"As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. Aristarchus... Barnabas's cousin Mark... and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me. Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis... When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it."... Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you." (Colossians 4:7-8, 10-14, 16-18)Paul was not just and Apostle and teacher of the Body, he was also a member of the Body of Christ and, as such, stood in common need with other believes; the need to be encouraged, the need to love others, and the need to have relationships with others who shared the common life they had in Christ Jesus. When Paul writes to the Colossians, he is not writing scripture nor is he sending them a doctrinal teaching. Rather, he is writing a letter from one who believes in Christ to others who similarly believe in Christ. Granted, he is an apostle, but that does not separate him from other believers but merely defines his function within the household of God. In the end, he remains simply the brother to all who believe.
There was a time, and still may be, when some seminaries taught pastors to remain aloof and disconnected from their congregation; to always appear strong and confident and to never let anyone close enough to see your stumblings and weaknesses. However, this was not how Paul lived his life. He was not a super-man or even a super-christian, he was just a man like any other; a man who had received a gift from God to function as an apostle, but a man none the less. As a man he was not afraid to recognize his need for encourage nor his ability to encourage others.
The Greek words here translated as encourage and encouragement mean to draw near and to speak near to. Encouragement rarely happens outside of the context of relationships. When we stand in need of encouragement it is those close to us, those who call us close to themselves, who are able to speak words and can strengthen and lift us up.
Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation and ministry was never meant to be engaged upon apart for relationships. It is only in the uniting of the body together in relationships that the life of God flows in service from one member to the other and back again.
In the end, Paul leaves with this final prayer, "Remember my imprisonment." It was a prayer to no be forgotten. Surely he knew God would never forget him, but there was the need in his heart that his friends and brothers and sisters in Christ would not forget him. Paul needed the body and so do we today. Let us come out of the shadows and from our own self-imposed isolation and return to the family of God that we too might find live-giving and life-affirming relationships with other members of Christ's body.