Year 2 Day 358
Read - 2 Thessalonians 1v1-4
Message - Scott Woodburn
How should we measure growth in the local church? Modern wisdom suggests that we need to have a healthy balance of all ages. Music should please the ears of every demographic. We should be "in the community" around us and eventually we'll become so large that we will plant other churches in other towns and cities. There's discussion to be had around of these things but in Paul's second letter he gives us another view.
Paul, Silvanus and Timothy write to the church in Thessalonica and pray that they will know the grace and peace of the Lord (v1-2). It is a simple but loving greeting. Paul and his companions write tenderly to fellow Christians who have caused them to be always thankful (v3a). Why is Paul so appreciative of his distant brothers and sisters? Because their faith is growing and their love is increasing (v3b).
How should we measure growth in the local church? Let me humbly suggest that the Word of the Lord points the way. The local church is healthy when its faith is growing and its love increasing. Have you ever considered that for your own church family? Other things are noble and desirable for any church but imagine if we worked hard at seeing faith increase and love develop?
What would such a church look like? Faith comes through hearing the Word of Christ and it is by that same Word that faith is strengthened. The Word goes forward every Sunday and it is studied and proclaimed throughout the week. My brothers and sisters if our church is to be healthy and if our faith is to increase then we simply must attend to the Word of God. I know that sounds a little bit dull. More sermons? More Bible studies? We'd rather have a prophetic dance group or longer children's addresses. Do we really need more of the Word? Yes, yes and yes. If we desire to see our church and faith grow then we simply must engage with God's Word.
Secondly, growth is taking place in the local church when its members love each other more and more. What should we expect to see in such a place? A place with no divisions. A place where we refuse to have our own little group to the exclusion of all others. A place where members love one another so much so that we are quick to forgive and refuse to hold grudges. A place where Christians help one another to carry each other's burdens. A healthy growing church is one where love abounds.
Paul recognised these marks in the Thessalonican church. Indeed his experience with them had caused him to boast in various other fellowships (v4a). This isn't the "my child is better than your child" boasting but instead as Paul made a report of the Thessalonians it acted as a great encouragement to Christians who had never set foot in Thessalonica. The Apostle told others about the steadfastness and faith present among the Thessalonians (v4b). They had known trials, persecution and afflictions and yet they continued to endure. As Paul shared this news the hearts of other believers were encouraged.
I suspect when we consider our own fellowships we all long for change. A change in music, a change in minister, a change in demographic, a change in levels of commitment...we all have our own frustrations and we all long for a new day. We want change! But as our fellowships slowly come out of the Covid nightmare, perhaps we can heed the Word of God in the second letter to the Thessalonians? May we call upon the Lord and ask for a movement of the Holy Spirit in our fellowships. May He grow our faith, cause us to abound in love and keep us steadfast under any trial that comes.
Q2 What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.