As Paul pens some of his closing sentences of 1 Thessalonians, I wonder if the length of the scroll impacted the brevity of his instructions. We don’t know, but in three verses he charges the entire congregation with three urgent requests. Pray. Greet. Read.
1. Brothers, pray for us. In four words, Paul challenges the congregation to connect with their missionary team through prayer. Paul, Silas and Timothy all needed prayer. Prayer for guidance, protection, direction, wisdom, strength, all the things that leaders need as they seek to serve Christ and His bride, the church.
I’ve urged a number of students and pastoral leaders in recent days to bolster their own prayer lives and to mobilize prayer partners wherever God provides them. We’re ‘used to’ missionary prayer letters, either mailed or electronically delivered with pictures, updates, items of praise and prayer since the last time they communicated. Why should not every Christian worker have a prayer team? Trust me, I’m not opposed to praying for our pastoral leaders, but all workers need God’s help. Maybe, like Oswald J. Smith (People’s Church, Toronto)
Trust me, I’m not opposed to praying for our pastoral leaders, but all workers need God’s help. Maybe, like Oswald J. Smith (People’s Church, Toronto) modeled, we could reintroduce Faith Promise giving and praying. Jack Gibson, chair of the Missions Committee at High Park Baptist Church for many years, led us to do exactly this. We completed prayer commitments for our missionaries, leaving one copy of our commitment (in those days) underneath their posted picture, and retaining the second duplicate (carbonless) copy as a daily reminder to pray. We committed to pray daily, specifically, purposefully for those missionaries.
With today’s electronic tools, websites, Facebook pages, etc we could mobilize more prayer for Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, deacons, youth sponsors, etc as well as our pastoral leadership team. Are we like the early church (Acts 2) who devoted themselves to the apostle’s doctrine, to PRAYER, etc?
Unapologetically, learn from the Apostle’s four word injunction–“Brothers, pray for us…”
2. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. This oft-repeated command seems to slip by us without much reflection. Holy kissing is in a totally different category than our culture understands. Believers are to be greeted. There is a love and recognition between all saints regardless of culture, economic status or other distinguishing difference.
How can we demonstrate our love for other saints? How can we assist even the newborn saints that they ‘belong,’ that we consider them part of the family? Barnabas is the character in the New Testament who seems to include others. He always watched for opportunities to encourage, to draw believers together through his deeds and words.
I’m in the process of learning from leaders and saints who come from very different cultures than my own. Cold and hot cultures communicate their love in such radically different ways. My travels to India, and more recent GTA engagement with those from Sri Lankan background have challenged me to be more demonstrative, more ‘eyes-open’ and welcoming as I encounter these beloved brothers and sisters in God’s amazing family.
3. Read the letter to the entire church.
We some times forget that Paul’s correspondence was for the entire congregation. Everyone mattered, both leaders and those led. All needed to hear the encouragements and exhortations woven through the fabric of these five chapters.
“I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”
Paul had apostolic authority. He was called to be a foundation layer and this letter would become part of the firm foundation upon which God’s people could build their faith. His communication wasn’t just for the leaders, or just a select few but for the entire congregation.
I’m sure they read it and read it and read it again, just as we do in our desire to grasp the doctrines and practices which the Spirit of God presses upon us as part of the New Testament.