Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Model Minister part 2

“But what is he really like?” That is a question we sometimes ask. It’s not that we don’t know the person, but just that we don’t really know him. How can you get to really know someone? You can spend time with them, or, if that option is unavailable, you can read their mail. I am not encouraging you to commit a federal crime, but I do want to illustrate for you that when we read the NT we are reading someone else’s mail. It’s ok; the letters were intended for us too!

On Thursday's we've been studying the NT book of 1 Thessalonians and this small letter provides us with an intimate view of the apostle Paul. It reveals his love for the church at Thessalonica. From the tone of this chapter it appears that some people had entered into the Thessalonian church after Paul’s departure and were attacking his integrity and sincerity. They were maligning the man, his motives, his message, and his methods. Paul reminded the church six times in eleven verses (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2, 5, 9-11) that they were eye witnesses to his integrity, sensitivity, and sincerity. Regardless of what his enemies and critics were saying, they knew what the apostle Paul was really like. He was a model minister; the prototypical leader.

The first six verses of chapter two, which we considered last Thursday, gave us the x-ray view of the model minister, the inside look. And the inside of a model minister will be characterized by tenacity, integrity, authority, accountability, and humility. Today we will be 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, and they form the photograph of a model minister; his outside image. Effective spiritual leadership is a combination of character and activity. Verses 1-6 displayed the character and verses 7-12 the activity. Paul illustrated that activity with the vivid and rich metaphors of a mother and a father. With these metaphors Paul is illustrating the intimacy and primary care that a pastor is to have with his church. A pastor is not to view his congregation with the indifference and independence of a day-care worker. I am not saying that day-care workers are careless caregivers, but they are basically hired guns. The children are not theirs, and that makes a difference. Instead, as pastor is to love, protect, nurture, and develop his congregation like a mother and father would love, protect, nurture, and develop their children.

Lead Like a Loving Mother

Nurturing Gentleness – 1 Thessalonians 2:7

When Paul says that he and his team were gentle among the Thessalonians like “a nurse cherisheth her children” he is not referencing a medical professional. “Her children” is the key. Paul and his companions were gentle with the church like a nursing mother is with her child. Let’s focus our attention on two words in that verse: “gentle” and “cherisheth”.

The term “gentle” means to be kind, respectful, compassionate, tolerant of imperfections, and patient. “Cherisheth” literally means to warm with body heat. What a graphic picture that is; a mother tenderly holding her little one in her arms and warming that little one with her own body heat. That type of gentleness is unequaled.

Now this is not the most common image that one has of the apostle Paul. Here we have a strong, dedicated, driven, zealous, natural-born leader. Such individuals are not often described as gentle. When I imagine Paul the first image that pops into my head is not that of a nursing mother! But that is how Paul cared for these babes in Christ. Far from exploiting them for his own gain and pleasure, Paul was concerned only for their well-being. He was no surrogate mother. He was not a hired hand. He cared for the Thessalonians' spiritual needs like a nursing mother cares for her child. He was not insensitive and indifferent; instead he was gentle and nurturing.

Sacrificial Love – 1 Thessalonians 2:8

What is the mother’s motive for the gentle care that she provides for her child? Obviously it is her sacrificial love, her affection for the baby, and so we have Paul progressing from gentleness to affection. “being affectionately desirous” is just one word in the Greek text (homeiromai) and it means to passionately long and yearn for someone. A mother has a natural, God-given love for her children. A spiritual leader, a pastor, is to have the same type of affection for the people to whom God has called him to lead.

The love that a mother has for her children is affectionate and sacrificial. Mothers don’t care for their children just out of a sense of duty, but because they dearly love them and are willing even to sacrifice for them. Paul says that the Thessalonians were “dear” unto him (v. 8b). The Greek word is agapētos meaning dearly and well beloved. A mother’s love is sacrificial. She will go hungry so that her child may eat. She will go without so that her child may have what he needs. A mother sacrifices her time for her child. A mother will even sacrifice her life for her child.

When Dianna and I lived in the D.C. area during the early ‘90s we were introduced to the big-city threat of car-jackings. While you were sitting in traffic someone would run up to your door, throw it open, kick you out, and then take off in your car. One case is still vivid in my memory; a woman was dragged to her death as she clung to the car door handle while the would-be car-jacker tried to flee. Why? Did she sacrifice herself for her car? No. Her baby was in the back-seat, and she would not let go of that car without getting her baby. She sacrificed herself for the baby because the man did not get away. The baby was rescued. The mother was laid to rest.

