one of those qualities. God does not diminish one attribute at the expense of another. He is always fully just, for example. In His justice, God’s wrath must be satisfied toward all His enemies. That is why the cross was so terrible. God’s hate-filled wrath toward His enemies and His righteous justice were poured out on His own Son.

But God is also always fully mercy. He loves mercy! He gave His own Son so He could cover us with His mercy. Because we are “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3–14) and because all our God’s affections are focused on His Son, He loves us, too, and pours His mercy upon us.

Transformed Hearts Lead to Transformed Relationships (Philippians 2:1–13)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.


The apostle Paul now calls the church at Philippi to own deeply in their life together those things for which we all hunger in our relationships with one another:

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy . . . (Philippians 2:1)

How we all long for encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship, affection, and compassion! This is the nurturing, secure, life-giving environment in which God’s people flourish and grow to maturity. Now, Paul says, if those are the very things you desire to flow through the relationships in your church, you also must know that they spring from these realities:

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)

Before we can share together those heart-healing realities described in verse one, Paul says, we must share together a common mindset, a common love commitment to one another, and we all must be moving in the same direction. Then, he reminds the church at Philippi that all this flows from a heart attitude that must reside deeply in every believer.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)

What is this attitude? Seeing others as more important than ourselves! It is the same response of heart that Paul described to the church at Rome when he said to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Is it actually possible in this world to look at a brother or sister as more important than we are? Or to prefer another person to ourselves? Is Paul describing an ideal world? No, he is telling us of the new creations in Christ that we are becoming, and the new Kingdom in which we live. Paul is describing the normal Christian life.

Grasping and Giving

This new attitude that transforms hearts and relationships is the very attitude of the Lord Jesus:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7)

Jesus, very God, in the presence of the Father, owning the worship of the angels and the glories of eternity, did not hold tightly to those things that were rightfully His. He emptied Himself, not of His deity, but of His eternal prerogatives and privileges, and was born as a man.

We know well about “grasping.” Jesus did not grasp, but grasping is often the story of our lives. Because we were in Adam when he sinned and when he died, we inherit both his rebellion against God and his death. We come into this world as empty people, and we spend our lives grasping to be filled. We grasp at things, experiences, success, relationships, pleasures, and powers. Whatever we think will fill up . . . the gnawing emptiness of our souls, we grasp onto with the hope of satisfaction. Jesus came into the world full and chose to be emptied!

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus did not come as any man; He did not appear as a king or a ruler. He came as the lowest form of man, a servant. He did not give Himself to any form of death; He did not die as a hero. Christ died the lowest death, that of a common criminal. He willingly gave Himself to His Father, and for you and me.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9–11)

Since Jesus was willing to come as the lowest form of man and die the lowest form of death, God has given Him the highest place and the highest name! Someday, every knee will bow before Him—those in heaven, those on the earth, and even those under the earth. Someday, all of God’s angels of light, every person who has ever lived, and even Satan and his hosts will fall before Jesus Christ and recognize His lordship. And today, God has given you and me the privilege and joy of worshiping the One we will exalt forever!

It is critical for us to understand that we cannot live out by means of any human resource the attitudes that Paul is calling us to embrace in these Scriptures and those that follow in this letter. Only because God is giving us both the desire and the power can we live in a way that brings joy to one another and glory to our Lord.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)

Two Edifying Conversations on Finding the Main Idea of a Book of the Bible

In recent episodes of the Church Theology podcast, friends of the ministry Kirk Miller and Dan Allen talk through finding a book of the Bible’s overall message. The first conversation explains the importance of the principle (which we call “Finding the Main Idea and Intended Response”) while the second applies the tool to the book of Philippians. They are edifying conversations you should enjoy.

Finding a Book’s Overall Message: Part 1

Finding a Book’s Overall Message: Part 2 – Case Study: Philippians

In Part Two, Kirk and Dan share one helpful way to think about the Intended Response of a book of the Bible, and it’s a handy little formula:

Author + Audience + Argument = Aim

You may also be interested in our article, “How to Find the Big Idea of a Book of the Bible.”

Bible Narratives Are Often Gloriously Ambiguous

This article originally ran on The Gospel Coalition. Used by kind permission of the author.

