Evangelical Christians today are living in what might be termed a Corinthian-church culture. Our attitude toward church growth and success is similar to that which was confronted and corrected by the apostle Paul in his letter to the ancient Corinthians. Their pride and joy was in an abundance of spiritual gifts and leaders with dynamic personalities. Paul therefore began 1 Corinthians by noting that they were “in every way … enriched … in all speech and all knowledge—… not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1 Cor. 1:5–7). He went on to point out that by reveling in gifts, they had become divided into personality-driven factions (vv. 12–13). This same tendency is pronounced in American evangelicalism, which is structured not so much around doctrinal commitments as it is around personality-driven ministries.
In contrast to the shallow and superficial Corinthians, the apostle Paul did not rely on dynamism but on biblical faithfulness. He was less concerned about spiritual gifts and more concerned about a biblical philosophy of ministry. One of the most valuable portions of Paul’s writings on ministry is found in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, in which he sets forth his commitment to preach God’s Word faithfully while relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. Churches today would likely make a deeper and longer-lasting impact if they gave heed to the principle that Paul set forth in 2 Corinthians 4:2: “We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”
First Thessalonians was written by Paul early in his first visit to Corinth, so in all likelihood he was starting to wrestle with these problems when he wrote this letter. It is no surprise, then, that so much of 1 Thessalonians focuses on Paul’s understanding of a true ministry and his aspirations for his own proclamation of God’s Word. This long section from 1 Thessalonians 2:1 to 3:10 is exceedingly valuable in developing a biblical approach to gospel ministry. The final section of this material, 3:6–10, is especially valuable as Paul sums up his thoughts about a true ministry as he has sought to offer it to his dearly loved friends in Thessalonica. In these verses, we see what according to the apostle are the true goals and biblical methods of gospel ministry, as well as the causes of rejoicing for those ministering in Christ’s name.
Richard D. Phillips, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 96–97.
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These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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