The New Testament Church Model of Disciple Making

I Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:24
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This morning in our Adult Bible Study hour we introduced a new series that we will be going through as a church called “Foundations, Bible truths for Christian Growth.” This series is an effort to practically and purposefully do Ephesians 4:12.
Ephesians 4:12 ESV
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
One thing that God has been working on my heart for our church is to rethink the way we do ministry here at Faith Baptist Church. What would it look like if we practically and purposefully equipped saints, not just pastors or elite Christians, to all of us together as a team do the work of the ministry? What would that look like?
If I could sum up what that kind of ministry would look like in our church I might attempt to do so using this idea- I want to develop a disciple-making culture in our church. In other words my goal through the adult bible study hour and in our morning worship teaching and preaching is to begin to equip the saints to purposefully and practically make disciples. I believe that making disciples is at the heart of what Paul meant when he said that pastor/teachers are to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
But what exactly does it mean to develop a disciple-making culture in our church?
What exactly does it mean to make disciples? Whose job is it to make disciples? How exactly do you make disciples? How do you make disciples in the context of your local church?
These are some of the questions that I want to begin to answer. And my aim is to answer them by teaching through I Thessalonians.
I believe that in the book of I Thessalonians we find the NT model of disciple making. I also believe that if we are really going to develop a disciple-making culture in our local church, then you have to understand that it is biblical.
I want you to see from Scripture the need to do the work of the ministry together and the need for all of us to be disciple makers.
1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
What I don’t want if for you to come away from this study thinking, “I need to develop a disciple making mindset because that is what Pastor Jon says I need to do.” Yes, I am asking you to imitate me, BUT only as I also imitate Christ!
In other words I think it is soundly biblical to develop a disciple making culture in our church- and that will require us to genuinely think about the way we are doing ministry- but I want you to follow me in this, not just because I think it is a good idea, but rather that you see the Scriptural necessity to do so. Follow me, just as I also follow Christ! Let’s purposefully and practically obey the mandates of Scripture together as a local church!
This is why we are going to walk through I Thessalonians together. I think we see the biblical mandate for the local church to become disciple making people in this book. And hopefully, as we work through the text of Scripture together, you will become as convinced as I am from God’s Word that we need to develop a disciple-making culture in our local church, together, all of the saints being equipped to do the work of the ministry- for one another and as God moves through us- for the lost people in our Jerusalem, and Judea/Samaria, and unto the utter most parts of the earth.
So our goal is to work our way through the book of I Thessalonians and come to a biblical understanding of what a disciple-making church looks like.

An Introduction to the book of I Thessalonians

What do we know about the church in Thessolonica?
Paul’s missionary journey travels
Paul’s 2nd missionary journey
Acts 16:1 NKJV
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.
Show Derbe and Lystra on the map
Acts 16.6-10- Paul receives the Macedonian call and travels to Troas, then to Samothrace and then to Neapolis and from there to Philippi where Paul ministers for sometime.
Until because of persecution Paul has to leave Philippi and travels to Thessalonica. And we read about Paul’s ministry in Acts 17.
Acts 17:1–9 KJV 1900
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. 5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
Ok- let’s get a picture in our minds of what this church in Thessalonica looked like.

Young church- 12-30 months old

Acts 17 says that Paul was there at least 3 Sabbath days- so three weeks, probably more time than that- but probably didn’t spend lots and lots of time with them either. One of the purposes of this letter was for Paul to continue teaching them the commands and doctrines of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV 1900
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
Paul couldn’t stay long- he was forced out because of persecution. Eventually God lead him to Corinth. And it was from Corinth that Paul wrote the letters to the church at Thessalonica. (Show on map)

Diverse people in the church

Acts 17:4 NASB95
4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.
Only a small percentage of the church was Jewish
A large number were Greeks and out of that number a significant portion were women.
Young church, mostly Greek, mostly women.

Persecuted Church

1 Thessalonians 2:14 NKJV
14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,
So they are young in the faith- mostly Greek and a majority of them women, and they are being persecuted because of their faith.