Author: Chad Ashby is pastor of College Street Baptist Church in Newberry, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Mindy, and their five children. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he completed an MDiv in biblical and theological studies. Chad blogs at After Math. You can follow him on Twitter.



This point might make your toes curl up inside your shoes, but the narratives of the Bible are ambiguous. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the Bible is false, untrue, misleading, or culturally confined.

But its stories are ambiguous.

Perhaps you remember being introduced to literary tools in your high school English class—simile, metaphor, figurative language, rhyme, rhythm, analogy, and so on. Think of ambiguity as a literary tool. Biblical authors use ambiguity as a way of inviting you to the party. If you’re reading a story that lays everything out plain and simple, with the moral overtly stated and the villains and heroes clearly labeled, there is not much work left for you, the reader, to do. But the Bible is not interested in disinterested readers. The Author wants to suck you in.

The Bible is not interested in disinterested readers. The Author wants to suck you in.

Take Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, for instance. The play was written to be performed with no set and minimal props. Why? Because we’re meant to imagine not just any town, but our own. Without specific details to create distance between the events and our experience, the unfolding narrative becomes proximate, immediate, real.

Why is it that we easily remember Esau’s red hair or Joseph’s technicolor coat? Because we are seldom told about any character’s appearance or apparel. How is it that we have four Gospels and not a single author bothered to mention the physical appearance of Christ? Much like Wilder, biblical writers knew that for transcendent storytelling, less is usually more.

Intentional ambiguity also allows for multiple, overlapping interpretations and applications. A good author is not content to tell you how he thinks about the characters, the plot, or the outcome. Part of the delight of reading is being able to draw your own conclusions and make your own inferences. What fun is a connect-the-dot when all the dots have been connected for you?

Not a 19th-Century British Novel

Pride and PrejudiceJane EyreFrankenstein—you know the ones I’m talking about: introspective tomes with a decidedly omniscient narrator. They’re great novels. But the Bible is not one of them. We hardly ever get to hear the characters’ inner thoughts; we hardly ever get a blunt description of a character’s motives.

This stark difference might be unsettling at first, since we’re so used to being made privy to a character’s intimate thoughts and motives. By contrast the Bible can seem impersonal, the characters distant.

There’s a difference between intentional and unintentional ambiguity. Unintentional ambiguity is sloppy writing and poor communication. Intentional ambiguity, though, is an author’s prerogative.

The frustrating thing, at times, is that we know the biblical Narrator is omnipotent. God himself knows exactly why characters act the way they do. On rare occasion, the Spirit gives us a brief peek into someone’s mind, but by choice he keeps them hidden from us most of the time. Instead of lengthy inner monologues, we have to infer from a character’s words and actions where the heart lies.

The fall of King Saul and King David are mirror images of one another (1 Sam. 15; 2 Sam. 11-12). Their confessions are eerily similar: “I have sinned!” (1 Sam. 15:24; 2 Sam. 12:13) However, only one king is forgiven because only one king’s heart is truly repentant. Determining which and why—the ambiguity is a divine invitation to explore our own murky hearts.

When an author intentionally withholds information, he does it because the story is actually better that way. Ambiguity is the biblical author’s way of winking at his readers. When you and I are able to read between the lines and discern motives, connections, and desires without that information being overtly stated, it’s a win-win for both the author and us.

Like Real Life

Does any life event have just one lesson? Can the experiences in our lives be boiled down to heroes and villains? Do we ever fully comprehend the inner desires and motives of the people we interact with? Do we even fully comprehend our own thoughts and motives?

Biblical narratives read like real life.

Stories rarely end with a succinct nugget of truth like one of Aesop’s fables, a “truth we can use.” Sometimes we’re left bewildered as to who the true heroes and villains actually are.

This is for our good. There’s always another lesson to learn; there are multiple correct ways to apply the story. Scripture’s narratives refuse to be boiled down to a single “moral of the story”: Is the wilderness encounter of David and Abigail (1 Samuel 25) about the power of hospitality, healthy conflict, trusting God’s promises, or a vision of the virtuous woman? The line between hero and villain can be blurry: Is Jacob more virtuous than his uncle Laban—or are both shameless opportunists? Inner desires are questionable; motives are a guessing game. From a human standpoint, why exactly did Judas betray his Lord?

Ambiguity makes all of this biblical beauty possible.

