Summary: To illustrate six aspects that should be present in every vibrant church.
Paul and his team had come to Troas when Paul had received a vision at night in which he saw a man from Macedonia pleading with him to come and help them. Immediately they went to Macedonia concluding that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel to them. They went through Philippi where Paul and Silas were jailed and released. Then they went on to Thessalonica. Paul preached in the synagogue there three Sabbaths and probably stayed longer because he received two offerings from the church in Philippi. The Jews caused an uproar and they had to leave suddenly. Some of the new church were probably concerned about his quick departure so this is the first letter he wrote back to them after his sudden departure to comfort and instruct them. We will focus on verses 5-10 to see what we can of what makes a vibrant church.
What makes a vibrant church? Well, it begins with the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit. That is what Paul said here in verse 5. That is where church life begins. Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit that leads to salvation there can be no church. The Thessalonians knew this power. This is exactly what Jesus said in John 16:8-11. The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. When they heard Paul preach the gospel they were convicted and were converted. They first knew this conviction and assurance in salvation. Secondly they knew it in their proclamation. What is the most powerful thing we can tell someone today? Well, if we are Christians we have the powerful assurance that the gospel message, that Jesus died and rose again for our sins according to the scriptures, is the most powerful message of all! Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.” We don’t just have some fairy tale made up a long time ago we hope is helpful to some people. We have in our possession the message of God Himself for the salvation of man. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul said that the message of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, “but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Friend, our message is not out dated. Our message is not out of touch with reality. Our message is the only hope for a world lost and without hope headed toward a Godless eternity!
Let us look at verse 6 for our next aspect of what makes a vibrant church. We see here in verse 6 that the Thessalonians became followers of Paul and of Jesus. How often have we ever said for someone to follow us, to do as we do? I remember when I was young my mother and father would tell me not to do something, but they were guilty of doing the very thing they told me not to do! This made me somewhat confused and irritated. But this is not the case with the apostle Paul. When he said in 1 Corinthians 4:16 “Imitate me” he wasn’t joking. He was a committed follower of Christ and he knew that what he preached and practiced was right. Did you know, or do you remember that we are called to imitate God? In Ephesians 5:1 it says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” We use to dress up and pretend to be our parents. But now we are to grow up into the image and likeness of Christ and thus imitate God by so doing. Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Verse 7 gives us our next aspect: They became examples to all the world. The word for example here is “tupos” that is, the impression that is made from a die. These believers were the impression from the die (which was Jesus) that the other believers were to be patterned after. Not only believers in their hometown, but in their country and abroad. This is the mark or an aspect of a vibrant church, that they can be imitated as being a godly, loving, Spirit-filled, group of believers. Fast forward to 2007-what if Paul were writing today, could he say, “IBC or WHFBC (or your church) became examples to all in your county and state who believe?”
The next aspect of a vibrant church is their sounding forth the Gospel as in verse 8. We already said in a previous point that our gospel is the power of God. So, it is no wonder that these Thessalonians were letting their voice be heard. The Greek here for sounding forth means to sound forth like a trumpet. I played trumpet in high school and now when I’m asked. My son will ask me to play for him and he will accuse me of blasting my notes or playing to loud. I explain to him that is because when I was in band the band director would order us to, “BLOW!!!” Then at football games when our 125-piece band tilted our horns up at the stadium and marched toward it blowing with all our might, the crowd would stand to their feet and cheer! That’s because they could not ignore us. If there was ever a time in history when we needed to sound forth the gospel like that, it is today! The Greek there also tells us that it was continually. They didn’t just do it once or twice, but every day, at every opportunity. Are we?