Warm-Up: Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16
Paul was an effective evangelist. He planted churches, discipled countless people, and wrote half the New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul wrote to the church of Thessalonica and reminded them about his initial ministry. I noticed a few key elements in this passage that are easily forgotten today, so I wanted to share them. By no means is this list exhaustive, Paul used different strategies with different people, but it’s a great collection.
Stay 100% Honest
This comes from verse 3-4, which says, “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
I love the heart of Paul’s comment: he genuinely believes this stuff. He isn’t sharing it because he wants to control people or he wants to feel good about himself, he shares the gospel because he believes it is true. It has changed his life in wonderful ways, and he wants to share that with others. This means two things for us – first, we can’t hide how the gospel has changed our lives – we have to be open about our sin and failures if we expect others to recognize their sins as well. We must be transparent, open, and honest.
Second, we can’t twist the gospel to trick or coerce someone into believing it. The Gospel is what changes Paul, and the gospel is what changed us. If we change the Gospel, then it begins to lose its power.
Choose to Serve
In verse 5, Paul says this, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness.” Sharing the gospel isn’t about you feeling good about yourself or gaining attention or donations. Instead, if you want to share the gospel effectively, you must seek to serve. In verse 8 Paul says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Paul was willing to give himself to the people, to serve and to help them, in order that they might believe the gospel. This must be our attitude as well, seek to serve others instead of yourself. You will demonstrate your love in a powerful way, and as you serve others, your love for them will grow as well.
Exhort and Encourage
For many people, sharing the gospel means sharing a long list of things people should not do. But this is not what we see from Paul in verse 11-12. He says, “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”
Instead of condemning people or telling them what they cannot do, he exhorted and encouraged people to seek after God. And here’s the brilliant thing, if someone follows God, they won’t do the things they’re not supposed to do. God changes our hearts and teaches us to be more like Him through His grace. If, on the other hand, we focus on trying not to sin, then there is no guarantee that we will find God. In fact, focusing on not sinning often leads to discovering new ways to sin or brash legalism without grace.
Do people need to recognize their sin and repent? Absolutely, but this only comes when they know God. So instead of getting hung up with people about their sin, encourage them to walk with God. Allow God to work in their heart and change them, and they will grow to be more like Him.
Do Your Job Well
I remember a story from a Pastor named Matt that went something like this: “I used to be an accountant and believed it was really important that I share the gospel with my co-workers. I was so dedicated to sharing my faith, but unfortunately, I wasn’t very dedicated to my actual job. One day, someone said to me, ‘Matt, if you spent half the energy you use telling us this junk on actually doing your job, I might consider listening to you.”
You see, because Matt didn’t do his job very well, his co-workers had to pick up the slack and did not respect him. It’s hard to accept or listen to someone you don’t respect. Paul offers the alternative in verse 9, “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” Sharing the gospel should never cause you to become a burden to others, so make sure you carry your own weight in whatever it is you do.
Praise God for His work
In verse 13, Paul reminds us who really does the work of evangelism. “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
It can be easy to trust in your logic, emotional appeals, pamphlets, or other methods to share the gospel. All those things can be good, but only when we keep God central as the one who changes hearts. It’s important to pray and praise God for His work, before, during, and after you’ve shared the gospel. He does the work, and He deserves the glory.