Do we ever fully comprehend the tapestry of God’s sovereignty that hangs behind the events of our lives or the lives of others? Biblical narratives are rich and deep and will never be fully exhausted. There’s always room for more exploration, for another angle, another application. In fact, I’d argue that narrative is often more readily applicable to life than strict directives.

In a society increasingly divided, many want to draw God’s Word into their own interpretive universe. They will fail every time. Intentional ambiguity is a gravitational force that draws us into orbit around God’s Word, never vice versa.

In some sense, the ambiguity of biblical narrative shows us who God is—a God who will never be fully comprehended. He will forever be explored, for he has new mercies tucked around every corner, and new joys for us each morning.


Related Resources:

The Apostle Paul and Praying about Praying (Philippians 1:9-11)

The following is an excerpt from Bill Mills’ book, A Gospel Worthy of Your Life: Orienting Every Resource, Attitude, and Passion around the Cross.


Because the affections of Paul’s heart were deeply knit into his brothers and sisters in Philippi, and he was now in prison, his ministry to them in this present reality was focused on prayer. He was committed to partnering with God in the work He was doing in this great church. Paul knew he could do that through prayers of intercession.

It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9)

Is that not a wonderful way to pray? May your love flourish more and more! In your relationships with one another, in your care for me and our work together in the gospel, in your heart for Christ, may love flow until it fills everything we are and all that we do. Along with that love, may God give you wisdom and understanding, to know Him, His ways and His purposes,

so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:10–11)

Paul also asked God to enable his brothers and sisters in Philippi to affirm and pursue those things that are best, to live holy lives as they prepare for the return of their Lord, and to be filled up with all that flows from a right relationship with their God. Christ is the only resource that brings those hopes to reality and results in God being worshiped and glorified.

When we read Paul’s prayer for his beloved brothers and sisters, we sense that Paul is asking God to do the very things He must desire to fulfill among them! How is it that Paul prays with such understanding? I think Paul had given much thought and even prayer as he began to intercede for this church.

Rather than assume what God wanted to do in their midst or simply asking God to be with them, bless them, or provide what they needed, Paul spent time in God’s presence with a listening heart. I believe he asked God to enable him to see this church through His eyes and to cause his heart to be sensitive to what God purposed to do in them. These were the very things Paul brought back to the Lord as he interceded for his people. Then he wrote to them the very things he was asking God to do in them.

We see this same pattern of intercession in Paul’s letters to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus. He prays so knowledgeably for the people God has entrusted to him in ministry, and I believe it is because he sought the Lord in prayer, asking God to open his eyes to the needs of his people and to God’s purposes for them before he assumed what they needed or simply asked God’s blessing on them.

This is a powerful pattern for our own prayers of intercession. When we pray for our children or our parents, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, for pastors and leaders, for missions and missionaries, and for those God has entrusted to us, it is good to “pray about praying.” We cannot assume what those people need or what God desires or just ask, “Please bless so-and-so.” Pray with knowledge, and with God’s heart, and then write to those you are praying for and tell them what you are asking God to do in and for them!

5 Ways Exodus Confronts Our Secular Age

Exodus is epic. An underdog leader of a slave nation stands up to the world’s most powerful man. Hail, frogs, flies, and rivers of blood plague the most prosperous nation on the planet. God miraculously divides a major body of water so his people can escape their captors.

That’s just the first half.

No wonder Exodus has held Hollywood’s attention for a long time. Consider full-length feature films including The Ten Commandments (1956), The Prince of Egypt (1998), and more recently, Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). While these movies get some things right, the true message of Exodus is often lost to make it more palatable for modern taste or for more sensational storytelling.

That’s a shame, because I’m convinced that the true story of Exodus speaks powerfully to our secular world in several ways.

1. God’s focus is his own glory—a good thing.

Throughout Exodus, God unabashedly seeks his glory and wields his sovereign power over creation to achieve it. At the burning bush, he called a self-doubting octogenarian with murder in his past to deliver his people from bondage and lead them to worship in the desert (Ex. 3:1–4:11).

In the plagues, God showed his supremacy over the gods of Egypt by using elements of his creation to prove his power over them (Ex. 7–12). In hardening Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17), he demonstrated his sovereign power over world rulers and nations.

