What would the congregation say about their preacher after he left? What would the church say about the missionaries after they returned home? What about area congregations and Christians – how would they characterize the work of certain ministers? What kind of impact do we as preachers leave on people when our time working together comes to an end?
When we study 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, we see the kind of impact that Paul, Silas, and Timothy had on their Macedonian brethren. Their reputation was based on observations about the local congregation and the spreading of that news around the area. Preachers and teachers will be judged both in this life and on that Great Day. As those who humbly point people to the Savior, we know that people will observe our lives and our teaching and share those things with others. That is okay. What was noticeable about Paul, Silas, and Timothy and what can we learn about it today?
First, the brethren noticed that their ministry could be characterized by work. The work of the preacher was not a passive one as they had to labor among the brethren (cf. 1 Thess. 2:9). If the preacher is lazy, everyone will know. Second, the brethren recognized that the missionaries were partners with, not lords over the local church. The work of ministers of the gospel is not one of supremacy but servitude, not of position but partnership. Third, their work in Thessalonica was obvious because of the change in the congregation as the members turned from sin to serve God. This change was not in service times nor window dressing; this change was evident in the way the church conducted itself. The change, repentance, was seen in their lives. The work of ministers is not in tinkering with auxiliary matters; it is in delivering a life-changing message week in and week out. Fourth, they preached a message of hope. The gospel, by its nature, condemns man in his sin and illuminates the wrath to come. But, the gospel, by its nature, gives man great hope. When the preacher descends from the pulpit walks away from the podium, or stands up from the kitchen table, he may have delivered a message about sin, but he should certainly leave that place showing people the hope we all have in Jesus.