“Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (I Thess. 1: 5)
So this post is for me as much as it is for you. One of my pastors spoke on this passage a few weeks ago and it struck a chord with me, because I see what this passage says, and then the church having two extreme parties on either end of a spectrum with each generation leaning to one or the other.
Here in 1 Thessalonians Paul is explaining how the gospel was proclaimed in Thessalonica. We learn that the Gospel wasn’t just proclaim, but it was proclaimed with the power of the Holy Spirit and backed with the full conviction of the Apostle. Then afterward this gospel was determined to be genuine by the conduct of the Apostle among the people. In the words of my pastor their Gospel message was:
- Holy Spirit dependent
- Sincerely genuine
Here’s the reason why I bring the topic of Gospel preaching/witnessing up: because I see two different parties, with very few people landing truly in the middle.
Party 1: The Tract-Giver
Let me first state that I do believe that God’s Word does not return void and tracts can be a good way of sharing the good news of Jesus. But, I will also say that I have seen those simple pieces of paper destroy months of work in a mere matter of seconds. I’ve watched as my co-workers received a tract instead of a tip and launch into a rage about the jerk that says the news on that piece of paper is worth more than the $1.00 tip they could have left. My gospel efforts completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.
Tracts are Word-filled and therefore power-enabled. But guess what, unless you’ve made contact with that person over and over again the chances of the message being considered sincerely genuine are slim (notice I did not say impossible, because God can still use tracts even without a consistent Christian testimony in someone’s life). Paul’s message was made more powerful by his life with the church at Thessalonica.
Party one-ers are people who only proclaim the Word with no attempts at making sure the message is being perceived as genuine by consistent contact and Gospel-living. This is the stereotype of the older generation. Younger generations see many older people in their church passing tracts to everyone, but without making an attempt to make a connection that so many in a younger generation crave and need in order for the message to be perceived as genuine. There’s no proving what manner of men they are.
Party 2: The Bible-Liver
People in this party are those that use the “by your fruits you shall know them” to get away with never once sharing the gospel in word to anyone. They focus solely on “living for Jesus.” They think that if a passerby would just see them reading their Bible in public, watch them volunteer at the local children’s home, or hear them praying and talking about how much they love Jesus with their friends it will be enough for that passerby to engage them in conversation. Now I can’t deny that this doesn’t happen. I’ve been that person praying with a friend and have someone come up to talk to us specifically about the Gospel. It does happen, and when it does it’s an amazing work of God.
But I must say that throughout Scripture there is a lot of proclaiming of the Gospel for it to change lives, not just living with hopes of starting conversations. Here in 1 Thessalonians the Word was preached and then received because of conduct of the proclaimer. We see in Romans 10 that the proclamation of the Word of God is vital to the spread of the Gospel.
“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
This party is the millennial stereotype. We like to be involved with lots of ministries, we want to serve, we like to talk about Jesus and what He’s done, but we’re not the best at speaking the Biblical gospel. We feel more comfortable serving on mission fields by feeding the hungry and fighting sex trafficking, than we do sharing the gospel with a neighbor or going canvassing with our church.
Party 3: The Bible
The Bible is pretty clear that it takes both. First we must proclaim, like actually talk and speak the Gospel. When was the last time we actually spoke the Gospel to an unsaved person? The Word needs to proclaimed and be heard in the ears of the unsaved.
Second, we must live a life worthy of the message we proclaim so that message will be received as genuine.
“so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10)
It is by our actions the message we have been given to proclaim is determined as genuine or not. We need to start living the Gospel out to those around us. And we must engage in questions over time that lead to deeper, more eternal-focused discussion.
We need to leave the extremes and join the middle. We need to have the words of the Gospel genuinely proclaimed by Spirit-filled people whose manner of living are worthy of the calling that we have been given.