Fast forward six months from the last letter, and Paul is feeling the pressure to write another note of encouragement to a young primarily Gentile Christian church. He understands their pain, he too was persecuted by the Jews in Thessalonica: Acts 17:13 (NLT) 13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble.
Not much has changed in the last six months, suffering and growth were still on the menu for the church. Just look at the comparison between the first chapters of both letters:
1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NLT) 6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 1:4 (NLT) 4 We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.
1 Thessalonians 1:8 (NLT) 8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NLT) 3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
I’m all for church pride. Church pride is important in the life of the church and shouldn’t be overlooked as an indicator for growth. It’s not the indicator by any means, but it is one indicator. Think about when people have pride in something, what do they typically do? They tell everyone who will listen! Same thing happens in the church. When people have pride in their church, they tend to tell others about it as well.
Again, I’m all for church pride, as long as its in the sense of what God’s doing and not what we’re doing. I get really nervous when people begin to compare and contrast the differences between churches. I’m okay to understand theological and philosophical differences, but it doesn’t make one church better than another. I tend to agree with what Rick Warren has said, “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.”
So let me ask you a question: What about your church makes you proud?
Here’s a list of things (not limited to) that people are typically proud of:
- Stain Glass Windows
- Status of Members
- Theology …just to name a few.
Now for the Jesus question: What kind of church would God be proud of?
Proud of What?
We can tell through Paul’s opening remarks that he’s really proud of the church in Thessalonica: 2 Thessalonians 1:4 (NLT) 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. But why? For one thing, the church in Thessalonica didn’t have any of the above mentioned attributes to be proud of.
- Buildings (Didn’t have one)
- Programs (Unless you count breaking bread everyday)
- Money (Not in Thessalonica. The church in Jerusalem was the “rich” church)
- Music (Maybe… I heard Avitus could play a mean Buccina… Maybe not)
- Stain Glass Windows (No building, no windows)
- Status of Members (Unless you include the local stone cutter)
- Size (…it was growing even during persecution)
- Pastor (We don’t even know who that was)
- Ministries (There might be something here)
- Theology (They were still working out some of the bugs regarding the resurrection)
So what would God be proud of, and why was Paul so proud of the church? Here’s where we learn and apply for today.
Boast in This
Between verses three and five of 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul gives an incredible indicator of what exactly he’s boasting about. Today, utilizing this list, I want us to consider changing the perspective of what we boast in about our church. Better yet, when people look at us, what will they boast in? Would we make this list after these attributes?
- (v. 3) Flourishing Faith
- (v. 3) Love for One Another
- (v. 4) Endurance
- (v. 4) Faithfulness
- (v. 5) Worthy of His Kingdom
Let’s let this be our measuring stick. These things offer an eternal perspective, “where moths and rust will not destroy.”