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1 Thess 2. A Bit about Pastoral Ministry

1 Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  22:24
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My church exists to… :

35 years ago a US church consultant surveyed the members of almost 1000 churches asking them “why does your church exist?” 89% of members responded that “The church’s purpose is to take care of my family’s and my needs.”
Almost 90% of members believed that churches exist to keep members happy.
Only 11% of members said the church exists to win the world for Jesus.
However, among the clergy of those churches it was almost exactly the opposite. 90% of pastors believed that the church existed to win the world for Christ and 10% said that the church existed to care for the members of their churches.
At least in some churches… in my experience and reading, it seems many people in the pews in church on Sunday morning believe the church exists to meet their needs… to give them a safe, sanctified, enjoyable (occasionally even entertaining) hour to escape the world around them.
This is at least in part because (in the church at its best) there is such an obvious contrast between the world and the church; in the world diseases and sirens; murder and mayhem but in the church the glorious unshaking presence of the eternal God… power with peace, and singing his praises with joy.
But if the church people have different goals and expectations to the church pastor… there's going to be conflict!
Both will realise: This is not what I was expecting! I expected to escape trouble and turmoil… but now I’m in I keep being pushed in ways that I often don’t appreciate!
Or I expected him to spend most of his time visiting us… yet he seems to spend most of his time with the people in the church who are going well!
What makes for a successful pastoral ministry?
Is it numbers? Music? Serenity, keeping the peace... happiness and joy for everyone?
How do you evaluate your church?
What do you say about the pastor, the people, the ministries… or probably more revealing… what do you NOT say!
Today we are going to consider what Paul says to his people in the church at Thessalonica about his own pastoral ministry.
In so doing, we learn how to evaluate our own church and ministry to see whether we are on the right track and will be joyful when Jesus returns… or find that although we were in church for years that we only escape the flames of eternal torment by the skin of our teeth!
According to Ac 17 Paul had a wonderful start to his ministry in Thessalonica. Paul and his companions entered the town, went to the local synagogue, share that Jesus was the Christ over 3 weeks… and glory be to God! “A number of Jews, Greeks including not a few prominent women became Christians.”
But trouble soon followed; there was a riot and he fled the city under the cover of darkness.
It appears that after Paul’s sudden departure… when he wasn't there to defend himself… rumours had begun to spread that Paul was just a fly by nighter, out to make a quick buck, make his move on the women in the church and move on.
After all, we note that “not a few prominent women”… I mean, you know what men are like… and to some it all sounded pretty plausible.
Paul’s just like everyone else.
So, in 1 Thess 2 & 3 Paul answers the charges.
Let’s see what he says....

Paul defends his ministry, v1-6

The first thing to notice is that being a church pastor is not a popularity context.
V1-2. Suffered, insulted, dared…
At one level, it amazes me how a message of sins forgiven, a fresh start, clean slate, fellowship with God and eternal joy can be unpopular.
I remember making coffee for one of the grandfathers in Hamilton.
We talked and I heard his story… a lot of tragedy, loss of people he loved. I asked him where did God fit in with it all. He said he didn’t believe in God. Then over the next couple of weeks he starts talking to me about this God that he didn’t believe in.
Eventually I said, It sounds to me like you do believe in God. Perhaps you know he’s there… but you just don’t believe he’s doing much of a job running the world.
He was silent. Then he said, “Yes, I think you’re probably right”.
I said, Perhaps we could read the Bible together and see what God is really like. He agreed. But I couldn’t do it for a few days… then he didn’t show up.
Nor did he show up again for coffee for about 6 or 8 months.
But at another level it’s no surprise at all… because people know if they meet God… their life will have to change.
And that’s scary.
A message of forgiveness and eternal life sounds attractive… but if I can’t run my life my way anymore… ?
And so people can sometimes respond with hostility.
And yet… sometimes we church people can respond in a very similar manner.
Trying speaking to someone in church about something in their life that clearly needs to change.
Paul says I’ve been entrusted with the message of reconciliation with Jesus.
I don’t corrupt this wonderful message… even if it comes across as hostile to the proud and arrogant.
(I won’t not talk about sin and repentance so outsiders can enjoy church… on the off chance they eventually turn up… once)!
I don’t flatter people, I’m not after their money or aiming to borrow their trailer for the w/e.
I don’t try to trick people. Tell them coming to Jesus will instantly perfect their lives and make everything right.
I live to please God.
Sometimes acting as a pastor makes you look good, enjoy that.
Sometimes acting as a pastor makes you seem like either an idiot or even downright evil.
And it may be that you’ll have to wear that.
Either you can’t say what you know to explain what you’ve done… or it was pretty dumb so there’s no point trying!
I think it’s probably true that everyone lives their life for an audience of one. Some people want to make themselves look good. Christians are called to seek God’s approval.
Here is the primary criteria for evaluating pastoral ministry: Are we being, is the church, the minister, the people in the church being good stewards of the gospel?
How are we going being stewards of the gospel?
It's tough! Unnatural. Paul never claimed it was possible to do in his own initiative or strength.
In his letter to the church in Corinth he says that his sufficiency comes from God.

