Philippians Closing Service - Monroe Community Church
This service was the final service in a series of seven on Philippians that was led at Monroe Community Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the summer of 2010.
Following six services on various themes from Philippians, this service was intended to allow the congregation to hear the entirety of the book at one time.
Song: “Rejoice” (Chris Tomlin)
Song: “How Great Thou Art” (CEL 147, PH 467, PsH 483, RN 250, SWM 150, TH 44, TWC 21, UMH 77, WR 51)
Opening Prayer and Children’s Blessing
The reader can sit behind a shadow screen. A map of the area around Philippi should be on the screen.
Reader A: Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God's holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: (put overhead projector on, showing verse 9 on sheet) that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Have a ‘letter carrier’ (Reader E) come from behind the screen to the new church (Readers B, C, and D) gathered in a circle at the center stage. One person takes the letter and stands in the middle to read it aloud.
Reader E: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. (show Rachel Durfee’s For Those In Captivity on screen)
Church members freeze except for one reader, who stands up from the circle and addresses the congregation. Continue with this pattern.
Reader B: In chains, for Christ. Paul spent at least 2 years in
Reader E: 14Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.[c] 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.
Reader C: Christ is preached. Today hundreds of thousands of Christians live in jails and prisons throughout the world. In the
The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.
Reader E: And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Reader D: For to Paul, to live is Christ and to die is gain. For if he goes on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for him. Yet what shall he choose? He does not know! 23He is torn between the two: he desires to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for us that he remains in the body.
Reader E: 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. 27Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Readers go to assigned seats around the circle in the audience
Song: “We are One in the Spirit” (with all 3 verses) (sing with congregation sitting; Readers go back to their seats while singing the song)
Return image to screen from previous section
Each of 4 readers will be sitting in a different quadrant of the worship circle; each stands as he/she says his/her phrase:
Reader E: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ
Reader B: if any comfort from his love
Reader C: if any fellowship with the Spirit
Reader D: if any tenderness and compassion
Here, as Reader E continues the verse, all 4 readers turn to their section of seats and motion for them to stand on “like-minded”.
Reader E: then make my joy complete by being like-minded,
All Readers (B, C, D, and E): having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Reader E: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others—
Reader B: like the person on your right, on your left—
Reader E: better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
Reader C: but also to the interests of everyone else in this room, and beyond this room, too.
Reader E: standing by the cross (proclaims from memory)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: image of Icarus
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant, made in human likeness. Image: Christ with Crown of
And being found in appearance as a man, Thorns
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Gruenewald image
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, He Qi's image
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.
Congregation sings “In Christ Alone” (SWM 208)
Communion (This section, led by the pastor, included a transition from the previous song and scripture into words of institution, a prayer of thanksgiving, and passing the bread and cup.)
Reader E: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation."
Child reader: Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
Pause in reading: Children’s ministry kids (ages 3-second grade) process through the worship space with stars. AV puts up the slide with stars.
Reader E: And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
Child Reader: 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
AV show slide of Paul in Prison (Rembrandt).
Reader A (from behind the shadow screen): I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. 25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.
Reader B (Commentator outside of screen): Jesus had taught that anyone who wants to follow him must rearrange the priorities of life- placing the needs and concerns of others first. This had become the pattern of life in
Every time we offer ourselves to God we rearrange the priorities of life to give of our time, our talent, and our tithe. We follow Jesus by placing the needs and concerns of others first. We have that opportunity now, to worship God by offering ourselves.
Readers pass baskets for offering
Song: “I Offer My Life” (CEL 663, SNC 218)
Reader A: But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
AV shows a modern art slide of vicious dogs.
Reader A (still behind shadow screen): Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.
Reader B (Standing outside shadow screen): “Dogs” is a harsh word for Paul’s opponents who practiced circumcision wrongly. The Israelites circumcised the male reproductive organ in order to remind the recipient that the oath between them and God was binding for both them and their offspring. Circumcision was Israel’s mark that they were chosen to be God’s people, and that God would be their God. Those Paul referred to as “dogs,” however, had so distorted the meaning of circumcision that the practice had become nothing more than a useless cutting of the body. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
Readers stand in center stage. Congregational lines were provided on screens.
