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Paul's Philosophy of Ministry

Several years ago, when I was just starting in pastoral ministry, I remember someone asking me what my philosophy of ministry was. I hadn’t thought of such a thing, and truthfully, I didn’t fully understand what they were asking. I was just going to preach and try to see people follow Jesus. Pretty basic.

 

I’ve learned since then that what I had in those early years were ministerial goals. But I didn’t have a philosophy of ministry that dictated how those goals might be accomplished.

 

I recently revisited Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians during my personal Bible reading. Reading those two short letters has been a refreshing experience. When I read the second chapter of Paul’s first letter, I thought, “Paul is simply stating his philosophy of ministry.”

 

So, I sketched out a few highlights from Paul’s philosophy of ministry. I’m sure I’ve missed some important nuances and overlooked some obvious components, but let me share what I quickly captured:

 

1. We should never let suffering keep us from serving – v. 2.

The boldness we need to keep serving through suffering is directly connected to our view of God. In other words, the bigger God is in our minds and hearts, the bolder we will be for him during difficult seasons/situations.

 

2. We should never forget that we have been entrusted with the gospel – v. 4.

When we realize the calling placed upon us, we will serve with sobriety, faithfulness, and tenacity.

 

3. We should never allow man’s praise to trump God’s praise – vv. 4-6.

Serving with God’s approval in mind provides the boldness we need to teach difficult concepts or unpopular ideas. We serve for God’s nod, not man’s praise.

 

4. Just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily mean we should do that thing – v. 6.

Paul could have made particular demands based on his apostleship, but he refrained from doing so out of care for the church.

 

5. Gentleness must be the dominant tone of ministry – v. 7.

While forceful communication is sometimes necessary, such an approach should be the extreme exception rather than the rule. Twice, Paul used parental similes when describing his ministry toward the Thessalonians.

 

6. Truly love the church – v. 8, 17 (3:5).

Pastors must love being with the church. Any pastor who views the church as his people to rule or an empire to build is unfit for the ministry.

 

7. Connected to the previous point, the church needs the messenger as well as the message – v.8.

Our job is bigger than being a theological dispensary. Pastor, you will get burned in ministry. Paul did as well. But never let that keep you from giving yourself to the church you serve.

 

8. Ministry is hard work – just expect it – vv. 9-12.  

There is no way around it: pastoral ministry is a grind. It takes hard work to be a faithful shepherd. Furthermore, pastors should expect spiritual opposition to their calling (v. 18).

 

9. We should never lose sight of the goal – vv.11-12.

The goal isn’t to make a name for ourselves. The goal isn’t a certain number of attendees. The goal is to see people living for God’s kingdom and His glory.

 

10. We should never forget that we will give an account to Jesus – vv.19-20 (cf: Hebrews 13:17).

The Thessalonian church’s spiritual growth meant that Paul would have great joy when he would stand in front of Jesus and give an account for his pastoral ministry.

 

 

What did I miss? I’m sure you can glean more insights into Paul’s philosophy of ministry from 1 Thessalonians 2.

 

What did you find encouraging in the list that I shared?

 

What did you find challenging?

 

May we be faithful shepherds for God’s glory.

 

 

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