Success because he ministered from God’s heart, v6b-9.

The second way Paul evaluated ministry was by the manner he conducted himself in the midst of the people God had entrusted to him to shepherd.
Look at v6b-9 (Read)
Paul says pastoral ministry is like parenting. (This is especially true when someone has had the privilege of leading a person to faith in Jesus. Then they are spiritual children and that is a special bond).
But it’s true for every true shepherd and leader of God’s people.
Firstly, he was like a mother to the people of the church.
Paul says that he loves the people of the church like a mother.
He worked hard to provide for them and he shared his life with them. He patiently answered their questions and taught them all about this new life in Christ.
Good mothering is not soppy accept whatever they do love.
But it is definitely genuine, patient, tender, considerate and informed love. It is the love of someone who really knows the state the other person is in and takes that into account in responding to and caring for people.
Then he says in v10-12 that he also ministered like a father to his children.
Look at v10-12 (Read)
Encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God...
There is a lifestyle that Christians are called to embrace.
Different vocations have different lifestyles associated with them.
If a person is to become a marine… they are expected to have a standard of courage and fitness and develop skills beyond the average soldier.
When we marry we understand that there is a different lifestyle to when we were single.
When we become Christian, we have a duty to leave behind a former lifestyle and embrace a new life of practical godliness and serve the Lord and each other.
Over the years we learn to live increasingly with integrity, honesty, humility, generosity.
Christians need love and leadership, personal encouragement and exhortation and that can best come through personal interaction with each other.
But there is another side to a successful pastoral ministry.

Successful pastoral ministry requires a good audience.

Look at v13…
In Ac 17 we read about Paul and his companions planting a church in Thessalonica. But within weeks his preaching that Jesus was the Christ had so raised the ire of the Jews that they started a riot, arrested Paul’s landlord because they couldn’t find Paul or Silas and they had to leave the city.
They went to Berea… and Ac 17:11 “11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” And many became Christian.
Like on the days of creation… when God speaks, those that hear and obey find overall peace and fullness, joy and harmony. Yes, sometimes that’s in the midst of riots and rebellion… but perhaps the principle holds!
In Inverell one man who attended there for a while used to regularly tell me about the things that I had said during the service that he didn’t believe. Eventually I learned simply to say that that was OK. As long as I had said something that he did believe was Biblical and that he would take on board to guide his life for the coming week.
Pastoral Ministers
in Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s portrait of the faithful church pastor as “one of a thousand.…
You see him with his eyes lifted up to heaven,
the best of books in his hand,
and the law of truth written on his lips.
This shows that his work is to know and unfold dark things to sinners.
You see him standing as if he was pleading with men.
The world behind him, a crown hanging over his head.
This shows that by neglecting and despising present things for the love that he has for his Master’s service, he is sure to have glory for his reward in the next world.”
Well… let me assure you most church pastors, me included, are very aware of the many ways we fall short of this wonderful ideal.
All people have strengths and weaknesses.
Different pastoral skills are vital for different situations.
But at the heart of ministry we should be looking for our faithful to the gospel.
A minister was approached by a group of people from a church wanting to know how they could get rid of their minister. He said that straight off the cuff, he wasn’t much help to them.
But as the thought about it he was able to come us with some ideas for them.
1. Look the pastor straight in the eye while he's preaching and say "Amen" once in a while and he'll preach himself to death.
2. Pat him on the back and brag on is good points and he'll probably work himself to death.
3. Rededicate your life to Christ and ask the preacher for some job to do, preferably some lost person you could win to Christ, and he'll die of heart failure.
4. Get the church to unite in prayer for the preacher and he'll soon become so effective that some larger church will take him off your hands.

A successful pastoral ministry is one where everyone has gospel-shaped lives. Lives transformed by the gospel and worthy of God, who calls us into his kingdom and glory.

In the end, if we’ve been taught the gospel, and we’re living and proclaiming the gospel, we know, we remind ourselves each day, in times of success and times of failure, that we live by grace.
Are we living self-sacrificial lives, serving others, bearing the burdens of others.
Are we inspiring one another to live lives worthy of the God who has called us into his kingdom and glory?
Paul takes the long view. He’s not working just for a bit of praise. He’s got an audience of one! He knows he will stand before Jesus to give an account when he returns to call an end to this era of human history.
Look at v19 (Read)
No church, I hope, desires a string of broken, burnt out ministers to present before the Lord Jesus when he comes.
And I doubt if any minister, elder, Bible study leader wants to present to Jesus a bunch of burned out, guilt-ridden people.
We all point one another to Jesus and the gospel.
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