Reader B: Please stand and read with us, as indicated on the screens.
Reader E: But whatever were gains to me…
Reader B: Tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, the best education as a Pharisee
Reader C: The corner office,
Reader D: a big promotion,
Reader C: football skills that land me a full ride to the Division one school of my choice,
Reader D: mother-of-the-century cards from all my children and it’s not even mother’s day,
Reader C: graduation and the diploma
Reader D: a new car in the driveway of my dream house on the lake
All Readers (B, C, D, and E): I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Reader E: 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
Reader B: I consider them garbage,
Congregation: that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him,
Reader C: not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
Congregation: But a righteousness which is through faith in Christ
Reader D: the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Congregation: I want to know Christ—
Reader E: to know the power of his resurrection
Congregation: I want to know Christ—
Reader B: To participate in his sufferings,
Congregation: I want to know Christ—
Reader C: To become like Christ in his death,
Congregation: I want to know Christ
Reader D: and so, somehow, to attain, like Christ, the resurrection from the dead.
Congregation: I want to know Christ
[Pause for silence] AV go to blank slide.
Reader E: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Reader B: Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
Reader E: But one thing I do:
Reader B: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Reader C: I press on
Reader D: I press on
Reader B: I press on
Reader E: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Song: “I Will Hold On” (stand to sing)
Phil 3:15- 4:1
During verses, 18-19, AV quickly goes through the “earthly things” slides so that the images build on each other. The reader will pause before verse 20 for AV to switch to the simple heaven slide.
Reader B starts in the back and recites the verses while walking through the aisles.
Drums begin playing quietly and a random rhythm. It builds louder and becomes more chaotic through verse 20.
Reader B: 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. (End at center stage here; drums go quiet at “is in heaven”) And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Reader A (Behind shadow screen):2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Prayer of Intercession (Prayer for those who need help, those we help, and those who help us)
Children’s ministry kids come to the front
Reader E: Rejoice in the Lord always
Teen Reader: always?
Reader E: and again I say
Teen Reader: rejoice?
Reader E: Rejoice!
Kids sing, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Kids return to family after song) (CEL 745, PsH 228, SFL 230, TWC 606, WR 650)
Reader E: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Be anxious-
Teen Reader: Be anxious?
Reader E: about nothing
Teen Reader: Oohh...
Reader E: but in everything
Teen Reader: Oh come on—everything?
Reader E: in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
Teen Reader: whatever is noble
Reader E: whatever is is right
Teen Reader: whatever is pure,
Reader E: whatever is lovely
Teen Reader: whatever is admirable
Reader E: if anything is excellent or worthy of praise
Both Reader E and Teen Reader: think on these things.
Reader E: Whatever you have learned and received or heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Reader A (Behind shadow screen): I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
I'm not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Reader E: I know what it is to be in need,
Teen Reader: and I know what it is to have plenty.
Reader E: I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
Teen Reader: whether well fed
Reader E: or hungry,
Teen Reader: whether living in plenty
Reader E: or in want.
Reader E, Teen Reader, and Reader A: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Reader A (still in shadow screen): Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account I have received full payment—and even more. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Pastor: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Closing Song: “My Friends, May you Grow in Grace” (SNC 288, SWM 234)
The primary goal for this service was to proclaim God’s word. The entire book of Philippians is read during this service. It is interspersed with songs and prayers as well as short commentaries that provide background or explanatory information. Despite reading a lot of scripture, we also tried to incorporate many key elements of a typical worship service. We also tried to make the reading accessible to the time and location of this particular church.
One of the goals in planning this service was to involve a diverse group of readers. We tried to include readers of different genders and ages. The staging is intentionally simple so that the focus could remain on the words and so that our choices for readers would not be limited by age or time for rehearsal.