What would Timothy tell?

Continuing through the book of 1 Thessalonians, looking at the “Marks of a Healthy Church”, in chapter 3 we look at the report Timothy brings back from Thessalonica, after he is sent there to check on the young church. Have the believers in Thessalonica kept the faith, or have they strayed away? Paul’s comments on Timothy’s report highlight the relationship which existed between Paul and the church and what he thought of as being crucial marks of healthy relationships in a church.

  1. A minister must love and care for his church (FEEL for church) – Verse 1 “So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens” suggests the anxiety, the impatience, extreme care and deep pastoral love the Paul and his colleagues felt regarding the situation of the church in Thessalonica. The missionaries were ready “to be left alone” in a sacrificial act for the sake of the church. A church leader will always be passionate about his church, will love it, will suffer for it, and will put it above other missionary needs. A church leader who is not “burning” for his church, is not in the right place in relation to the church.
  2. A minister must strengthen and encourage his church (be FOND of the church) – Chapter 2 ends with “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy”. Paul conveys his pride in the church in Thessalonica and he uses this language several times in his letter, making it public, making the work of their faith, love and hope known to others. I expect our ministers and our leaders to find pride and joy in our church, and communicate this openly.
  3. A minister must fear for the future of his church (FEAR for the church) – A minister is concerned about the future of the church and must be able to foresee trials and become aware when the church is navigating dangerous waters. Paul reminds the church of the affliction and suffering are part of Christian testimony. Paul vocalizes this fear, that the Tempter may have tempted them away from faith and that his work there would be without results or without fruit, because a true minster of the church is working to see the fruits, the changed lives and the more people coming into a relationship with the Lord.

Refreshed and rejoicing at the good news in Timothy’s report, Paul moves to some ministerial advice, to the matters which are crucial for a healthy church.

  1. Standing firm in the faith – Paul’s number 1 concern was that the church keep the faith, amid trials and difficulties. The best way, if not the only, to do this is to increase faith, to keep working at it. Paul talks about increasing and strengthening faith in many other parts of the scripture. What keeps a church alive, what keeps it together and relevant, is having the Christians stand firm in their faith, not “move” away from it, and not be satisfied with the level of faith reached. There is always room for more. The work of the church’s leaders is to help the congregants affirm the faith and work on it to deepen it and to strengthen it.
  2. Overflow with love – Paul prays “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all”. Paul is instructing the Thessalonians to show not just the required (a measured) amount of love, but to abound in love. In God’s economy there is no equal sign between what you give and what you get. We always give AND receive more then calculated. He paid the ultimate price for us on the cross, there is no measure to the amount of joy, love, hope we can receive, or which we should give.
  3. Be blameless and holy – Paul’s benediction “He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” tells that the route toward holy living is through loving others. God desires our sanctification in response to His grace, and holiness cannot be found apart from love.

As a church, we are called to always work to increase our knowledge of the Son of God, mature in faith, love and hope, and grow in every aspect of our Christian living, building each other and our church in love, until the Day of the Lord, when we will be with Him, and like Him.

In Him,

Adrian, IBCZ elder

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