Can the needs of another really be served outside of a genuine relationship?
I’m not sure.
But, this is the question considered in my message for this week, Labor of Love.
Our message examines 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 in which Paul addresses his ministry within Thessalonica. Three observations are notable; specifically, as they relate to our understanding of missional activity.
- Missional activity is an expression of faith. Paul identified his missional activity in Philippi as a declaration of the gospel. Even though Paul encounter great opposition prior to Thessalonica (in Philippi), Paul “had courage in our God to declare the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.” (2:2b) Paul’s activity is an expression of his faith, which (for him) was an encouraged declaration of the gospel in spite of opposition.
- Missional activity aims to glorify God. While this is the second point of observation, it is the greatest in terms of significance. Paul’s does not seek to earn the favor of men or or God through his missional work; rather, he aims to please God. Our missional activity is not only an expression of faith, it is also an expression of our intent ot glorify God.
- Missional activity requires the sacrifice of self and self-interests. Pauls writes, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.” (2:8) Verbal proclamation of the gospel is a core component of missional activity, but non-verbal expression of the gospel is equally important! Paul suggests the giving of one self to serving the needs of others is a vital component of communicating the gospel.
There is something missing, though.
Yes, seeking to glorify God should be the primary purpose of one’s missional activity. Yes, one’s missional activity should be an expression of and encouraged by one faith. Yes, missional activity is verbal and non-verbal proclamation of the gospel.
But, there must be more…
There must be a relationship!
If we were to conitinue reading Paul’s letter, we would see Paul regarded the Thessalonians as a father would his children (2:11). He cared deeply for them. (2:8) Paul’s missional activity occurred within relationship. Having established a relationship with these individuals, Paul was able to proclaim the gospel message through his declaration and his self-giving service.
The building of relationships is the first step to effective missional activity. Within these relationships – genuine, substantive, loving – the greatest proclamation of the gospel will occur.
Give a minute to consider the approach of Jesus within his ministry in Galilee…was not this his very approach: go to others, form relationship with others, serve the needs of others, and declare the word of God to others…
Hear the full message here: Labor of Love