God alone is worthy of all praise—a truth that drives many in our secular culture crazy. While the secular mindset may tolerate some “religious plurality” or say “you can believe your truth while I’ll believe mine,” Exodus makes clear that every false god will one day be crushed, and every knee will bow before our Creator and judge (Phil. 2:10–11).

God isn’t a megalomaniac who desperately wants attention; he’s a loving Creator accomplishing his good purposes by redeeming a people for himself. No raging nation or hardhearted leader will steal his glory or thwart his good purposes for this world or his people.

2. God’s holiness requires judgment of the wicked.

God’s holy wrath burned hot against Egypt’s pharaoh. Egypt’s leader mandated the Hebrew people abort their male offspring (Ex. 1:15–16), enslaved God’s chosen people, and forced them to serve Egypt instead of God (Ex. 5:1, 7:16, etc.). God’s holy wrath led to the final plague that took the lives of all the firstborn in Egypt, from pharaoh’s house to Egyptian slaves to cattle (see Ex. 12:29–30). God even graciously warned them (Ex. 11:4–7).

The righteous judgment of God isn’t the most popular of topics in our supposedly tolerant secular world. Even so, our culture cries out for justice that can be found only in a sovereign God who sets the standards and executes judgment on the guilty.

Without a sovereign God of justice, we have no hope that ultimate justice will come against this world’s oppressors, abusers, traffickers, and murderers. A God of perfect justice will judge every evil deed, and he alone can help us endure this unjust world.

3. Redemption comes by the blood of the Lamb.

The exodus from Egypt is the greatest picture of redemption in the Old Testament, pointing forward to the rescue from the bondage to sin led forth by Jesus Christ, the new and better Moses (Heb. 3:1–6).

A secular worldview doesn’t leave room for redemption, because it would require acknowledging sin as the Bible defines it. According to Kevin DeYoung, the secular confession is not, “‘Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,’ but ‘Woe to me if I think myself unclean.’”

With personal autonomy and finding the authentic self as key aims of the secular worldview, Christian redemption is as offensive as it is esoteric. The secular world must grasp that sin exists and has consequences. Not even Israel could escape God’s judgment without a blood sacrifice of a lamb (Ex. 12:1–3). No sin disqualifies us from redemption that the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) offers by the blood of his cross.

4. God’s grace precedes God’s law.

God gives Israel his law in Exodus 20–24, and as always, context is key. God reminds Israel of how he saved them from Egypt (Ex. 19:4; 20:2) before he explains how the law will help them live out their holy calling among the nations (Ex. 19:5–6; 20:3–17; cf. Eph. 2:1–10; Titus 2:11–14). Stripping the law from this loving, relational context twists its purpose and warps our understanding of God. We should obey because he has saved us, not because a divine taskmaster requires obedience for salvation.

I fear many in our secular age have a bad taste of Christianity due to leaders and churches missing this crucial point. Instead of gospel-motivated obedience that produces life and joy, legalistic understandings of the law lead to fear, misery, and at worst, apostasy.

5. God’s presence brings the transcendent close.

Exodus 1–20 may be the most vivid story of the Old Testament, but that’s only half of the book. The second half focuses on the plans and construction of the tabernacle, the earthly place where God would dwell. Exodus 29:46 is the driving force for the whole book: “And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them” (ESV, emphasis mine).

Our secular world champions the notion that every person is equally good and right, yet the tabernacle flies in the face of this notion. The tabernacle shows that nobody is naturally good, and nobody naturally has access to God’s presence without a mediator and a sacrifice for sin. In Jesus, simultaneously our mediator and sacrifice for sin, the transcendent God draws us close.

If our world understood what the tabernacle represents, it wouldn’t search for the transcendent in celebrities, athletes, technology, or astrology. It would rejoice that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14, ESV).

Greatest Miracle

There’s a lot in Exodus the secularist would reject. First to go would likely be the miraculous events like the burning bush, the plagues, the provision of manna, or the parting of the Red Sea. But the greatest miracle of Exodus—and of the entire Bible—is how a holy God would make a way for sinful people to dwell with him.

That’s a miracle you won’t see in the movies.


This article originally ran on The Gospel Coalition.

