Summary: Paul’s Missionary Approach To the Thessalonicans
Paul’s Missionary Approach To the Thessalonicans
Coming to Thessalonica, Paul and Silas were able to preach in the synagogue for only three weeks with outstanding success despite incredible opposition. Quickly, the Jews incited a riot against the missionaries and their host, Jason. (Acts 17:1-9) The Jews falsely charged them with turning the world upside down and disturbing the peace. But, since this was Paul’s second missionary journey he was prepared for a wise response to persecution. Since, he knew that Thessalonica was the capital city of Macedonia, his work would not be in vain among the few converts that turned from idols to serve a living and TRUE God. Paul strategically sought to plant a church in this wealthy port city where the influence of the gospel would quickly spread throughout the region. Paul wisely used the art and science of prioritizing his ministry launching pads. Thessalonica was a multi-racial, mixed culture that was accustomed to being open to receive all kinds of religious beliefs. Paul used this receptivity as a beginning to penetrate the whole of the Greek part of the Roman empire.
The church that Paul writes this letter gives us a great deal of encouragement about the promising potentials of a small seed of indigenous committed believers. Most of the converts were Gentiles converted from paganism that they had grown up with through the sacrifices offered on nearby Mount Olympus. Showing remarkable strength for the opposition that they faced from the Jews, the pagans, as well as from the devil, these believers were assured by Paul of proper follow-up through Pastor Timothy. Paul knew that there must be continual efforts for the preservation of spiritual fruit early in the development stages of church growth. It is little wonder why he expressed such sentiments as a "Mother tenderly caring for her own children, I was well pleased to impart to you not the gospel only, but also my own life, for you were very dear to me!" (I Thes. 2:7-9) Without this concerted effort to nurture the young flock of God, many churches die in infancy.
Paul writes this letter to see how the new believers and church were progressing. Church planters and missionaries go beyond just giving birth to their fellowships. They are genuinely concerned about assisting the new believers in ways that they can grow up into all aspects into Christ. Too many missionaries, evangelists, and preachers seem content to allow their spiritual fruits to die on the vine. Paul, sincerely feared that unless the believers were given the shepherding of a Pastor, that his labor might be in vain. Now that Timothy had brought encouraging news, he wanted to express satisfaction and to spur them on to increase in their faith, love, and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since this was one of the earliest of Paul’s letters, this gives us a special clue in the way that Paul set precedents in his missionary-church planting ministry.
The letter is essentially a follow-up letter that spares the new believers from a heavy treatise on Christian doctrine. Paul knew that the Thessalonicans were not quite ready for meat, so he concentrated on answering some of their crucial questions. Paul wants to provide the Thessalonicans with every possible incentive to continue in the faith as they develop their church in the midst of opposition. Paul knew that the Thessalonicans must be given goals for their service, worship, fellowship, and teaching or they would quickly return to their former way of life. In Chapter 2:1-12 Paul seeks to defend himself against several false accusations that might jeopardize the credibility of his teaching. Missionaries must be skilled apologetists to preserve their trustworthiness. In Chapter 4:1-12, Paul tried to put emphasis to the need for a distinctive morality that reflected the person of Jesus Christ. Missionaries need to provide their converts with a healthy sense of the ethics and standards that are uniquely based in Christ and the scriptures. Any other type of morality is humanly based on philosophies that cannot possibly stand the tests of trials and time. Paul also wanted to correct false beliefs about the second coming of Christ that had crept into the fellowship causing severe distortions of His promises. Missionaries show wisdom when they are able to help their converts separate out the essentials from the non-essentials of scriptural truth.
The aspects of future events are areas that are best left with ivory tower theologians to wrestle with as the church planter needs to concentrate on being an example to the believers in word, deed, and worship. Paul concentrated on providing practical guidelines for the new church. He gave the Thessalonicans the needed discipline for alleged immoral practices among the youth. Missionaries try to work through the culture of the people as much as is possible. In Thessalonica, Paul recognized the wave of immorality could easily undermine all of the purity found in the truth. He cautions the believers to live a life pleasing to God by writing, "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no-one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him." (I Thes. 4:3-5)