The Gentle Way
The Gentle Way
Words of Faith 3-8-19
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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1 Thessalonians 2
As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you,  but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.  We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
Paul continued to defend his team against the harsh criticism that had circulated against them. He had already dealt with the motives and methods that were at the core of the gossip and slander against him. Now he spoke regarding the relationship that he had shared with the believers in Thessalonica.
Paul reminded the believers that the team had sought in every way not to be a burden to them when they visited this new territory. As apostles, they certainly had the right to seek financial support, but they had chosen instead to support themselves while in the town. There were likely some offerings from other congregations and from their sending church in Antioch, but for the most part, this team became a working part of the communities they visited.
Paul would later emphasize in his letter to Timothy that in ministry "the worker deserves his wages" (1 Tim. 5:18). But in this early evangelistic stage, Paul made tents, and the others found work in the town (Acts 18:3). They moved gently among the people. Certainly, they had a right as apostles to expect esteem. But they chose to minister rather than to be ministered to for the sake of the Thessalonian converts.
The team had chosen this gentle way not demanding esteem or honor. The word in Greek means affable, mild or kind. There was no fire and brimstone. No shouting on the town square. They reasoned in the synagogues. They built relationships with people, and many became believers in a very short time.
Paul's defense was more than just the motive and method of their message; the relationships were vital. Ministry is a relationship. Ministry is not something that you do to a town and then leave. Ministry is something built deeply in the soul between people.
Paul reports that the team had cared for the Thessalonian believers in the manner of a nursing mother. This is a powerful image for all who are responsible for the care of new believers. If a nursing mother does not feed herself, she cannot feed her baby. If she eats certain foods, her baby will get sick. The spiritual diet of a parent Christian is vitally important to the health of a newer Christian. The gentleness and unselfishness of Paul as a spiritual parent had made an enormous impact in a very short period of time.
Far from being greedy, the team was delighted to share life with the Thessalonians. They not only gave the message of eternal life, the gospel of God but also imparted themselves relationally, literally "our own souls.” They shared deeply in the experiences, joys, and sorrows of life. They did not lock themselves away in a hotel after meetings were concluded or keep to themselves in "off hours.” There were no off hours.
The deep love of Paul and his companions for the Thessalonians was evident. Genuine love finds expression in giving to people, not only to their spiritual needs, which are primary but also to their physical needs. Paul ministered to his converts by toil and suffering hardship on their behalf. He worked night and day so that he would not burden them with his needs (2 Thes. 3:8). Rising early and staying up late, he preached the gospel and taught as much as he could, both in the daytime and at night.
There is a lot to gain here devotionally. If we are to follow the pattern of the early pioneers of the faith, ministry will have certain essential qualities, whether we are serving on a ministry staff or serving him in the neighborhood and workplace.
Ministry is always about building deep relationships. Nourishing people in Christ means gently caring for them even at expense to ourselves. Nursing people in the Lord means that we take great care to nourish ourselves and not consume things that would be poisonous or unsettling to those we are feeding.
Ministry is not a career, it is a calling. Ministry is not a vocation, it is a relationship. Ministry is not about controlling people; it is about nourishing them in the Lord so that they might grow into the shape God has designed for them in Christ.
Should ministers, teachers, evangelists, and prophets be esteemed highly? Certainly. Should those who labor in the fields white for harvest be cared for and supported? By all means. But should a minister, teacher, evangelist or prophet put demands upon those they minister to? Should there be an expectation of "honor" or a contract for appearance? Well... this indeed was not the way of Paul and his team.
Father God, give me a heart and passion for ministry that is wholly for You. Give me a heart for those You put in my path that I may indeed care for them and nurture them into the faith. Teach me to walk without expectation of esteem so that I may esteem others and be used to draw them into Your Kingdom. In Jesus' name.