Encouragement from Our Founder, Bill Mills

Editor’s note: We had no idea that less than a month after Bill wrote the letter below, God would take Bill from us and bring him into His presence. You can read more on our web page, “Remembering Bill Mills.” The letter was originally written as an encouragement to our partners during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now knowing that these are Bill’s last widely published words has caused the words to take on much more added significance.


Dear friends,

My beloved friend Craig Parro, president of Leadership Resources, asked if I would write a letter of encouragement to our friends, prayer partners, and supporters around the world. 

My first thought was, How can I write a letter like that now, when I am so in need of encouragement myself? That is the place where we are all living right now! We all want to protect one another’s hearts, even when our present circumstances drive us toward fear and anxiety concerning those we love and our hopes for the future.

But, like me, you look back on the times when sickness, poverty, pain in your family, or threats to your career caused you to despair . . . and then remember how God brought you through. We are learning once again that everything in this world keeps changing around us. Health, finances, relationships, and circumstances keep changing, but three things never change: our God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever; His Word, which is forever settled in heaven; and His steadfast love for His children. We live in that eternal God and in His faithful love!

Just a note about how our ministry is doing these days: This year we are celebrating the ministry’s fiftieth anniversary! And in this fiftieth year, we just learned from our logistics team that we are now training 12,051 pastors in 60 countries around the world through 224 indigenous mentor trainers. Many of you have been partners, people who pray and give to this work from the earliest days. May God fill us with worship and thanksgiving now as we think of how God has used us together in this great work! 

A couple of years ago, I was invited to a retreat with the leaders of our partner work in Brazil, Preach the Word. Their training has flourished not only through that great country but in many Portuguese-speaking places in the world. During a coffee break, one of the leaders asked me, “If God had fulfilled your dreams when you began this ministry, what would it look like today?” I quickly responded, “It would have been much smaller – and more about me.” God graciously taught us early to follow the ministry models of the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul, so the fruit multiplies by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God, even when we “shelter at home.” 

We all have been set free for a time to think about life realities in new ways because of our present circumstances. I have been thinking a lot about the prophet Habakkuk and his very short and very powerful Old Testament story. His book begins with his complaint to God that God is doing nothing in the midst of the violence and corruption of His people. God responds by telling His prophet that He is indeed doing something: He is going to bring the hated Babylonians to invade Judah.

Habakkuk is immediately filled with fear. The Babylonians were the terrorists of the age, and their evil devastation of the surrounding nations was well known. Habakkuk confronts God and pleads with Him to relent. When God tells the prophet that the issue is settled, Habakkuk’s anxiety grows as he waits for this horrific reality to be fulfilled. 

But when we come to the end of the book, we find the prophet dancing on the mountaintops! What has changed? Did God actually relent in light of the prophet’s arguments? Did God promise that Habakkuk would not personally be touched by the devastation? No, in fact Habakkuk’s circumstances are actually worse than at the beginning of the book. He describes so graphically his level of fear and dread, along with the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of it all:

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. (Habakkuk 3:16, ESV)

Sounds a lot like what is going on within all of us to some degree during these frightening days, doesn’t it?

So what is it that enables Habakkuk to dance with God on the mountaintops? His circumstances have gotten worse, but His view of God has gotten bigger! How has God done that? Through His powerful, life-giving Word!

God calls Habakkuk to hang on to Him and walk by faith in this situation:

The righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, ESV)

He reminds Habakkuk that even in the midst of Judah’s depravity and Babylon’s evil, His purposes will be fulfilled: 

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV)

God assures Habakkuk that He remains on His throne, sovereign over everything happening on earth:

But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him. (Habakkuk 2:20, ESV)

Even though the Babylonians are marching through the earth in the beginning of the book, God is now marching through the earth for the salvation of His people! 

You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. (Habakkuk 3:12-13, ESV)

As Habakkuk’s view of God grows, as he sees more of God’s power and faithfulness, he sings this song of worship:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18, ESV)

God has done an amazing thing with Habakkuk. As the prophet’s view of God has grown, he is able to turn his what-if questions in chapter one into the strong affirmations of confidence and hope in chapter three! When God told him of the coming invasion, surely he wondered, “What if the Babylonians destroy our homes and our fields? What if they take our cattle? What if the vines dry up through lack of care? What if we have nothing to eat and no place to live?” 

Now Habakkuk knows that even if the things he fears the most come to pass, even if the worst happens, God is still there, and God is enough. And he begins to dance.

