I have no idea who Archippus was. His name was common in the Greco-Roman world. Evidently he was connected to the church in Colossae, an ancient city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). At the end of his letter to the church in that city, Paul simply writes, “And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’”
Who is he? It’s possible that he’s the same man mentioned in Philemon 2 as “Archippus our fellow soldier.” People guess that he may have been Philemon’s son. It’s likely that Archippus was involved in some kind of ministry alongside Paul.
What kind of ministry? We don’t know. Why did Paul address him indirectly? Perhaps he wasn’t part of the Colossian church, and Paul wanted them to pass on his message. (J.B. Lightfoot suggests he may have been pastor of the church nearby in Laodicea.) Or maybe Paul was putting public pressure on him. We simply don’t know.
But here’s what seems clear. Archippus had received a ministry from the Lord, and he needed encouragement to fulfill it. Perhaps he had lost some of his zeal. Maybe he was discouraged.
Paul reminds him of the greatness of his ministry: it’s from the Lord. And he calls Archippus to stick with it until he’s discharged his duty.
It’s not the only time Paul wrote something like this. “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry,” Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5).
Archippus and Timothy seemed to need this reminder, and so do we.
Temptations in Ministry
Temptations abound in pastoral ministry.
One of them is to quit. According to Lifeway, 1% of pastors quit each year. This is fewer than the commonly quoted statistic, “1,500/1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month.” It’s closer to 250. But it’s still high. Any pastor who’s served for any length of time understands the temptation to quit.
But quitting isn’t the only temptation we face. We also face the temptation to get distracted. We start by discharging the ministry the Lord has entrusted to us, but over time we drift to lesser, easier callings. We drift from Word and prayer toward church management or passion projects.
Perhaps the most subtle temptation is to lose zeal. Slowly, without even noticing, we begin to phone it in. We care a little less. We cease to labour in prayer. We settle for comfortable ministry. We begin to see ministry as a career, one with good hours, and tolerable pay, and look for ways to avoid the inherent costs of ministry.
I’ve felt the power of all three of these temptations. I feel the latter two today. It’s why I need Paul’s reminder to Archippus: “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
Remember These Things
Pastor: your ministry comes from the Lord. Not from you, not from your church. You will one day give account to God for how you’ve discharged this ministry. Only his evaluation matters.
Ministry is hard. No, we shouldn’t wine about it. Life is hard for everyone. But we should be realistic about its challenges, and prepare ourselves to suffer (2 Timothy 2:3). Suffering in ministry isn’t abnormal. It’s what we should expect.
Stay at it. Guard against not just quitting but drifting. Don’t measure your success by results. Measure your success by your faithfulness to the charge God has given you.
“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). Until then, fulfill your ministry!