Summary: When the priority of people in a church focuses on the love of Jesus Christ the reputation of that church will be missions and ministry.


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Thomasville, NC

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August 24, 2003

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 (KJV)

How would you describe an exemplary church? Does it have anything to do with buildings, budgets or programs?

In our study of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonican church last week (1:5-7) we noticed the apostle called them ensamples, or "example"; a "model" church. Paul had brought the gospel to Europe. He spoke words to the people who would become the church there in Macedonia. But while Paul spoke words to their minds, it was the Holy Spirit touching their hearts. This is how we are to receive God’s Word. An exemplary church receives God’s Word.

Despite severe suffering caused by their commitment, the believers at Thessalonica pressed on, becoming a model of gospel sharers. The word "ensample" (v.7) is, in the language of the New Testament, tupos, the word from which we get our word for "type" as in typewriter. The molded character on the typewriter key strikes the ribbon against the paper, and the symbol is reproduced. These people had accepted Christ, and His Holy Spirit impacted them like the key of a typewriter; it so mold them into His image that Paul called them the "prototype" for what a believing church ought to be. When the love of Jesus is first priority, ministry and missions will be the reputation of the church. This was the secret of Paul’s great love for the church at Thessalonica.

With that in mind, let’s look over the apostle’s shoulder and see the characteristics of an exemplary church. They were…

I. People who SPOKE-UP

Verse 8 is the key: "The Lord’s message rang out from you..."(NIV) These folks were living the gospel and telling the gospel. "Rang out" is exeôcheomai -- we get our word "echo". It means "THUNDERED"; it gives the sense of a late August thunderclap reverberating after the lightning hits.

A country preacher visited the mountains and went to see the famous "echo canyon". It had the reputation of being the one place on earth where you got the clearest and truest echo of any words hollered out. The preacher found he was alone, so he hollered "Hello". The canyon echoed back in clarity, "Hello". Again the preacher bellowed, "Goodbye"; the answer resounded in absolute clarity and true pitch, "Goodbye". Looking around to make certain he was alone, the preacher let it all out, "You are the greatest preacher that ever lived!" Came the answer - "Baloney!"

The message which rang out from Thessalonica was the gospel - the word of the Lord. It rang so clearly, was so evident in their lives, and constantly on their lips, that it was spread throughout the region. There is a good reason why this happened - actually two reasons:

a. Thessalonica was a port city, a hub for commerce. Many people came there from all over the world.

b. The enthusiasm of the new converts compelled them to speak-out the gospel.

I was in the service when Elizabeth and I married. Being far from home I told anybody I met about the beautiful girl back home who was wearing my ring. You would think that after nearly 37 years that would have died down some; the fact is I am still proud to introduce Elizabeth as my wife. In fact I’m prouder now than in 1967. After all she has put up with all these years, I’m more blessed to have her now than back then. The key is I got a full dose of marital bliss, and it stuck! In the same way, those Thessalonican believers got a full dose of Jesus, and it not only stuck - they couldn’t stop talking about Him to anyone who would listen.

There were a lot of sailors and merchants who arrived on those ships every day spiritually-dead; by the time they left for other parts of the world, they were on fire for Christ and telling everyone in sight. That is not a bad ministry. So often we are interested only in seeing our own church grow - sometimes the best ministry involves touching the lives of those passing-through, so they will tell others. That’s why the Gospel spread. In Jacksonville, Florida, the Baptist Association there had a Seafarer’s Ministry at the port. In much the same way as the Thessalonians touched the mariners for Jesus, many a merchant marine delivering cars from Japan or Germany has left the coast of Florida with a new destination for eternity.

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