Even in this time when so much is uncertain and very scary, and we see the things we fear happening all around us, can the knowledge that our God is still on His throne, working for our salvation, and fulfilling His glorious purposes set our hearts free to worship? There are still high places in the mountains, and the God of all the earth is calling us to dance with Him there. I can almost hear the music beginning in your heart and in your home. Let’s get up and dance with Him and grasp onto the joy and rest He brings right now in His great power and in His steadfast, unchanging love! 

Bill Mills

Founder, Leadership Resources International

P.S.: Craig has just completed a beautiful, encouraging five-part video series on Habakkuk. Each video is about 15 minutes. Watch it at www.LeadershipResources.org/HowLongOLord.

Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams

This is the final part of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



It’s important for us as individuals to think about, how we can we best prevent sin in our ministries, sin that could derail our ministry. How might we encourage a leadership team in a church or an organization to seek to protect one another? 

JH: I want to bring out our organization, Leadership Resources, as a good model. I find this mission organization a better environment than some churches I’ve served in just because there is a real openness that encourages guys to challenge one another. There is a culture of openness, of caring. There’s a freedom to be yourself but also to go to other people, whether there’s a need for confession of sin or confronting sin. Initially, I was a little off guard, because in other church situations I didn’t experience that same thing.

In any church or other Christian organization, two dynamics ought to be fostered. The first is that the higher leadership, say the pastoral team, ought to foster openness with one another. That is a challenge for anyone who might read this. If you don’t have openness or you serve with someone else who is not being accountable, you need to develop it. This is crucial to good leadership, because if leadership doesn’t do it, neither will anyone else in the body. The second thing is, strong godly leaders need to develop a desired culture and determine what that culture will look like. Again, this is something that LRI has done over the years. Our founder, Bill Mills, has been such a godly influence on the organization, and we have other leaders who have been raised up and are doing an equally good job at developing that culture.

Let me read four things that we work on regularly. We have a culture of love, a culture of humility, a culture of hope, and a culture of faith, and then under each one of those categories we describe what that culture looks like. We talk about those things. When we cultivate cultures where people are encouraged to be open in  expressing their struggles or their sins, and then a culture of love where we embrace those people, we encourage them. 

Most pastors are very aware of the “one another” Scriptures. There are many of them. Sometimes we don’t practice these in our church situations, whether in Bible Study or in larger groups. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another.” Closely following that  is Colossians 3:1 which talks about “bearing with one another” and “forgiving each other.” Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another”; and then, of course, the most plentiful of the one-another Scriptures are the “love one anothers.” As we show true sacrificial love, that fosters a wonderful relationship and a wonderful spirit in the organization, knowing that other people have your best interest at heart and, in fact, they will sacrifice for you. There are several Scripture texts that talk about being subject to one another: Clothe yourself with humility, 1 Peter 5:5 tells us. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” and so on. Several of the one-anothers talk about honesty. You put those together and as a leadership team work hard to foster that. You have an environment where people feel conspicuous if they are fostering patterns of sin in their hearts. There is one thing that you can do as an individual believer, but praise God when you have a church or an organization that encourages you not to have those private things going on in your heart and encourages you to share your weaknesses when you stumble.

KH: Thank you so much for your time, John. I’m wondering if you’d close our time in prayer.

JE: It’d be my privilege.

Father, we thank you for calling us to be your children. What a high and holy privilege that is. Thank you for your gift of salvation. We realize that it was purchased through the blood of your precious Son. Father, help us, whether we’re in a church-leadership situation, a mission organization, or we are just a co-laborer with other people who want to exalt Christ in our community. Father, may we be free from sins that overwhelm and disqualify us from giving glory to You. I pray for our own organization. Thank you for what you’re doing and for the way it’s expanding. I pray that you would keep each leader and coworker growing in godliness and encouraging one another in that. Father, I pray today for pastors and leaders who are reading this. I pray that they would check their own hearts and lives. May this conversation be an encouragement to double-check with what’s going on in their lives or in their homes or in their churches. We pray for partners around the world. Lord, these are such days of opportunity. We simply pray that you would cause us to be so joyful in our relationship with Christ and so thankful for the gift of salvation that we would be disciplined. That we would be putting sin to death in our lives so that we can live fully for the glory of Your Son. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


A Few Resources to Help Protect You and Your Church

Preventing Sin by Pursuing Faithfulness

This is Part Two of the transcript of a conversation on Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry between Kevin Halloran and John Eichholz.



