Jump Start # 3006
1 Thessalonians 1:4 “therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.”
Paul liked the Thessalonian church. It was young in faith and Paul was happy to see how well they were doing. It is thought that the letters to the Thessalonians were Paul’s first inspired letters. Written to a church that did not have a long legacy, nor great experience among them. Young in faith and trying their best, is a good description of this church.
A couple of reminders that come from our verse today. First “pride” isn’t always negative. We’ve heard just the opposite of that for years in Bible class. We’ve built a fear of ever saying, “I’m proud of you,” for fear of some brother shooting us down for even mentioning that word “proud.” I find here in this passage. Paul was speaking proudly of the Thessalonian church. Now, pride can be dangerous. Pride can swell the head. I tell folks the reason why most church buildings have double doors is to get the preacher’s head through it. After his sermon on Sunday, hearing all the wonderful comments, he begins to believe that he can walk on water. Be careful, Mr. Preacher. But parents are proud of their children when they make wise and spiritual choices. We ought to be proud of the congregation that we are a part of. Not a selfish, self-righteous pride, but happy to see so many that love the Lord and want to walk with Him in righteousness.
Second, Paul was telling other churches about the Thessalonian church. That is another taboo we’ve learned through the years. Since each congregation is independent and autonomous, we take that to the extent that each congregation is isolated. Don’t ever ask what others are doing. Don’t ever borrow ideas from others. Don’t ever visit another place and take a tour. Why do we feel this way? And, when Paul was telling other churches about the Thessalonians, it wasn’t to poke a finger in their eyes and say, “Why aren’t you like this?” Not at all. I love to hear how God’s family is doing in Ohio or Florida, or Tennessee, or Texas. I want the kingdom to grow and be strong everywhere. We preachers borrow all the time. It helps us. It would be good for shepherds to get together and share ideas and talk. The fear of violating autonomy and starting an area wide organization keeps too many at home. Paul told others about the Thessalonians. It’s good to hear of the successes of others. It’s good to learn from others.
Now, all of this leads to something I ran across the other day. It was called “Four Signs That A Church Is Stuck On Itself.” We need to pay attention to those signs.
First, all the prayers are focused solely upon the members there. There is no praying for anyone else. There is no praying for the leaders of the country. There is no praying for saints in other places. The focus is internal, only internal and always internal.
Second, money is saved up and stored up. There are congregations in this country that are sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems that some churches believe that they are now banks. The money collected needs to be used and used wisely. Don’t just spend it for the sake of spending it. There are needs all over the kingdom. Invest in some good equipment to put out some quality material. Use the money to reach more and teach more. When a church sits on thousands and thousands of dollars, the members begin to wonder why they ought to give. Nothing ever happens to the money.
Third, an atmosphere of contentment fills the place. We don’t want to get too big is actually spoken out loud. We like our size. We like knowing just the people here. We don’t want new people coming in. But contentment is just one step away from becoming stagnate. And, a stagnate church slowly becomes a dead church. No vision. No plans. No goals. No legacy plans. No developing of new leaders. No training new preachers. No evangelism. Nothing.
Fourth, the only thought about others is how wrong they are. A self-righteous attitude prevails. Others are wrong because they are too big. Others are wrong because they just look wrong. Smug. Content. Stuck.
You wouldn’t find Paul being proud of such places. You wouldn’t find Paul telling other churches about such a place. Yet, why do these things not upset us? Why do they not move us to do more? Why do they not propel us to bring in ideas? Why do they not open our eyes to how we really are?
There is an old story about Alexander the Great inspecting his troops. One soldier was not dressed properly. Alexander asked him his name. He proudly said, “Alexander, just like yours.” The commander replied, “Change your name or change your ways.”
We are the people of God. Let’s honor the Lord by doing our best every time. Let excellence be the standard. Give 100% all the time. God gave His best. Now, it’s time for us to give our best.