Paul reminded this church that he imparted unto them not only the gospel but also his own life (“our own souls”). This is truth and love; the two essential elements of any pastoral ministry. Every pastor has a two-fold commitment; first of all to the word of God and also to the people of God, and this balance is essential. How do you know that your pastor loves you? If he labors in the word of God to feed you God’s word and then models God’s word. Then you can be sure that he loves you.
Paul “imparted” that means to give and to share; he shared the gospel with them, and his own soul, his very life and being. There was nothing superficial or partial about Paul, Silas, and Timothy’s service to the Thessalonians. He risked his life, as the scars on his back clearly indicated, to share with them the life changing, life saving truth of the gospel, and then to pour himself into their spiritual growth and development.

Unselfish Labor – 1 Thessalonians 2:9

No one could accuse Paul of laziness. The Thessalonians were eye witnesses of his unselfish labor; of his hard work ethic. Paul not only labored in the word for this church, but he also worked in his trade as a tent-maker so as not to be a financial burden on them, even though he had every right as an apostle to be cared for by them (1 Thessalonians 2:6). Paul and his companions weren’t takers they were givers!
The words “labour” and “travail” sum up Paul’s unselfish labor towards the Thessalonians. The first word emphasizes the difficulty of the deed itself, and the second word emphasizes the toil and the struggle and the effort in the doing of the deed. That's the mother's picture. Does a mother expect remuneration for her work? No mother nurtures, loves, and labors for compensation. There's no price on a mother’s love; it’s not for sale. It’s freely given.
A model minister leads like a loving mother, and he also leads like a concerned father.

Lead Like a Concerned Father

Like a good father, a good leader will lead first off by example.

By Example – 1 Thessalonians 2:10

By and large, a young man will walk the way his father walks. For the most part a young man will talk the way his father talks. Therefore, the father is to set the standard of integrity in the home, and the pastor and spiritual leaders are to set that standard in the church. Paul pointed out to this church that they were witnesses and God also, that he and his colleagues had operated in a holy, just, and blameless manner. What a tremendously challenging trilogy that is. They were holy in terms of their relationship with God. They were just in terms of their dealings with men, and they were blameless in terms of their reputations before a watching world. In all respects Paul, Silas, and Timothy by their example set the standard for the Thessalonians to follow. Therefore, as Paul walked in a manner worthy of God, he set the example for the Thessalonians so to walk.

By Instruction – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Fathers are not only examples, but they are instructors as well. That instruction is to be both verbal and visual; a father instructs his children with his words and with his conduct. Children in the home and members in the congregation need to hear the instructions and see them demonstrated in order to learn.

Paul said, “We exhorted…every one of you”. The idea expressed by that word is to encourage, literally it means “to come alongside” in order to aid, counsel, and instruct. The Thessalonians were also “comforted” by the missionary trio. This is a crucial aspect of any father’s instruction to his children, or that of a pastor to his flock because instruction is not always a lecture or a sermon, it is also an arm around the shoulder; it’s a shoulder to cry on, it’s the confident understanding that burdens won’t have to be carried alone.

I never will forget the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Those games were not so remarkable to me because of the basketball “Dream Team” that crushed the opposition. What I’ll never forget is a semifinals heat in the men’s 400m. A British runner named Derek Redmond was clearly set to qualify for the final heat when he suddenly pulled up as if he’d been shot. In fact, his right hamstring had popped, and this one moment, for which he had worked so hard for so long, the opportunity to represent his country and win a medal had suddenly vanished. He was determined, however, to finish the race, and so while enduring overwhelming pain, both physical pain and the pain of disappointment, Derek Redmond began hopping the remaining 175m to the finish line. Suddenly, through the crowd and out of the stands came an older man, who ran up to Derek Redmond. The man was Jim Redmond; Derek's father. He put his arm around his son and the son just sobbed. “I'm here, son,” Jim said softly, hugging his boy. “We'll finish together.” Together, arm in arm, father and son, finished the race.

That's a comforting father. Paul was that for the Thessalonians, and a pastor is to be that for his congregation.

“We exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you.” Each member of the Thessalonian church had been urged and implored by Paul to walk worthy of the God who had saved them. The Greek word translated charged means to boldly witness and testify, and it is related to the word “martyr” because so many faithful witnesses died for their boldness. A wise father must encourage and comfort his children, but at times they must be sternly rebuked or warned. The purpose of leadership, in the home and in the church is summarized in v. 12, “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

Therefore Paul expresses his and his colleague’s pastoral care in terms of a mother and a father’s care for their children. It is a wonderful standard to set; a Biblical model to follow, but a hard thing to do; both in the home and in the church. Truth is hard if it is not softened by love, and love is soft if it is not hardened by truth. The balance that both bring is essential.

Hear the final observation of this text. There are multiple references to the gospel in these twelve verses. Paul was bold to speak the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:2). He speaks of being entrusted with the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4). He had shared the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:8), and he had preached (heralded) the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:9). My driving desire is for people to hear and believe the gospel. As Christians our task is to “impart” the gospel. If you are not a Christian your need is to believe the gospel.

1 comment:

Pastor said...

Thank you for these expositions!