John, let’s think practically for a minute. We’ve seen some of the things that can lead to this type of sin, but what are some strategies that a pastor might implement to prevent this in his life?

JE: Kevin, I appreciate you asking that. I should mention there are many things out there, different ministries have lots of resources. There are books. So, there’s no excuse for a pastor or ministry leader not to read about and put into place safeguards in their lives. I think it really starts with your relationship with the Lord Jesus. You can have accountability, you can have other things in place, but I always like to ask men in ministry, “How is your walk? What kind of relationship do you have with your Lord? Are you growing?” Guys have different answers to that. You can put prayer, Bible reading, and other regular habits in your life and still have a disconnect in the Christian walk. It’s really about growing in your relationship with the Lord Jesus and then, out of that relationship, growing with other people. 

I like what John Piper says. “One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. I think for a pastor not to have that delight, not to savor that relationship, is a warning sign. If we don’t wake up in the morning and have joy in our salvation and want to meet with our Lord, spend time with Him, if we’re preparing messages and not finding joy, if we are not finding satisfaction in understanding the Scriptures and then preaching and teaching them to other people, we need to check ourselves. We need to ask people to pray for us.

“One reason lust reigns in so many of us is that Christ has so little appeal.” —John Piper

I am always astounded when I hear about or, in some cases, have seen pastors who preach day in and day out, every Sunday, midweek, and maybe for several years preach well, and yet something is going on in the background. There is a sinful relationship. I always ask, how can that disconnect take place? Men need to ask themselves, What is my relationship? What is my walk? It’s a lifelong commitment. We are called to follow Christ as disciples, which brings to mind Mark 8:34 where Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (NIV). Sometimes, when ministry becomes difficult, men look for an out, they look for a way to escape that’s not from the Lord. The Lord Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and if we’re playing fast and loose with those small things, those “small” sins in our lives . . . that’s a warning sign. I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” A pastor should be able to tell if he’s really committed to his Lord through very difficult times, through the very joyful times, and if he’s not, he needs to ask some serious questions about what this does to his ministry or whether he needs help.

One other idea for those guys who are so confident that they don’t think that they can fall or stumble, is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10: “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,” and at the end of that phrase, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” There are things we need to examine in the Scriptures about our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It’s really all about Him, and there are the two commands, two overarching things we need to accomplish as believers in our life: to love God and to love one another.

The second idea, besides looking at our own life and our relationship with Christ is looking at relational safeguards. Do we have those key relationships in our lives? Most of us in ministry are married. How are we doing with our wives? Are we nurturing that relationship? Even when that relationship is not bringing me satisfaction, am I committed sacrificially to my wife? If we can answer, “No, I’m not”, then we need to check that relationship. We also need to have one or more key men in our lives who we can check in with us regularly. They don’t always have to be on the same spiritual leadership plane as we are.

I’ve talked with men in churches who can’t find someone in their church as a sounding board because they feel that other guys are not as spiritual as they are. Well, maybe there’s someone else in the community, or maybe they need to humble themselves a little bit and just find a guy who is very honest and can speak into their life. Check your relationship with Christ, your relational safeguard., Who are the key people in your life that you’re regularly asking, “How am I doing? What do you think?” Invite them to speak honestly to you.

KH: I appreciate what you said, John, about relationships being a key part of this. Obviously, first our relationship with the Lord, abiding in Christ. Everything flows from that, but relationships with our wives and other people in the church are crucial.

One of the warning signs we’ve mentioned is isolation. That brings to mind Proverbs 18:1: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.” If we isolate ourselves, other sins can so easily creep in that other people may not be around to notice. Sin may be deceiving us, telling us that we’re okay. Douglas Wilson, author of Father Hunger, wrote, “Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches.” That’s his way of describing when we’re bearing the fruit of the flesh instead of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19–23). Having other people in your life who can speak God’s Word to you in an encouraging way but also when you need a rebuke is crucial. 

