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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
So they are young in the faith- mostly Greek and a majority of them women, and they are being persecuted because of their faith.
2 Corinthians 8-9
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.
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?
I. Genuine spiritual health is birthed primarily out of the context of the local church (v. 1)
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.
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
Genuine spiritual health is cultivated most effectively through close person-to-person relationships (vv.
*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.