Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia- your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8)
The command of Jesus was to go to all nations with the Gospel, beginning in Jerusalem and Judea and expanding to Samaria and all nations of the world. Jesus also commanded, “As you go heal the sick, cast out demons. . . “
But in addition to these two responsibilities, we find a third factor of evangelism emerging in the New Testament. Wherever believers went, while they were there they planted churches that would be able to nurture new converts to maturity. This is the first of three lessons on church planting. This chapter concerns the New Testament Church as a model from which you can learn how to start churches. The next lesson focuses on Biblical methods of church planting, and Chapter Twenty-Two explains how the church multiplies.
A “model” is an example which is designed to be followed. The record of the first church in New Testament times was preserved to provide a model for subsequent planting of new churches.
The word “church” means “an assembly of people belonging to the Lord” or “the ones called out.” The true church is not buildings or organizations. It is all born-again believers, people who are called “living stones” in I Peter 1:5. The word “church” is also used for local fellowships of individuals who are part of the larger, universal Body of Christ.
Jesus is the head of the church. God said He had. . .
Which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
The church is built on the rock Jesus Christ and upon a foundation of “lesser stones” laid by the early apostles and prophets.
All born-again believers are part of the Body of Christ. We are the people through which God accomplishes His work in the world. The church has been described as a body because it functions much like the human body. Each member has a spiritual gift for ministry and a special purpose in God’s plan, just as each part of the human body has a unique function (1 Corinthians 12).
The human body is just one of several New Testament metaphors used to describe the Church. A “metaphor” is a word or phrase that uses one object to describe another. See the “For Further Study” section of this lesson for additional New Testament metaphors which describe the Church.
God sets leaders with special gifts in the Church. These include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-16). Their purpose is to equip believers for the work of the ministry. They do this by helping them discover and use their spiritual gifts. Elders and deacons also serve the church in practical areas of ministry. See Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.
The mission of the church is to fulfill God’s purpose and plans as described in Ephesians 1:9-11 and 3:10-11. The New Testament record reveals that all of the activities of the church were in two general areas:
-The first was evangelism: Believers were constantly busy preaching and teaching the Gospel, baptizing new converts, leading them to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, delivering, and casting out demons.
-The second was edification: Edification means building up. Believers planted churches to teach and nurture new converts until they reached maturity as disciples.
There are six key principles found in studying the mission of the New Testament church:
First: They were responsible for taking the Gospel to their own community, nation, and world. The Church presented Jesus to the World as Lord and Savior. They led people into right relationship with Jesus so they could experience salvation and new life.
Second: The Gospel was preached to the unsaved where they were. The apostles did not rent a hall or confine themselves to buildings. They met in temple courts, homes, or upper rooms (Acts 2:46 and 5:42). They preached in both mass evangelism and personal evangelism.
Third: The Gospel was preached as salvation through Jesus, not a system of religious beliefs or ceremonies. It was Bible based, Christ centered, need related, and power demonstrated.
Fourth: Adults were targeted because when adults are won to Christ, their children will be too. In this way whole families become believers. (See the conversion accounts of Cornelius in Acts 10; the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31-33; Lydia in Acts 16:14-15; Stephanas in 1 Corinthians 1:16; Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:16; and Philemon in Philemon 2.)
Fifth: New believers were integrated into the life of the local church. They were taught and nurtured in prayer and fellowship with the other members of the body (Acts 2:42). Believers were established in the doctrines, principles, and practices of Christian living. They were taught to “observe all things” Jesus had taught.
Sixth: The church identified and sent out those called to take the Gospel to other areas (Acts 13:1-3).
The church at Thessalonica illustrates the model of evangelism and edification that was characteristic of New Testament churches. Paul wrote them saying. . .
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia- your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it.
For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
And to wait for His Son from Heaven whom he raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 NIV)
Note the following pattern in this passage:
The message came to the people of Thessalonica by the Word of God and with the demonstration of power. It was preached out of personal conviction and with the power of the Holy Spirit.
There was considerable opposition to the Gospel, for these people received it in the midst of severe suffering. They welcomed the message with the joy of the Holy Spirit.
The converts followed the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles.
They imitated a model, then they became a model themselves.
These people did not have radio, television, video or audio tapes, or advertising as some of us do today. They used the Biblical method of person-to-person sharing of the Gospel.