THRIVE | FAITHFUL Leadership | 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 | Christopher Rich
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10
Christopher Rich – September 24, 2023
1 Thessalonians | THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
Wk3: FAITHFUL Leadership | 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Introduction | Loving Leadership
Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we continue our series from 1 Thessalonians. THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
Where do you find hope? How do you handle hostility? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually THRIVE in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. Last week we saw disciples of Jesus faithful in following as this church planted amidst hostility became an example of a flourishing Gospel Community. Here the tone and topic of the letter shifts to Paul describing how this church was planted with a Pastor who has Flourished in Leading.
Part I | 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 | Faithful in Calling and Suffering
1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 | 1For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
Faithful Leaders are those called by God with purpose to go on mission and are willing to continue on the mission boldly despite seemingly overwhelming adversity. There is an endurance, steadfastness, stick-to-itiveness. While these are all things at certain points we may believe we possess, they are clearly demonstrable to those around us who know us best and are close to us. Paul starts off “for you yourselves know, brothers (sisters)” Vein means empty; of results and of purpose. Paul and the team were called to the region to preach the gospel, to point people to Trust Jesus and to plant churches around the mission of God to rescue estranged sinners into the family of God, through faith in the work of the Son of God, Jesus, on their behalf. That has been their purpose and mission, and by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit this is what they accomplished. Their faithfulness in being obedient to the call of God lead to the fruitfulness God intended.
While worldly success is not guaranteed; God does not send His messengers out on fool’s errands to produce no fruit. Flourishing leaders are called to work that WILL be fruitful in the ways and scales that God intends them to be. He came with purpose and he came with boldness that is necessary to flourish in the midst of Hostility. The mission in Snohomish County has not ended so we continue to plant, build, equip, etc. Flourishing leaders are not aimless and they are not fruitless.
Faithful Leaders have a willingness to suffer and remain bold. Some might say Paul limped into ministry from Philippi, but he is still bold! Flourishing Leaders are those who have experienced suffering and have continued to persevere. They have been battle tested, but not defeated. What was Paul’s battle? What happened in Philippi? Paul kept getting pestered by a demon possessed slave girl and final “commanded” the spirit to depart. Her pimps got angry their “property” wouldn’t work anymore so they drug them into the street and had them beaten, clothes torn, beaten with rods, and thrown in prison. Just shameful. Yet specifically through him being in prison some people became Christian and a church was planted. He left town and as he came to Thessalonica. People are willing to suffer proportional to the value of the purpose of suffering. The suffering had a point and purpose because the Gospel’s impact is worth it; so Flourishing Leaders desire to see Gospel preached regardless of the results AND regardless of the consequences.
PART II | 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 | Faithful in Stewarding
1 Thessalonians 2:3-6| 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.
All Pastors aren’t Paul, but Paul is a great example of what a Godly Pastor is. Faithful Leaders are Stewards of Gospel. Why does Paul feel the need to defend himself? While present for a short time, he and the team left quickly when the conflict in town became intense. In his absence, even in hostility the church is flourishing but their opinion and memory of Paul isn’t. Opponents are waging a smear campaign and saying, Paul is just another one of the traveling philosophers and teachers that regularly came through the Via Egnatia highway who came preaching lies, for impure motives, seeking to deceive people into following them for any number of reasons. Paul is concerned the integrity of the messenger being called into question eventually will call the message itself into question. This is a church received the Gospel, been changed by the Gospel as they have turned from Idols and now Paul wants to make sure that is not undermined by those who would see to discredit him in hopes of limiting the impact of the Gospel of Jesus.
Faithful Leaders recognize the damaging impact foolish leaders have on the flock. We have experienced this in Marysville when our church was planted the biggest church in town was led by a husband and wife who launched massive fundraising campaigns for a new building that was never built too massive salaries from the church tapping it out and then ditched town. There have been countless other examples, so I recognize there is weariness to “leadership sermons” but the answer to bad teaching or application of leadership is not to stray away from teaching or abdicating leadership but to lay out clearly how the Bible teaches on leadership. Leadership looks different with different leaders but there are common themes on what Flourishing Leaders are NOT. Other leaders come with error, flattery, greed, popularity, seek to deceive, are “rock stars” and famous. Today we have motivational speakers who come to town, or spiritual gurus who travel, speak with big entrance fees, and sell books. Cult leaders seek power and have impure motives (same word as sexual immorality) Every cult leader it seems like step #1 is convincing their groups all the women are no longer married to their husbands but to them.
Conversely Faithful Leaders preach a message that is true from motives that are pure. They do not preach what is false or error. They are committed to Gospel Truth. The truth of their appeal matters. Even more so the source of their appeal matters. Paul had a short ministry in Thessalonica but a long impact. Faithful Leaders are approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel (2 Cor 4:7: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.) Approved by God recognizes their approval is not based on their merit but on the merit of the Gospel itself. The Gospel says you cannot be approved by God because of your sin but that Jesus takes on your sin nails it to the cross and gives you His righteousness, so you are approved by God not by your works but Jesus Work on your behalf. The Gospel that saves and makes new is the same Gospel that makes Leaders. So I ask leaders not simply “what is the Gospel?” But how has the Gospel been applied to you personally. Faithhful Leaders are those who have been saved by God, approved by God, called by God, commissioned by God, and equipped by God. As such they are constantly preaching and teaching a message TO a broad diverse audience but only FOR an audience of one. Faithful Leaders know who they serve and who they follow. This audience of one for whom they serve and for who they seek to please is also the one who continually “tests our hearts.” There is a continual audit and apprenticeship from God, by God.
