“For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 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” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8
Ever seen a man or woman on TV, using all sorts of spiritual language about blessing and then asking you for money? Ever seen someone give a sermon in which the Bible was barely cracked, but you heard a lot about positive living and prosperous goals? Or maybe you’ve seen a church with many bodies and Bibles, but no one acknowledged your existence or cared that you showed up week to week.
I sometimes wonder how Paul would respond to some western forms of the modern church.
When Paul began his missionary journey’s he decided he would not earn a penny from the work he did for the Lord. He had a side job making tents, and he did this so that he would not have to rely on the church (which would have been made up of new converts) to get by. He wisely knew that had he been making money it might have made those he was preaching to question the integrity of the gospel.
Paul didn’t have to sell his message like a huckster out for his own glory or gain. The truth of Jesus was never neglected or down-played in order to tickle ears and gain favor. The difficult doctrines of Christ was preached no matter where he spoke, and yet it was Paul’s love for God and human souls that drove his faithfulness.
He was gentle. As the scripture above describes, he was as gentle as a mother nursing a newborn. Which I believe is one of the most intimately caring illustrations one could use. Being a mother who has had the privilege of experiencing breast-feeding, I can speak to the fact that it is as true to its cliché as you can get. It is an act of nurture, parental intimacy and bonding, and it starts the process of knowing one another as mother and child.
It is obvious that Paul had an affection for the church and all those in it, in the way he sappily speaks of them. This was not a man out to get something for himself. This was a man sacrificing himself for the benefit of the family of God. His devotion is clear.
So often in our church’s today we have leaders that are told they don’t need to know the people in their church. They are told their job is to study and preach and let other staff deal with the sheep. Especially the extra smelly ones. There is a removal of pastoral integration in the church. Only in a major crisis might you receive a visit from a member of church leadership, and maybe not even then. I mean let’s face it, sheep are scary. They might disagree with a sermon or leadership decision and they can bog you down with all sorts of problems.
I know what some of you might be thinking, “No not my pastor” or “Not my church.” In which case I encourage you thank your leadership for their faithfulness. I myself am blessed to be a part of a great church with pastor’s who seem very dedicated to the flock God entrusted them to. Of course what I am writing doesn’t apply to all church’s, but it is increasingly becoming more common.
Pastor’s today have an added challenge on their hands of having to live up to the cultural norm of maintaining a large congregation, staying relevant, becoming administratively savvy, implementing innovative leadership and managing a program and staff. And in order to do all this well it is best to deflect the sheep and stay clean from all the drama. People take up time, and Pastor’s can be too busy with more important things.
And then there is Paul, a minister who although he travelled, planted many churches and faced severe persecution he managed to maintain his relationship with Gods people. Not because a book on successful church ministry told him to, but because it was a result of the gospel taking root in his heart.
He loved them, even the lazy ones, because Christ first loved him.
Christ loved His church so much that He died for us all. He knows us intimately, and His affections are rich. It is a nurturing parental love and Paul exemplifies it beautifully. He is a living example of the gospel at work.
This is a lesson not just for those who serve in ministry but for us all. Does our life reflect our love for Christ, truth and people? Or are we out for our own glory, financial gain, and comfort?
Paul was desirous to share of himself completely to the family of God. How bout you?