Summary: We’re to respect other believers and strive to live in peace with everyone. We’re also called to communicate what people need to hear, remembering to be patient with everyone.
How to Behave in Church
I enjoy collecting bulletin bloopers. I’ve shared some in the past and have recently come across some brand new ones:
Attend church and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch. [I hope that’s not a reference to our potluck that follows the second service today!]
The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment and gracious hostility.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
As we transition to the closing verses of 1 Thessalonians, we’ll see that Paul was committed to conflict resolution. Actually, he gives us a protocol for preemptive peacemaking in the four verses we’ll be studying this morning. We could call this section, “How To Get Along With People,” or, “How To Behave In Church.”
John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and leader of the party that arrived in Salem Harbor in 1630, delivered a stunning sermon to the passengers before they disembarked to found the city of Boston. He knew that these pioneers needed to be at peace with each other if they were to accomplish their purposes: “We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own and rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and common work, our community as members of the same body…For we must consider that we shall be like a City upon a Hill; the eyes of all people are on us.” (Quoted in “American Creed,” by Forrest Church, 2002, page 6).
May I suggest this morning that the eyes of all people are on the church today? Are we focused on our commission and common work as we live in biblical community with one another? Or, are we just waiting for a divisive issue of contentious dispute? Let me be quick to say that I am thankful for the pervasive peace at Pontiac Bible Church. I have never been involved in a church so committed to community and to the commission of Christ! I can honestly say that our church reminds me of the church in Thessalonica and Paul’s feelings toward these believers express what is in my heart for each of you. Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3: “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul emphasized the importance of encouragement after laying out the details surrounding the end times in 4:18: “Therefore encourage each other with these words” and in 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Jesus is coming back, but while we wait for His appearing, let’s make sure we’re encouraging one another.
As Paul cheered on these young believers and affirmed his affection for them, I’m reminded of something William Ward once said: “Flatter me and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” The word “encouragement” is mentioned 46 times in the New Testament because God wants us to look for ways to delight in each other. Acts 13:15 highlights the importance of building each other up: “After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.’”
Friend, God has a message of encouragement for you this morning. I recognize that the last three weeks have been pretty hard-hitting, as we’ve focused on sexual purity, the Rapture, and the Second Coming of Christ. Today we’re going to focus on some practical guidelines that relate to leadership and fellowship so that we can have order in the church and peace between each other. The Thessalonians were an example to others, just like our church is, as our testimony echoes throughout this community. If our winsome witness is to continue, certain basic responsibilities must be fulfilled in the church.
Please turn in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15: “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”
Responsibilities of Leaders
Paul begins by addressing two key factors involved in the maturity of a church: godly leadership and graceful followership. Notice that he is making a request of the entire church: “Now we ask you, brothers…” This is a personal appeal, much like something a friend would ask another friend to do.