Summary: Our encouragement today should be that almost two thousand years ago another small church, planted in a community probably not too unlike our own, became a model for other new churches throughout the world.
Examples Set By a Healthy Church
First Thessalonians 1:5-7
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
October 8, 2000
Introduction: Last week we looked at three characteristics or building blocks essential to building a healthy church. We saw through the church in Thessalonica’s example that in order to build a healthy church we need to have a faith that works, a love that labors, and a hope that endures. We also saw what kind of great assurance comes from knowing that God, according to His sovereign plan, has chosen to extend His grace and mercy to us.
Having looked at some of the things it takes to build a healthy church, we’re now going to look at the kind of example a healthy church sets for the world around it. Let’s turn to First Thessalonians 1 and read the chapter again.
Before talking about the example the Thessalonian church set for others, Paul explains the reason why the assurance of their faith, the faith of this young church, was so valid. Remember, last week we saw how Paul encouraged the believers in Thessalonica by expressing to them that they were chosen by God. Paul validates the faith of these young believers by telling them to consider his own experience regarding the way the gospel was brought to Thessalonica.
for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1:5)
for our gospel did not come to you . . .
Let’s look at verse five. Paul says that it was their gospel, the apostle’s gospel, which came to the Thessalonians. He’s not saying that the message was theirs in the sense that they created it, that it was something they thought up themselves.
Paul is expressing the apostles’ commitment to the message, God’s message, which they were bringing to the Thessalonians. And he says so in such a way as to put far greater emphasis on the message, not the messengers. Instead of saying, “We came to you with the gospel,” Paul says, “Our gospel came to you.” Paul’s commitment to the message reflects how good the news really was that he and his team brought to the Thessalonians.
I think we need to take heed to what Paul is saying here. It’s very easy in the super-information age we live in to drift into putting the performance of our message before the substance of our message.
Here, at Pico Canyon, we’re committed to excellence in everything we do. Our commitment is not based on wanting to give the best performance. It’s based on wanting to give God what He so richly deserves–and that’s our very best.
As important as it is to reach as many people as we can with the good news, the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, we must be careful not to become so focused on those we are trying to reach that we lose sight of Who we are trying to reach them for.
There’s nothing wrong with being innovative in our approach to evangelism. There’s nothing wrong with using tools and strategies that may not be recognized as traditional approaches to ministry. There’s nothing wrong with these things as long as we take great pains to make sure that our presentation doesn’t minimize our adoration of the Lord. As a young church hungry to reach the community with the gospel, wanting to see every seat filled for His glory, we need to exercise a great deal of wisdom in how we present the gospel to the world around us.
We must never let the content of our message deteriorate to the point that we look at it as little more than a marketing approach, or a vehicle to fill seats. We must remember that the gospel is not for sale and we are not salesmen. We need to maintain the same reverence and awe toward the message when we present it as we did when we freely received it.
We need to remember as Paul did that the gospel is our message only in the sense that we are committed to it. It is not ours to edit. It is not ours to squander. It is not ours in the sense that we can pick and choose whom we share it with. It is ours because we have been blessed by it, not because it is owned by us.
The reason why the Thessalonians could be assured of their position in Christ is two-fold. It was the manner in which they received the gospel and their response to it.
in word only . . .
The gospel came to the Thessalonians by verbal presentation. Paul and the other missionaries used words, intelligent conversation, to share the free gift of salvation, through Jesus Christ, with the Thessalonians. They chose their words carefully–not because they feared rejection or opposition, and not because they felt the need to be politically correct. They chose their words carefully because they realized the extreme importance of what they had to say.