For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. – 1Thess. 1:4-5 NIV
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Evangelist Paul had been escorted out of Phillipi where he had just been freed after according to him, being a Roman citizen, he had been illegally detained together with his co-travelers – Acts 16:35-40. His departure was however not before the officers had appeased him for their action, after which he eventually arrived at Thessalonica where for three Sabbath days, he was explaining and proving to the Jews and their leaders about the dead and risen Christ as he has always done in every location he had found himself – Acts 17:1-4. He and his entourage succeeded in convincing some of them who eventually became the foundation of the Church in Thessalonica but they also in the process incurred the jealousy and anger of some of the Jews and their leaders, who organised a rebellion and started a riot in the City, in a bid to stop them from further spreading the Gospel. Although attempts were made to make them victims of the riot, the protection offered by Jason and the rest of the brethren prevented the plot from being successful and although Jason and his fellow brethren were arrested and brought to trial before the City officials, in the place of Paul and his co-travelers, all of them were eventually released with Jason having to sign a bond that Paul and his co-travelers were going to leave the City – Acts 17:5-9.
This departure of Evangelist Paul and his co-travelers meant he was only able to spend approximately three weeks in Thessalonica but despite this brief period, he was able to successfully lay the foundation of the Church in Thessalonica. What is obvious however is that not much knowledge could have been successfully passed on to the new converts just as the persecution by antagonists of the new Faith was not going to stop simply because the Apostle Paul had departed Thessalonica as they continued in their bid to reverse whatever gains Paul may have made within the brief period of his stay in Thessalonica. This situation created a young Church facing great persecution but with insufficient knowledge about the Faith, to be able to overcome.
Despite the huge challenge faced by the young Church, they never stopped persevering and it was the report of their resilience in the face of very little resources, as delivered by Timothy, that prompted the Apostle Paul to write them his very first letter.
In the company of Silas and Timothy, the Apostle Paul acknowledged the work of the Church in Thessalonica which he says is a product of their faith, their labour which according to him was prompted by their love for the Gospel and their endurance which is inspired by their hope in Jesus Christ – 1Thess. 1:1-3. The performance of the Thessalonians will definitely have impressed any positive minded person, considering that they only had three weeks of exposure and indoctrination into the new Faith. In that short period of time, they had acquired sufficient knowledge to produce recognizable work, displayed so much labour prompted by love for the new Faith and were willing to endure all the pain that may come their way as a result of their new Faith.
That definitely cannot be said of the Evangelism efforts of today’s Christians. Fact be told, it is not in doubt that if the Evangelists in the time of Paul had access to the resources available to today’s Christian, they will definitely have greater impact on Christendom than whatever may be the achievement of evangelism efforts today. The efficiency of the Evangelism efforts of the Apostle Paul was however not without a foundation. In letting the brethren in Thessalonica know that they were loved and Chosen by the Almighty God, he revealed the secret behind the efficiency of their Evangelism efforts amidst them.
In the scripture that is the foundation of today’s Devotional, he made the following disclosures;
- Their success was not the product of simply delivering words. It was not just about having the ability to reference the scriptures or being fluent in the use of words as Paul himself was quick to admit that letters which are the building blocks of words kill and it is the spirit behind the letter that brings life just as he admitted also that he was not fluent in speech – 2Cor. 3:6; 10:10; 11:6.
- Their success was based on
- the Power that accompanied those deliveries. The words had the ability to change human thinking processes and situations. They were not mere words but they produced actions that could only be the result of power being demonstrated – 1Cor. 2:4-6.
- The support of the Holy Spirit. Of course the power could only have been available because of the presence of the Holy Spirit without which they would have been able to do nothing – Acts 1:8. Jesus himself in announcing the imminent arrival of the Holy Spirit to the disciples mentioned that it has the ability to convince and convict, two basic requirements for producing positive Evangelism efforts that will lead to results similar to that found amongst the Thessalonians. – John 16:5-11.
- Their deep conviction about the message that they were heralding. It is simply impossible to convince anyone about an issue that one is not convinced about. The one that intends to be efficient with the efforts of Evangelism must as pre-conditions, be very knowledgeable about the message and have strong belief in it. It is not an act that is done simply to fulfil all righteousness but one done out of deep conviction that it is the most appropriate path to thread.
- Their act of living amongst the people for their sake. The one who desires to be efficient in the efforts of Evangelism must genuinely love the people who are being preached to. Jesus Christ himself demonstrated this when he had the burden to feed thousands of people after preaching to them, despite the obvious fact that he was not financially positioned so to do. The bible says that he had compassion on the people who had been with him for three days as he knew that they will be hungry – Matt. 15:32. The one who intends to be successful in Evangelism must not only focus on the spiritual needs of the people to whom he/she is preaching but must also show interest in their physical well-being else their may not be much achieved with such efforts.
What a great information that will be of immense help to today’s Evangelists. The Apostle Paul within a three week period was able to create a spark that produced, not just a Church, but one with all the attributes expected of a gathering associated with Jesus Christ. Today’s Evangelist needs to do a honest assessment of such evangelism effort with the aim of determining its level of success at all times. With the amount of resources deployed into those efforts, can such truthfully say that he/she has been efficient. If the answer is positive, then such should count him or herself lucky but if the response is not too positive, then there may be the need to apply the approach of Evangelist Paul used during his brief visit to Thessalonica.
The result of the effort of the Evangelist should be commensurate with the expectation as identified to the Evangelist when he/she was being commissioned for the task. Yes! “Being commissioned” because it is not expected to be a role that one will take up without being Called into – Eph. 4:11-12. The one who takes up this role without being Called will always be very inefficient in its implementation as such will lack spiritual empowerment required for success. The beauty of being called for this role is the spiritual empowerment that accompanies every Call.
Although the great Commission is for all to go out and preach the gospel, the “all” is limited to those who believe. No one who is not a true Christian can effectively preach the gospel. True Christian life will start with the baptism of the Holy Spirit as seen in the case of the disciples of Jesus Christ who were expected to commence the implementation of their Commission only after they have received the Holy Spirit – Acts 1:1-8. It is simply impossible to witness for Christ, which is what Evangelism is all about, if the one aspiring to such roles lacks or disregards the Holy Spirit. It is definitely not by power or might but by the Spirit of the Lord – Zech. 4:6.
There may be intense desire to implement this great Commission for all who believe but desire without the Holy Spirit can only produce frustration with all Evangelism efforts. Lay a solid foundation for efficiency and success for all your Evangelism efforts, along the model designed by the Apostle and you can be sure of a result similar to the one he achieved in Thessalonica. May God continue to grow His Church in Jesus name. Amen.