Flourishing Leaders are those who understand and embrace the privilege AND responsibility of stewarding the Gospel. They have a specific motive and responsibility in serving to please God not people. They remember the best way to serve people is to serve God first. In serving God they recognize it is He “who test our hearts” This continual testing is an important concept because flourish leaders are consistently qualified leaders. When they cease to be qualified; they cease to lead. Not never criticized leaders.
Flourishing Leaders are not greedy, they are givers. They often willingly take steps of Self-denial even when they are worthy of being followed and honored. I’ll explain what I mean. Paul is very comfortable saying the purpose of their visit (planting/pastoring) is clearly not greed AND saying as an approved Gospel minister it would be more than acceptable for him to be honored as a leader. Many times, Flourishing Leaders in the church are those who could accomplish more for themselves (in their career) but choose willingly to live more selflessly in order to serve the church. Flourishing Leaders preach a true and powerful message, with pure
motives, and parental methods.
PART III | 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 | Faithful in Mothering
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 | 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Flourishing Leaders have an inseparable commitment to God’s word AND to God’s people. Paul’s consistent appeal to this church regarding his character AND how that is tied the truth of the message he proclaimed. When he begins to talk about the relationship the leaders have to the church it’s not “We came to you like a great general ready to lead you into battle” Or “great business man ready to change the world.” Or a great coach ready to ensure victory at all costs” He leads with something quite different. Wait Paul is seriously jeopardizing his Man Card by comparing himself to a nursing mother? This isn’t effeminate leadership which is prevalent (comparing to a father is next); He is saying FIRST Faithful Leadership is gentle and sacrificial.
Faithful Leaders seek don’t seek glory they seek to be gentle. Gentle and leadership don’t seem to go hand and hand. Yet this is essential to how Faithful Leaders are to engage with those they are leading. They are transparent leaders. 5x Paul say “you know, as you know, you remember,” They are known by their people. Paul is comfortable he is known by them and feels a real responsibility for them “taking care of their own children. Flourishing Leaders are IN Gospel Community not above it or aloof from it. They are present and assessable. They share the Gospel AND there very lives. Faithful Leaders are known leaders, who recognize public ministry is also personal ministry.
I meet pastors who can’t wait for their church to get big enough to where they are only engaging leaders. Additionally, I meet guys who aspire to leadership and say they are called to a roll as leaders or teachers but do not have any affection for people. This isn’t a letter to a leadership team or to other pastors like timothy or Titus, it is to a specific church of people the leader knows who know the leader. Pastors are called to serve a people and a place, not merely a roll and do with the care and compassion of a mother of newborn who have an affection for the child which lead them to constantly be thinking what do they need to survive. When leaders have that attitude something special happens, mutual affection grows. Because of the Gospel we know we’re to love all people but what you’re seeing in Paul is he not only loves these people, but he also likes them. He has celebrated much of what he has heard that is good AND he has enjoyed sharing his life with them. Desirously affectionate! Flourishing Leaders must be gentle and affectionate but they are not ONLY gentle and affectionate. They are gentle like mom, but firm like Dad.
PART IV | 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 | Faithful in Fathering
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 | 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
The giving over of their lives isn’t just in motherly affection but in fatherly sacrifice. They walk in the tension of gentle (not soft) and firm (not harsh). Flourishing Leaders are examples and encouragers of Gospel Living. Part of their example is they demonstrably labor and toil. They work hard, with productive purpose. Labor is work as it’s designed to be toil is work that is impacted by the curse meaning they work hard AND they have to deal with their work constantly being undone. You want leadership, be prepared for reality. Flourishing Leaders live in this example so as to not regularly burden while helping others. Burden is carrying what you cannot on your own, (this doesn’t mean he was always bi-vocational as giving to the church is sacrificial not burdensome.)
Flourishing Leaders are qualified leaders. These qualification can be witnessed by others. Holy is the devotion to God, righteous in how they engage with others and blameless in how they are seen by outsiders. Paul will use a similar formula in how he lays out eldership qualifications in 1 Tim 3 and Titus. They are not perfect, but they are above reproach. Our desire at Mercy Fellowship it to be full of people who exhibit conduct qualifying them for leadership. We are all called to lead ourselves, many are called to lead others, some are called to lead families, few are called to lead churches, ALL are called to be qualified to lead with holy devotion, righteous engagement with others, and blameless living before all.
Flourishing Leaders have the heart of a father and model The Father. They exhort, encourage, and charge. Mom makes sure the little kids survive, dad makes sure they thrive. Dads are supposed to equip, and encourage their kids to be the people God has called them to be. To call them, charge them, to continue in the ways they have been taught and to call them to “walk in a manner worthy of God” Not so you will be worthy of God because he’s already reminded them of their identity in God. But because of their identity, he desires them to ACTUALLY walk it out, not for his sake but for the God who is calling them to both the Kingdom and glory.
I’ve seen my dad embody this. He was there with me in CdA for the Ironman and when I’m on the last lap in town before an out and back I’m weak, tired, and while people are cheering me on, my Dad actually start to run the lap with me (illegal by the way) smiling and all amped up for me. Find someone cheer them on, run a lap with them to help them on their race and enjoy seeing them walk out what God has called them too. Flourishing leaders help others on their race rather than running their own.
Flourishing leaders have the message of the Gospel, shares it with people motivated by their desire to see them saved by and grow in the Gospel, affectionately encouraging Exhorts and charges people to walk in their new identities as citizen sons and daughters, knowing our eternal destiny is the kingdom and Glory of God when we Trust Jesus.
More in THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
November 26, 2023THRIVE | THRIVE with Wholeness | 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 | Christopher Rich
November 19, 2023THRIVE | THRIVING Church | 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 | Christopher Rich
November 12, 2023THRIVE | FAITHFUL in Fear | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 | Christipher Rich