Inside: In this study, we’re going to break down 1 Thessalonians 2 and discuss Paul’s heart posture in ministry so that we can check ourselves and our motives when ministering to others.
As Christians, each of us has a ministry of some sort. We’ve all been given gifts from the Holy Spirit and are to use them in building up the body of Christ.
But what is ministry actually all about? And what should our heart posture be while ministering to others in the body?
What Does a Fruitful Ministry Look Like?
For this study, we are looking at 1 Thessalonians 2. In each section, I’ve provided the passage in the NKJV.
Thessalonians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Thessalonica. It was the capital city of Macedonia (modern day Greece) and was part of the Roman empire during Paul’s day.
Toward the beginning of this letter, I was struck by Paul’s heart in ministry, and the Holy Spirit began to teach me through it. In the following sections, we’ll go through my notes examining some guideposts for staying humble and God-honoring in our ministries. The passage also covers some of the fruit we hope to see from it.
What Should Our Heart Posture Be in Giving Ministry?
Whatever our own ministry looks like, there are certain aspects we can pull from Paul’s words and should ring true for our own hearts. If this isn’t how we look at ministry, we need to re-adjust.
1. Willing to suffer for truth and love
From verse 2
Throughout the epistles, we see the apostles suffering for the cause of the gospel. While they did have a very unique ministry, we don’t see an end to Christian suffering with their deaths. If we begin to read church history, it doesn’t take much time to realize that throughout every age, Christians have suffered on some level for the cause of Christ and discipling the nations.
While we may never be persecuted to the same extent as the apostles, we do need to be ready and willing to speak truth in love regardless of what may happen to us.
It’s for the sake of those we serve that we lay down our own lives and live devoted to the One who paid it all for us.
2. Not coming from a place of error or deceit
From verse 3
We are unfortunately far removed from the time of the apostles, and much has happened in the church since then. There have been too many church splits to count. There are lots of ideas about truth and where to draw lines in the sand. It can be difficult to sift through.
So while I don’t think any of us are completely without error, we must do the best way can to stay true to the word of God, recognizing when conclusions we have come to may not be the correct ones. We need to stay teachable and humble, like Apollos when he accepted correction from Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18-28).
And of course, we should never seek to deceive those who are influenced by our gifts, though I’m sure if you’re reading this, that means you care about ministry. And since you care, you wouldn’t likely be the kind to seek to deceive. But at times, we may have been taught incorrectly and then be inadvertently passing the falsehood on. So especially if our ministry involves teaching others, we need to study to show ourselves approved.
It can be easy to latch onto teachings that sound good and true but on further inspection contradict the word. I’ve done it.
We need to be ready to change course when needed–to repent and continue in the proper way.
3. Pleasing God, not men
From verse 4
This is huge in not only ministry but Christian life in general. In all we do we should ask, Who am I seeking to please?
Am I living my life for an audience of one?
Or am I hoping to gain attention, love, respect, or favor from other people?
If we’re honest, I think many of us can default to people-pleasing without even thinking about it. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to focus more on pleasing God.
It won’t always be easy. Sometimes it means we have to do things out of our comfort zones. It may mean we lose friendships, careers, etc. But we have to ask ourselves every day and every moment, Is it worth it? If I make a decision that displeases people but pleases God, what has been gained? What if I do the opposite?
4. Not seeking to make others jealous or to gain glory for ourselves
From verses 5 & 6
In the age of social media, likes, hearts, and follower-counts, it can be easy to slip into the mentality of gaining more for ourselves. Many influencers thrive off of making others want what they have. It’s how they make a living.
As Christians, we’re called to be different from the world. When we use our gifts, do we want others to notice us, praise us, and wish they were like us? Or are we using our gifts because we love the soul on the receiving end? See 1 Corinthians 13.
5. Being gentle, like a nursing mother
From verse 7
I find it so interesting that in this passage, Paul uses the example of both a mother and a father when discussing his ministry.
As we disciple and edify others, we should be gentle. Correction is sometimes necessary when helping others along. But are we speaking the truth in love?
Sadly, the church often falls into one ditch or the other here. Sometimes in an effort to be loving, we choose to speak no truth because it may sting. Other times we may choose to speak the truth, not caring about delivery or whether or not we truly love the other person. Both of these are wrong.
While we need to speak truth, we need to do so in a manner of gentleness. As a mother who has breastfed my children, I can say that a nursing mother is tender toward her babies. She seeks to protect them, nurture them, and show them her love.
Let us have the same attitude in our ministries.
6. Imparting the gospel AND our lives
From verse 8
This verse flows directly from the one before it. He says that he has longed for the people of Thessalonica. He wanted to impart everything he could to them.
I homeschool our children and can understand this longing feeling. I often wish I could open up my brain and dump in everything I have learned. I so desperately want my children to understand the things I understand and then run from there, learning things I could have never begun to grasp.
That should be our attitude toward those we’re ministering to. We should want to give them the gospel and every good thing we know. We should be ready to impart our entire lives.
That may be simple when we’re ministering to our children. We have that natural desire anyway. It becomes tougher when we’re discipling someone else. Are we ready to open our lives and impart everything we can to them? No masks? No facades? Just true, heart-to-heart, pouring out.
7. Lifting burdens–not becoming one
From verse 9
When Paul was with them, he sought to not be a burden of any kind to them. While in other passages, he makes it clear that those who are spending their entire lives preaching the gospel should be able to live by the gospel, he also sets a different precedent for himself.
