1 Thessalonians 1:2 – We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.
When I held our first child, a beautiful little brunette girl, it dawned on me that I really had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I’d read books on parenting, done Bible studies on parenting, interviewed good parents, and even had my own parents to glean from. Reading about parenting or watching someone else parent is completely different, however, than actually raising another human being.
By the time we had our second child, an active blonde boy, I assumed that I knew a lot more about parenting the time around. This illusion was quickly vanquished, however, because our second child was literally nothing like our first child. What worked in raising one child did not work for the other. This pattern continued through the process of parenting our five children, who are now getting married and having their own children.
Pastoring a church is like raising a child – every one is different, has their own unique personality, and no two are exactly the same. This truth explains the difference in tone and messaging between various books of the New Testament. Each is written by a leader filled with the Holy Spirit to a local church family dealing with real issues that varied.
On the far right, there were highly religious law-based, non-relational legalistic churches that were heavy on rules and light on relationships. Entire books of the Bible, like Galatians, were written to rebuke these churches and their leaders for putting burdens on people instead of blessings.
On the far left, there were highly rebellious, arrogant, worldly churches marked by sin of every sort and kind, especially sexual. The books of 1-2 Corinthians were written as a series of stinging rebukes to the local churches in the city of Corinth, as they acted like Pride month and Mardi Gras should be combined into a constant lifestyle as an abuse of God’s grace.
In the middle, there were all kinds of local churches with their unique strengths and weaknesses, just like in every day since, including today.
We will spend the next few weeks studying 1 Thessalonians together, then moving into a study of 2 Thessalonians. These two books were written to one of the healthiest churches in the New Testament, the church at Thessalonica, and I pray it’s an encouragement to you if you’re in a healthy, godly church. Paul’s tone is very loving and encouraging, noting that the “gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”.
Imagine yourself sitting with the believers in Thessalonica when the letter from Paul was first read to them as they gathered together. How would this have been an encouragement to you?
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