THRIVE | THRIVING Church | 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 | Christopher Rich
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:12–22
Christopher Rich – November 19, 2023
FLOURISH | THRIVE: Flourishing & Faithfulness
Wk10: THRIVING Church |1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
Introduction | Faithful Disciples
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? What does the word “holiness” mean and do we pursue it? How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel Community While there is much to affirm and celebrate in the life of the Thessalonian church, much hope seen, and there are issues to address. Paul has spent significant time calling the church in Thessalonica to remain committed to individual holiness (abstaining from sexual immorality, caring for one another, and working diligently). He has reminded them of their great hope in the risen Jesus who will one day return. In all of this, he has sought the church both remain, and continue, to intentionally grow in health. Now as he begins to close out his letter, Paul lays out some key ingredients to the recipe for a healthy Gospel Community so we can Flourish as the Church.
When I want my belly to resemble what I’ve just eaten, I head to a fresh made burrito bar where they walk you along the glass case of meat, rice, bean, and queso awesomeness (I am told vegies are also available) I used to like going to Chipotle; that was until they closed several dozen stories due to an outbreak of E. Coli. Apparently, if you want to make a tasty burrito that won’t make you run to the restroom or the emergency room using quality ingredients matters. One bad one will spoil a whole burrito. Whatever we are involved in putting together, using quality ingredients requires intentionally knowing what “good” is and consistently using what is good to make something healthy, edifying, and fulfilling.
PART I |Thriving in our Leadership | 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 | 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
Thriving Churches Respect Their Leaders- Relationships with church leadership matters. Unlike the unconditional commandment to “Honor your father and mother” healthy churches have leaders who are worthy of respect. Not distant figureheads, they are leaders imbedded with their congregations both “among” and “over”. They work and labor hard for the body as part of the body. As such Paul can tell the church to respect these under-shepherds of the Lord’s and esteem them in love because of their faithful oversight and care.
Labor among you- Flourishing Leaders are IN Gospel Community not apart or aloof from it. They are present and assessable. They share the Gospel AND there very lives. Flouring Leaders are known leaders, who recognize public ministry is also personal ministry. They are hard workers. They are known as laborers in the church. They get stuff done, labor in preaching and teaching, and work like farmers in the trenches.
Over you in the Lord- While these Gospel laborers are in and among the community there is a clear distinction in their office, role, and function. There are positions within the Gospel Community of leadership, which provide care, direction, vision, teaching, and instruction. Leaders and pastors are Christians first; they are in the Lord. Their identity is In Christ, so they serve and lead like Christ as a “Servant-Leaders”.
Why is it important to have both among and over present? Because there are consequences for the church, her community, message, and mission when you have an over emphasis on one but not the other.
Leadership that is among but not over does not provide clear and compelling direction. Leadership is ineffective. Flourishing turns to wilting, where vision is lacking the people perish. They become led by the church, seeking to avoid conflict and please everyone in the process they lead no one. It doesn’t mean they don’t care for the church, but concerned for sheep they easily forget there is a flock to lead.
Leadership that is over but not among does not provide adequate care and concern for the church because they are separated too far from it. Flourishing turns to trampling as leaders become too domineering. In the desire to lead they dictate rather than direct. It doesn’t always mean they don’t care about people, but concerned for the flock they can easily forget the flock is made up of individual sheep to care for.
Both NEED to be held in tension. The answer is not ignore either orientation but to grow in both. Leadership recognizes it has a role in not only leading the church organizationally, but care for the congregation pastorally. That care includes correction and admonishment. Earlier Paul talked about how they stewarded their sexuality, their time, their work, their relationships with one another, their grief in death and their hope in the face of fear. Flourishing Leaders are among the church enough to know where and how it needs to grow and over it enough to be bold to address it. The Thriving Church is to be humble in respecting leaders, who are respectable, by being responsive to their leadership, correction, and instruction.