Paul refuses to burden the people while he’s in the area. Instead, he works to ensure he can support himself.
In this, I see that he doesn’t want to burden them with material things while he’s simultaneously lifting their spiritual burdens. And I want to keep that in mind as I continue in online ministry.
8. Seeking to be devout, just, and blameless
From verse 10
Paul says that while he and his companions were with the people of Thessalonica, they behaved in a way that was devout, just, and blameless. This reminds me of the various passages to pastors (also called overseers or elders) about living in a way that is above reproach.
Obviously, not everyone who has a ministry has the specific role of pastor/overseer/elder. However, scripture also makes it clear that all of us are to walk in a certain way–not to maintain our salvation but because we ARE saved.
I could go on, but for the sake of space and your time, I’ll stop with those. When reading the Scriptures, it’s unmistakeable. We are to conduct ourselves differently because we’re in Him.
It’s not that we’ll never sin. We will stumble and fall. Thank God for His mercy and grace! But it’s that very grace that enables and empowers us to become more and more like Him.
If we are in ministry and seeking to be an example and one who disciples others, we need to be walking out the Christian life. Again hear me: I’m not saying we have to be perfect and without sin. But we should be pursuing the things of God, walking in the Spirit, and crucifying our flesh–showing the world Christ in us.
9. Exhorting, comforting, and charging like a father
From verse 11
First, I want to define a couple of words. Sometimes we speak Christanese for so long, we forget to look into a word and see what it means.
Exhort is the Greek word that means “to call to one’s side; to summon, encourage, admonish, entreat.” The picture that it paints is discipleship. It can be correcting and urging someone to go the right way, but it’s all born out of that first part. You’ve come alongside that person. You’ve taken them in and have a relationship that allows your words to be heard.
I think we all understand what it means to comfort, so I’ll skip that one.
But what is charging? It may make us think of accusing, like when someone is charged with a crime. But that’s not what it means at all.
The Greek word translated “to charge” means “to bear witness and testify to the truth of what one has seen, heard, or knows.” Going further, when it’s used emphatically, it means “to testify strongly or bear honorable testimony.” Generally, it can be used to mean “to speak well of or applaud.”
Its synonyms are words that mean: 1) to assure, 2) to inform fully, and 3) to manifestly declare.
Like a father speaks truth to his children, we are to speak truth to those we minister to. We are to testify of the goodness of God in our own lives and assure them that His ways are always good, even in times when we can’t fully understand.
10. THE AIM: Helping others to walk in a way that glorifies the God who called us all
From verse 12
Finally, the aim of all of this should be to help others grow in Christ and walk in His ways. Helping others glorify our Lord should be the aim of every ministry.
Like we talked about earlier, it’s not about us. It’s not about causing others to like us or making ourselves look cool or influencing people to wear the brands we like. It’s about building others up in Christ. It’s about the body and who we are together. And it’s about doing it all to glorify our God, who is worthy of every single moment and more.
What Do We Hope to See in Those Receiving Ministry?
When we use our gifts for God’s glory, what do we hope to see in others? This section in 1 Thessalonians is speaking more of ministering to those who are young in the faith. We may not always be ministering to new believers, but there are still principles we can grasp from it.
As we read, we should also think about ourselves as we receive ministry from other believers. What should our heart posture be?
1. They receive the Word of God as the truth.
From verse 13
The hope in ministry (especially to unbelievers) is that they would accept the Word of God as being true. This is the first step and the one that brings eternal life. We pray that those who are impacted by our lives would accept the God we love. We pray that they would realize His word is true, and He is worthy of devotion.
2. The word effects change in them and produces fruit.
From verse 13
Beyond the acceptance of the word, it’s beautiful to watch fruit grow in people you’ve sewn into. Of course, our prayer should always be that we are helping people in their sanctification, as they become more and more like Christ.
Scripture says that iron sharpens iron. We as believers should help to “sharpen” one another, preparing each other for spiritual battle and helping each other to be useful in the kingdom.
3. They become imitators of mature believers.
From verse 14
This is discipleship. It’s those who are mature coming alongside those who have just begun and helping to show them the way.
It’s not always that simple. For example, one friend may be more mature in service to the hurting while another is more mature in their prayer life. These two can be an example to one another and encourage each other as they strive to grow in areas where they lack.
In this last section of the chapter, we see two main things in Paul.
First, he longed to be with the people he had discipled. Even though he was distant from them, he still felt present in some inner way. But it was no replacement for actually seeing them face to face. Again, we can see the love he has for those he’s poured into.
Second, like a parent, he sees them as his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing. They are his glory. One day, they will all stand together in the presence of the Lord when He comes again, the fruit of Paul’s ministry. They show the labor of his love. While Paul is aware that all he does is Christ in him (see Galatians), there is some sense in which those people know and rejoice in Christ because of Paul ministering to them. Like a gardener who tends to a garden–carefully and lovingly planting, watering, and pruning–Paul has tended to their souls and has the joy of knowing his ministry made an eternal impact.
The same is true for us.
Whatever our ministry capacity, it can become difficult, even disheartening. But Paul reminds us in another letter to not lose heart. We have been given the command: disciple the nations. That is the aim for every Christian, though it will look different for all of us.
As long as we continue to disciple those in our circle of influence–whether it be our children, our friends, our church, or something much larger–we are fulfilling the great commission. And as we watch others grow, we can rejoice with Paul, knowing that this fruit is eternal.
Until next time,
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