Impoverished church

2 Corinthians 8-9
2 Corinthians 8:1–2 NKJV
1 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.
OK, put all of these things together- spiritual young church, mostly Greeks and a majority of them women, heavily persecuted for their faith, and a church that financially was in deep poverty. Folks, I if told you about a church like this today- young believers, not a lot of men in the church, suffering for their faith, and they are all broke- that sounds like a recipe for disaster doesn’t it?
We would expect a church like that to be in deep trouble spiritually.
The exact opposite is true of the Thessalonians! They are thriving spiritually. They are spiritual healthy, and they are accomplishing the task of making disciples and of actually doing the work of the great commission unlike any other church that we read about in the NT.
1 Thessalonians 1:7–8 KJV 1900
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
Show Macedonia and Achaia on the map!
How is this possible? What is this church doing that is the key for their genuine spiritual success- or we could say it this way- why were they so spiritual healthy as a church?
I suggest to you the reason for their spiritual health and genuine biblical success is that they were a disciple-making minded church.
The church of the Thessalonians is the NT church model of a Disciple-Making culture.
And as we make our way through this letter my goal is to show you that from the Scriptures. And as we see their model and the Biblical imperatives surrounding this idea of disciple making, we would as a church become obedient to the Scriptures together.
How did the church of Thessalonica become such a spiritually healthy church?
What do I mean when I say spiritually healthy?
Think about a plant or a vine- what things are true of a vine if it is a genuinely healthy vine?
Growth- spiritually healthy people naturally grow in their faith in Christ. And I mean biblical, Holy Spirit motivated growth- they become more and more like the person of Jesus Christ in both the character of their hearts and in the content of their daily living. The Thessalonians were a growing people.
Reproductive- an healthy vine will naturally reproduce itself. Out of genuine spiritual growth, spiritually healthy people will naturally seek to reproduce themselves.
How did the Thessalonians become such a spiritually healthy church?
3 reasons

I. Genuine spiritual health is birthed primarily out of the context of the local church (v. 1)

1 Thessalonians 1:1 KJV 1900
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

A few early manuscripts and later witnesses related to them include “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” at the end of the verse, but a wide variety of manuscripts do not include it.

This is one of those variants that does not effect meaning in any significant way.
What I want you to pay attention to is who Paul is writing this letter to: the church of the Thessalonians.
One of the reasons that the Thessalonians were spiritually healthy and were so disciple-making minded was they started at the right place.
I’m not saying that you cannot grow outside of the local church- but I believe that God intended the local church to be the primary institution out of which disciples are made.
Matthew 16:18 KJV 1900
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
What is the only institution that Jesus has promised to build? Upon this rock I will build my summer camp, I will build my Christian School, I will build my University- No Jesus promises to build the local church. It is the only institution that Jesus made that promise to.
Don’t misunderstand me! I love summer camps, and Christian Schools, and Bible Universities. But in order for there to be spiritually healthy people and in order for disciple-making to take place it must be tied to, rooted in, and birthed out of the ministry of the local church.
I think maybe we have maybe we have taken the mandate to make disciples and have passed on a large portion of that responsibility to para-church organizations. And because our church has relinquished the responsibility of making disciples to other institutions, we have seriously hindered our spiritual health.
Again, I love Christian Schools- we are sending our oldest son to one this year, I grew up in a Christian school. But, I am not going to hand over my responsibility of making a disciple of my children to the Christian school. I believe I am called to do that as his dad, and I believe the best setting for that to really take root in his life is both in the home and in the church.
How did the Thessalonians become such a spiritually healthy church?
Genuine spiritual growth is primarily birthed out of the context of the local church

II. Genuine spiritual health is cultivated most effectively through close person-to-person relationships (vv. 2-3)

1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 KJV 1900
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
*2 Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν
We are giving thanks (pres, act, ind) to God always concerning all of you
μνείαν* ⸆ ποιούμενοι ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν ἡμῶν*, ἀδιαλείπτως*
making (pres, mid, part) mention toward you in our prayers,
3 μνημονεύοντες ὑμῶν
(unceasingly) thinking of (pres, act, part)
Do you get the sense of Paul’s personal relationship that he had cultivated with the believers in Thessalonica through these verbs? And not just Paul- what does v. 2 say? WE are giving thanks. Who is the WE? At least it is Paul, Silas, and Timothy right?
As I think we will see together as we progress through this letter- close person-to-person relationships are a major part of developing a disciple-making culture in a local church. Ministry is much more that just the pastor preaching from the pulpit. There is a love that existed in this church, that they all had for one-another, that became the most fertile soil for real spiritual health. It is, I think one of the primary reasons- that these people loved and constantly ministered to one another- that they grew spiritually and reproduced spiritually in their local church.
And what was the primary reason that the Thessalonians did ministry in their local church this way? Person-to-person / relational / One-Another ministry? They learned it from the Apostle Paul and his ministry team (Silas and Timothy).
Paul loved these saints so much that he constantly gave thanks to God for all of them, and me constantly made mention of them in his prayer life, and he remembered them / he thought about them unceasingly!
As a pastor I am learning what that means. I know I don’t pray for you as I should- I pray for you, don’t get me wrong- but I don't’ think I pray for you this way yet. God is working on my heart though. You know what causes me to pray for you more and more? The closer I build a person-to-person relationship with each one of you the more and more in becomes natural to think and pray for you.
Merriellen- building relationships in the community (the more I know about what God is doing in her heart, and the more I can be an encouragement to her and she to me to keep building redemptive relationships- the more God brings her to my mind to pray for her- and it becomes almost like breathing air. It becomes natural)
Pastor how do I develop that kind of prayer life for other people in my church?
I think Paul tells us the key in the end of v. 3
1 Thessalonians 1:3 KJV 1900
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
What was the key in this person-to-person relationship that caused Paul to constantly remember these people in prayer? It was their combined efforts of doing ministry together.
Look at what cause Paul and Silas and Timothy to pray the way the did! What did they remember without ceasing?
Work of Faith-
What is that? I find it helpful to think about it this way- Paul remembered their faith that caused them to do what? Work!
I constantly remember your faith that produces work
I constantly remember your love that produces labor (engage in activity that is burdensome)- This was not a legalistic church! They labored because of the love they had for God and for each other!
I constantly remember your hope that produces patience of steadfastness.
Pastor how do I pray this way for other people? It just becomes a natural extension of life- like breathing air- if you are working with each other in the context of a local church and you are building close person-to-person relationships in the context of doing the work of the ministry together.
God has really been challenging my heart to purpose to go out into my community and build friendships with lost people. Then when other people in my church become burdened to do the same thing and they tell me how God is using them, even if it is in just small steps of obedience? It is their faith that produces work, love that produces labor, and hope that produces steadfastness that comes to my mind and God burdens my heart on a consistent basis to pray for you all.
Now, imagine if we cultivate this kind of culture in our church! Where we are all through the context of our local church, and through the fertile soil of close person-to-person relationship with one another doing the work of the ministry together and we start loving each other more and more and we start praying for each other and for the ministry in our Jerusalem that God has called us to- do you think that would be fertile soil in which the Holy Spirit could produce actual spiritual success in our church?
The Thessalonian church had it- they were experiencing genuine spiritual success! Why?
Primarily birthed out of the context of the local church
Cultivated most effectively through close person-to-person relationships

