Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Paul's Discipleship Strategy

Paul's Discipleship strategy was very very intense.  That is why it was also so effective.  One of the many passages where he expresses that strategy is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-19 where he expresses his deep affection for the Thessalonian believers. Actually I am pretty sure that if Paul read the title of my blog it would seem so foreign to him to call this a 'strategy' because it was so personal to him. That is the label we put on it in the modern era. All our attempts to disciple people into the life of Christ are, and have failed. We have for the most part relegated the discipleship life to what we as a church do on Sundays.  This would never have been able to fit into the practice of Paul. He could not have even have come close to accomplishing what he describes in this passage on Sundays. I have heard from a mentor and friend that a very famous preacher said that "discipleship happens for him during his sermons on Sundays"! I also heard from this same mentor that a youth pastor had been 'let go' recently after 10 years at a large church, and was devastated.  He was devastated because youth ministry is the ministry in churches, in my experience, that comes closest to what Paul talks about here.  In youth ministry over time you get really close to people in your desire to minister to them.  This has been my experience at least.  As I read and exegeted Paul's experience or 'strategy', if we have to call it that, of discipleship it blew me away how little of those things I actually did while discipleing students for the past 8 years. But in doing only some of them that is why it was still that hard to leave my most recent church like I did two weeks ago. because when you show a deep affection, your job then as a pastor becomes so personal it is not a job anymore.  Please read the following passage here and my notes of the things that Paul implemented with the Thessalonian believers and ask, Does my discipleship strategy line up with his...

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost. But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while-in person, not in spirit-were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you-I, Paul, more than once-and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:1-19 NASB)

Here is a list of the things he did while among the Thessalonians:
1. Suffering (for the Gospel)
2. Boldness (in the Gospel)
3. Opposition (He faced Opposition to the Gospel)
4. Exhortation (A deep pleading to obey the Gospel)
5. Approved (He was deeply called by God) 
6. Entrusted (He was entrusted with the gospel and He entrusted them also with the sacred Gospel)
7. Speak to please God not men (Paul always sought to please Jesus through reliance on Him)
8. Non-flattering speech (He did not seek to flatter the Thessalonians but was in their face)
9. Non-greedy (He sought to never be a burden on them)
10. Non-glory seeking (He sought only God and His glory)
11. Gentle (as a nursing mother)
12. Affectionate
13. Labor (Faithfully labored among them)
14. Hardship (Faced great hardship for the gospel and them)
15. Proclaimed (Fearlessly)
16. Devoutly (He was devout so they could see holiness in action)
17. Uprightly (not just a holy life but he avoided things that could be construed as not being right)
18. Blamelessly (and walked a blameless life in Christ in front of them)
19. Exhorting (as a father does his children: Notice he made it personal by seeing himself as their mother and father Just a bit personal huh?)
20. Encouraging (as a father does his children)
21. Imploring (as a father does his children)
22. Constantly thanked God when the word was received (I am terribly poor at this! He rejoiced)
23. Connected in the spirit (He saw distance from them as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to connect them deeper in Christ!)
24. Eagerness to see each other (How many times are we so eager to see each other that you can hardly stand the time when you are not together)
25. Enduring suffering (He endured suffering for them to get a glimpse into the sufferings of Christ)
26. Disciples are hope, joy, and crown of exultation in the presence of Jesus at His coming (Do I really think of the students that I have discipled over the years as my crown of exultation (rejoicing) when I stand before Jesus on the day of his return?)

If we are honest we are probably fall woefully short of this standard of discipleship that Paul gives here. Let us repent of our inadequacy. Let us run to Jesus the perfect discipler and "fisher of men", and ask Him to make us desperate for Him and His way of affection, boldness, suffering, gentleness, Holiness, and rejoicing that He lived in, and now lives in for us!

Here are a few other passages in 1 Thessalonians that I gleaned on how Paul felt about the Thessalonians. You can peruse then and ask God to change our heart for people and become the "Fishers of Men" that Jesus would have us become!

  • "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor," (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4 NASB)

  • "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words". (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 14-18 NASB)

  • "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 NASB)

  • "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 NASB)
Here is a quick video of what it might cost us to be a disciple and a disciplemaker of Christ.

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