How are they respected? In Love because of Gospel Community we are all Brothers and Sisters in Christ. So it’s not Pastors/Elders vs church. It’s not corporate board/employees it’s family where we all have the same Dad. So it’s not Mom and Dad v Kids. It’s as Leon Morris put it the pastors leading, teaching, admonishment, “the tone is brotherly, it is big brotherly.” Why should they be esteemed? Because of their work. When there are flourishing leaders working hard among and over the church who are rooted in their Gospel identity in the Lord, and members of the church are responding with respect and love because their lives and ministry are evident there is a peace that happens among the Gospel Community. Peace being the holistic joy of a people functioning in God designed and empowered harmony.
PART II | Thriving in our Community | 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15
1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Rejuvenate struggling individuals. Caring for members matters. The body made up of many members is only as healthy as its weakest links. Even if most are “doing well” and the community is flourishing, not all are always healthy. Some are demonstrably unhealthy or unproductive in their actions, attitudes, or abilities. A healthy gospel community does not ignore challenging or struggling individuals nor does it seek to condemn or expel them. A healthy church culture is where members can lovingly admonish the undisciplined, encourage the unhopeful, and help the unequipped, for the purposes of individual and corporate growth.
This is a command to the church, not the pastors only. This why we encourage knowing one another, serving, events etc because we can know each other well enough to know how we are struggling. And we care enough about each other to be able ‘pastor’ each other well. Because sin is complicated there are different ways people struggle as disciples, so they need to be shepherded differently:
Admonish the Idle- Undisciplined These are people who can work but don’t. They know God’s commands and instructions but choose to disobey or rebel. No rejuvenation is giving when they’re ignored or never reminded of what God has called us to. It is loving to admonish the idle, the disobedient to God’s word, to live lives in response to the Gospel that adorn the Gospel and help build a flourishing Community. Disciples of Jesus, by definition, need to live lives of discipline that are profitable for them and the world.
Encourage the Fainthearted- Unhopeful These are people who have looked upon or experienced the hostility of the world around them and have become timid, afraid, and discouraged to the point of despair. Unlike the idle they haven’t rejected God’s commands; they have forgotten God’s promises. They don’t need to be called greater obedience but to greater faith. You don’t tell them like Job’s friends “You’re unhopeful because you’re not faithful enough” and discourage them further. You encourage them with what is true about God’s faithfulness, so they can face hostility and trial with greater courage and Hope in Christ.
Help the Weak- Unequipped. These are people who aren’t struggling with either obedience, faith, or effort but because of the limitations of our iniquity (bent out of shape-ness), overwhelming circumstances, or handicaps struggle with ability. (Gal 6 talks about bearing burdens, things too big to carry on your own) Gospel communities come along side those individuals who are unequipped to help carry what they cannot; and where able to equip or strengthen them to grow in their abilities/gifts/understanding to flourish.
These don’t always need to be endless conditions. Idle who respond to admonishment well can become productive and admonish others. Fainthearted who are encouraged well can become bold and encourage others. Weak who are helped and equipped well can grow strong and help others who are weak.
Patient with All- This means we have to understand and endure during longer than expected time of tangible progress. It means we care about each other enough to be patient in discerning HOW people are struggling so we don’t admonish the faint hearted to (suck it up butter cup), encourage the weak to simply be better equipped, or help enable the idle who need to do the hard work of walking in discipline.
Do not retaliate! You’re in a Gospel Community that acknowledges the truth of the Gospel that everyone is a sinner in need of God’s grace. That we are in community with other sinners means that it is not a matter of if, but when we will be sinned against. There are going to be people that hurt you, your flesh is going to want to return salvo and hurt back. There are going to be non-believers in the world who are going to act like non-believers and hurt you or attack the church. The temptation to enact our own justice has to be avoided. Instead, we are called to “seek to do good” “pursue kindness” Not simply abstain from retribution but ACTIVELY “Do good = be kind to” one another in the Gospel community, even those who have sinned hurt you, and to everyone “that is everyone!” Meaning even enemies outside of the Gospel Community.
PART III | Thriving in His Sovereignty | v16-18
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 | 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Flourishing churches are able to have healthy horizontal relationships with their leaders and each other because they have secure and reliant vertical relationship with the Creator of the universe through the person and work of Jesus in their place. This allows them to flourish beyond the gifts of a leader or strength of community.
