The apostle Paul found immediately that in the new church in Thessalonica there was no vision, no structure, no staffing. Proverbs 29 tells us that without a vision people perish.
Congregations have experimented with a wide variety of structures. I heard of one church where they decided to govern by consensus, in other words, every member of the congregation had to agree before the congregation would make a decision. Needless to say, the church became stuck.
Paul knew that finding leaders would be the key to the development of this church. He then suggested that leaders be selected by discovering their spiritual gifts, and then being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Without spirit-filled leaders, a church will never flourish.
Paul reminded the people of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in…” Thessalonica, in Macedonia, in West Des Moines, “and to the ends of the earth.”
To be empowered by the Holy Spirit means to be centered in faith, hope, and love. In this book, Paul focuses primarily on faith. In Corinthians, of course, he writes that faith, hope, and love remain. But the greatest of these is love.
Faith has three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust. Faith is not faith in faith, it is faith in Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose again and has gone to prepare a place for us. Faith has content, it has biblical teaching, it has commandments and prayers and creeds, and confessions. Faith is all about knowing.
Faith is also assent. One can have all knowledge, and have a Ph.D. in theology, but still not accept it. Faith is assent that Jesus is Savior and Lord. Faith is believing what we know is true.
Faith is trust. It is possible to have enough knowledge to move mountains, and to assent to it, but trust means to truly live it. Trust means casting out into the deep and knowing that God is with you. Trust means you believe that Jesus will never abandon you.
There is no better way to build a new church than through faith, hope, and love, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Questions for reflection:
- If God calls leaders by their spiritual gifts, what are your gifts?
- Where do you sense the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?
- How has faith grown in you, moving you from knowledge to assent to trust?