III. Genuine spiritual growth is produced wholly through the grace of the gospel (vv. 4-5)

1 Thessalonians 1:4–5 KJV 1900
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
Paul makes the statement, “We are confident / we know, brethren beloved (agaped) by God, your election - his choice of you.
Paul was confident that the Thessalonians were elect of God- or specially chosen of God. Why? How? Did Paul have some kind of divine vision into their hearts? No. He tells us why he is so confident in v. 5
For / Because our gospel did not come unto you in word only!
In other words Paul was confident that these Thessalonians were genuinely saved. Why? Because Paul and Silas and Timothy came to Thessalonica and shared the good news of the gospel to them. And the Thessalonians received it. But, they didn’t receive it in word only- they did just consider it to be merely words of men.
BUT also the gospel came unto them in power!
That is it actually produced spiritual change in their lives. The power of the gospel changed them dramatically. This church was no legalistic church! They did not do the work of the great commission because were checking it off a list. They did the work of the ministry because of the gospel. The grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ worked in their lives powerfully and out of that grace came a spiritually healthy church. And it has to be that way!
The gospel also came unto them in the Holy Spirit.
This is so key. One of the most fundamentally important aspects of a disciple-making culture in a local church is that it is blown along by the working of the Holy Spirit of God. This is why I am so passionate that we get a thorough biblical understanding of what this looks like! If we are not giving our hearts to the message of the Word of God, and through the the message of the gospel the Holy Spirit is not working in all of our hearts convincing us and empowering us and moving us to create a spiritually healthy disciple-making minded church- then it is all for nothing! It becomes man made and manufactured and noneffective. It must be a work of the Holy Spirit or it is doomed to fail!
The gospel also came to them in full assurance / certainty
As these Thessalonians were changed by the power of the Gospel and were moved by the working of the Holy Spirit and they began to grow spiritually and they began to reproduce spiritually it cultivated in their souls genuine assurance. Because a spiritually healthy people in a spiritually health church is a supernatural thing. It is only something God can do through us. And as these young believers looked around at what the Holy Spirit was doing in their midst they came to the only logical conclusion- this is all supernatural working of God in our midst and it gave them gospel certainty! We must be saved because we could never do any of this without God! Then and only then, when the disciple-making culture of the church is produced/fueled by the gospel and by God’s grace does it become effectual and alive and mind-blowing!
Folks, I am absolutely convinced that we can have this same kind of culture here at Faith Baptist Church. This is my prayer! That if this kind of disciple-making culture is biblical, if it is God intended, if it is the kind of church that produces genuine spiritual health, then we as a church would beg God to help us start putting it into practice. And we will learn more about what that means in the coming months as we think through this together.
How did the Thessalonians become such a spiritually healthy church?
3 reasons
Genuine spiritual growth is birthed primarily out of the context of the local church.
Genuine spiritual growth is cultivated most effectively through close person-to-person relationships.
Genuine spiritual growth is produced wholly through the grace of the gospel.
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