How much can you do without God’s help? Those individuals and leaders who are ‘omnicompetent’ (good at everything) may well depend on their ‘experience’ ‘know-how’ ‘training’ ‘skill set’ to accomplish ministry. The truth is those who are NOT ‘omnicompetent (good at only a few things) may still sin in the same way.
In chapter two of 1 Thessalonians, Paul unpacks the behind-the-scenes motives and methods of the missionary team. Remember, he is writing this letter with two other colleagues, so perhaps together they debriefed their Thessalonican experience before he penned these words.
The principles he writes in this first paragraph have huge implications for anyone with a desire to serve Christ and his church.
- The ministry experience was not a failure. “You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.” All of us who serve feel at times that we have failed. We didn’t prepare well enough. We didn’t handle criticism well. We didn’t focus the message on God’s ability and strength. The reasons for feeling a failure area as diverse as our personalities. I’ve found on MANY occasions that God actually used, in some mysterious way, what I deemed less than my best.
- Previous ministry experience shapes current service. “We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.” It would been easier to retire, to adjust the message, to try some new syncrenistic strategy, but with the help of God they kept on with the proclamation of the gospel. Those who know the story of the 5 missionaries murdered in South America, including Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McNully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian, know their widows and others persevered in bringing the gospel to the Aucas.
- Motives are important in ministry. Paul assured the Thessalonians that “the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.” Read through church history and the tragedy of Jonestown and other cultish experiments, and you’ll realize that many ‘sheep’ are fooled by ‘false’ shepherds. God knows the heart and every ministry should have biblical accountability and transparency in place.
- The message is entrusted by God into the hands of His servants. “…we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” Paul, Silas and Timothy did not invent the good news, but simply proclaimed what they had been given. I Corinthians 15:1-4 affirms this same truth where Paul reminded the church there that he had “received from the Lord that which he passed on…”
- God knows and tests the hearts of those who serve Him. Paul was not a man-pleaser but set his and the team’s sight on pleasing God. Flattery and greed were never part of the equation and affirms this with the words–God is our witness.
October is ‘pastor appreciation’ month is some circles. Perhaps February should be ‘missionary appreciation’ or ‘musician appreciation’ or ‘nursery worker appreciation’ month. Why not take time to send a simple message to some of the servants God has used in your life and family? Your simple gesture may be used by God to assure them that their labour in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)