JE: There was one other Scripture text that is good to bring alongside what you’ve just said: the idea of disciplining yourself and the cravings, the desires we have. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says he disciplines his body and keeps it under control so that he won’t be disqualified as a minister of the Word. Our culture encourages us to feed the flesh, to relax, enjoy ourselves, and not take life so seriously. Pastors, spiritual leaders, ought to discipline themselves for the sake of those around them.

KH: One other attitude that we need to cultivate is a hatred of sin. I know a pastor who says that he prays every single day that he would hate sin more and more. I think that’s kind of two sides of the same coin as we talk about loving Christ, loving what He’s done for us. I think of John Owen and his book The Mortification of Sin and his famous quote, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” [Hating sin should lead to] mortifying sin and not letting it grow—always trying to extinguish the presence and the appeal of sin in our hearts as soon as it comes up.

John, I think one of the tools that God gives us is what the Word says in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus  about qualifications for elders. How might a pastor use those passages to fight the good fight of faith?

JE: That’s a great question, and this is a good text for anyone who is a leader in any spiritual ministry. 1 Timothy 3:1–7 says,

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

I like the way this starts: There is an overarching characteristic that the pastor or overseer must be above reproach, and that doesn’t mean without sin but rather that there are no obvious patterns of sin in the person’s life. Sometimes men default in an are of something like anger, and our society or even in churches at times allows leaders to do that, to even have explosive or ungodly anger issues because they are so good in other areas. They’re gifted.

KH: Or, “The church is growing, so we’ll let this slide.”

JE: Yes, we look at their giftedness but not their godliness. First Timothy 3 gives a list of how a man ought to look overall. This is an overarching characteristic. I like that the book of Acts says leaders are chosen who are full of the Spirit (Acts 6:3). That doesn’t mean that just occasionally the Holy Spirit fills them, but that’s the character of their life. They’re producing fruit. They are given to relying on the Spirit in their life and ministry, and that’s a characteristic that comes out. That’s what you need to really fulfill these things, the help of the Holy Spirit. There are categories of these many qualities. Some list them as twenty, some list thirty or more between these two passages (from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1) and others, but I like to think of just basic categories, like the husband of one wife or a one-woman man. That goes along with managing your house well. If you’re not doing well at home, then Scripture asks ow will you do in the church of God? Managing for Him?

There’s another characteristic among the two lists, free from addictions, free from the love of money. Uncontentious, gentle, not violent, those things go together. Another one: self-controlled. And finally, a good reputation outside the church. That’s a good test. Sometimes guys can be very good in their own church context but outside maybe in business dealings or just snubbing people. Maybe the way we drive in traffic, can be tell tale of something disqualifying in our life.

KH: Good. One more thing I’ll say about hating sin, and it’s really a practical way to cultivate that in our hearts. It’s meditating on the consequences of sin. Randy Alcorn wrote an article called “Deterring Immorality by Counting Its Cost.” In it he includes a long list of things what would happen if he were to have an affair, to fall morally. He meditates on that to cultivate a hatred and a seriousness in his heart about what sin could lead to. That’s something that has helped me think through my own life and develop a hatred of sin.


Stay tuned for the final part of this interview, Establishing Transparent Ministry Teams.

Preventing Disqualifying Sins in Ministry: A Conversation

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 to “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV). 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to think of ministers who haven’t watched their lives or doctrine closely. Within the last couple of years, two high-profile pastors in the Chicago area have had their sin exposed publicly, even covered by news outlets like the Chicago Tribune.

Major sin by Christian leaders leads to great pain, not only in the ministers’ lives but also in their families and churches, and often can damage Christian witness in the community.

John Eichholz

So how can we think biblically about preventing sins that disqualify from ministry?

To answer that question, Kevin Halloran spoke with John Eichholz, a former pastor and current Field Director for our ministry. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • warning signs that someone is headed down a bad road;
  • attitudes and relationships we need in order to avoid disqualifying sins; and
  • how to establish healthy and transparent ministry teams.

In conversations like this it’s crucial that we define terms, so let me very broadly define “disqualifying sins” as any sin that would make a Christian leader violate the qualifications for elders as found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

We realize the seriousness of this conversation. We engage in it humbly and with much trepidation. Our prayer is that God would use this conversation to strengthen your walk with Him, to expose sin where it is needed, and also to encourage all of us by reminding us of all that God has given us in Christ to enable us to walk in holiness and in grace.



Read the transcript of the interview:

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