The Epaphras Effect is an influencing power that enhances our witness and leadership. It is the impact of spiritual change agents; people who add moral value and produce good wherever they go. The concept is derived from a little-known contemporary of the apostle Paul, Epaphras.
To the extent we prioritize the work of God, do it unselfishly, and seek no credit, we will see and experience the Epaphras Effect. Popularity, power, possessions, and position will not be our driving motive. Instead, our all-consuming goal is being in the center of God’s will, doing His work, and serving people. The Epaphras Effect is high on service, low on self, and bears spiritual fruit.
Here’s Ellen White’s description of the Epaphras Effect in action: “Character is power. The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence. By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we cooperate with Him in the work of saving souls. . . . The wider the sphere of our influence, the more good we may do. When those who profess to serve God follow Christ’s example, practicing the principles of the law in their daily life; when every act bears witness that they love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves, then will the church have power to move the world” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 340).
Epaphras was a vibrant believer, a diligent soul winner, a founder of the church at Colossae (Col. 1:7). While he was a successful, exemplary Christian, he was remarkably humble. Epaphras used his influence and resources to build the work of God while desiring no credit.
The Bible gives few biographical clues to this fascinating individual. The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Lycus Valley commending one of their own, Epaphras of Colossae, as “always wrestling in prayer for you” (Col. 4:12). The name Epaphras (Col. 1:7, 8; 4:12-14; Philemon 23) means attractive, charming, or lovely. From these verses we can glean hints about this selfless man and his reputation for service, prayer, and intercession.
Colossae was located in the Lycus Valley. Paul labored two years in Ephesus, about 100 miles west of Colossae. When Paul wrote his famous letter to the Colossians (Col. 1:1; 4:8), he had never visited the city (Col. 2:1). It was Epaphras who started the church in Colossae. His concern that the Colossians be preserved from the dangerous heresies and false doctrines prompted him to travel more than 1,000 miles from Colossae to Rome to get Paul’s counsel on how to best address the pending theological dangers that threatened the church.
Paul was known for his preaching, teaching, and church planting work in Ephesus. But all the while Epaphras was quietly and effectively working in the background. When Paul penned his epistle to the Colossians, he used four phrases to describe Epaphras:
1. “Our dear fellow servant” (Col. 1:7). He was as deeply committed to the service of God as was Paul and Timothy.
2. “A faithful minister of Christ” (verse 7). He had a passionate interest in building and maintaining the work of God.
3.“A servant of Christ Jesus” (Col. 4:12). Epaphras depended on God and served Him with gladness of heart and freshness of spirit.
4. “My [Paul’s] fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 23). Paul complimented Epaphras by saying that his devoted service made him a fellow prisoner of Jesus Christ.
Felt in the early church, the Epaphras Effect is felt even now. This year we have experienced the spiritual fervor of revival and reformation; we have witnessed the printing and global distribution of more than 110 million copies of The Great Controversy/The Great Hope around the world. We are seeing an unprecedented explosion of evangelism in Greater New York City in the NY13 program, where nearly 600 evangelistic meetings are being held.
Behind each initiative, every book, every meeting are thousands of dedicated sisters and brothers who love God and are effectively exerting the Epaphras Effect. The work could not succeed without them.