Rejoice in God’s will. During their life, churches will experience many different circumstances. Some seasons are overwhelmingly enjoyable while others will need to be steadfastly endured. Knowing this; Paul calls
health churches to continually worship, petition, and trust in the goodness and fullness of God’s sovereign plan and will, regardless of the specifics of the unique situation they find themselves in.
Rejoice Always – Joy, true and lasting joy, is a key characteristic of the individual and corporate Christians life. Not constant happiness but a confident Joy in the work of Christ in our place that worships God not to be accepted by Him, but because we are accepted by Him in Christ. The greater our understanding of God’s mercy and grace to us in Christ work on the Cross and powerful resurrection giving us new life; we respond with greater worship and celebration. We remember and praise God is just and God is good.
Pray without ceasing – This is not endless petition to a distant God like pagans hope to move or shape God’s will to our own. This is resting in the Gospel as we are in restored relationship with our Creator. In this restored relationship He is our God and we are His people. We have access to God the father, through God the Son empower by God the Holy Spirit. God hears our prayers and He responds to them with yes, no or “later.” In prayer we converse with God to have our hearts shaped and formed to His will. This is in the daily lives of the believer in the church and this is part of the corporate rhythms of the church. This is part of why we have been intentional this fall to set aside time to pray as a gathered people.
Give thanks- We are to be thankful for a God who knows us, saves us, gathers us and grows us. We need the instruction to give thanks in all circumstances because we are quick to give thanks when life is good and quicker to lament when we believe it’s not. Note, it doesn’t say give thanks FOR all circumstances, but rather IN all circumstance. We don’t have to thank God for pain, trial, or adversity but we can have heart attitudes that are grateful to God EVEN in the midst of these things because we are not alone.
These are all difficult things to experience and continue in, we are not capable of enduring on our own. These are God’s will for us in our lives with Christ, God does not have a will that He doesn’t empower.
PART IV | Thriving in His Spirit and Word | v19-22
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 | 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies,21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Rely on the Holy Spirit - Respectable leadership, rejuvenated people, and rejoicing even in difficult and painful circumstance does not naturally happen without the super natural work of the Holy Spirit and the prophetic power of God’s word brought to bear in the life of the church. Healthy churches do not rest in their own abilities, but rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. While being “Spirit-Led” can sometimes lead to charismatic craziness (see the church in Corinth), discernment and testing all things prevents uncritically accepting evil and ensures the church will hold fast to what is good.
Do not quench the Spirit- Look back through the verses you see. Love and peace in v13 patience gentleness (implied)v14 Goodness/Kindness v15 Joy v16 to give thanks in all circumstance requires “faithfulness”, shepherding others and ourselves well requires “Self-Control”. All of these are fruits of the Spirit. All the ingredients of a healthy flourishing church require the empowerment of and reliance on the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit removes individual hearts of stone for heart of flesh that beat for God and He breaths new life in to our churches to equip and empower them to flourish in greater and greater health for the advance of God’s mission for the church and the increase of Joy for the disciples in the church.
Do not despise prophecies- Spirit illuminated words, not “infallible ‘thus saith the Lord”. This is faithful preaching of the Word of God to the congregation. Always talked about in the NT as useful for building up the Gospel
Community. There is a testing that comes in that we don’t just assume every sermon point, or utterance by a worship leader or prayer (corporately or individually) divinely inspired. THRIVING Churches have their foundations laid and mission/messages filtered through God’s Spirit inspired word. So we can test what is said and taught (1 John 4:1) through the lenses of Gospel Truth. This allows us to grow as disciples and as a church when we can hold fast to what is good and true. Who is God? Who are we? What has he done to save us and shape us in Christ? And it allows us to abstain (Hold away from) what is evil to know what we should not do, what is false teaching. We are to be a people from the pulpit to the pews that are saturated with the word of God. Otherwise we’ll abstain from with is Godly and to easily accept what is evil.
So as a thriving church, we rest in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf. That as a community we know we can be healthy and still need to grow. Imperfect but accepted not by our works but by His. Relying on His Holy Spirit, informed by His word, we can Rejoice in God’s will, Rejuvenate struggling individuals, and Respect Respectable leaders as we collectively and individually Trust Jesus.
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