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Job Description of a Spiritual Leader—1 Thessalonians 2:1-20

What do we expect from a great leader? I'm sure the people of any congregation could compile quite a list of expectations, but would it reflect what God desires from the leadership of His church?

Rather than living their lives to please a "list," pastors and spiritual leaders need a job description that is not influenced by opinion, experience, or a caricature of a pastor. In 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 and 2, we have Paul's heart and ministry, modeled and described. From this amazing story and example we can deduce what a spiritual leader's job description should look like, and/or what his cumulative resume might contain. This passage also tells us why the Thessalonians stayed true and the church grew at a remarkable pace. It didn't just happen; certain elements made it strong.

Paul's Heart and Ministry Modeled and Described

As we study 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20, we see an outline of Paul's

  • ministry
  • message
  • motives
  • methods, and
  • measure of success.

His Ministry—vv. 1-2

First Thessalonians reveals Paul was:

A Successful Initiator—v. 1

"(For) You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure." (The conjunction for implies that what follows is a reason, cause, or main contributor to what precedes in chapter 1.)

One of the characteristics of leaders used of God is that they don't wait for meaningful ministry to come to them. One of the elements that contributed to the results we see in 1 Thessalonians was Paul's initiative in making a visit. Review 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Paul's actions are very clear.

Paul's initiative sponsors a question. Should spiritual leaders wait for meaningful ministry to come to them or be given to them? Sometimes waiting is an essential element in determining God's will, but most often ministry is revealed to us as we are doing what we already know to do. God directs a moving servant. Paul initiated his "visit" to the Thessalonians in the first place. and we see him model this initiative throughout the book of Acts. (See Acts 16:1-12.)

A good percentage of the will of God has already been given to us in Scripture. If we obey the commands, the rest will be revealed to us (e.g. Matt. 28:19; 1 Thess. 4:1-7, etc.).

Another characteristic of the resume/job description of a spiritual leader is one most would love to avoid. If a leader is going to be effective in ministry, however, he/she will eventually be:

.A Seasoned Sufferer —v. 2a

"We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know..."

The suffering Paul alludes to here is described in Acts 16:16-28. It is interesting to read Acts 16 and then try to picture how that experience influenced him as he walked into Thessalonica. He mentions one of the specific illustrations of his suffering: the insults he received. "Insult" means haughty insolence on the part of oppressors. No healthy person likes suffering or insults, but if we cooperate with God, we can learn to grow and minister through suffering.

The results of that suffering can be seen in two principles:

  1. Suffering is the water for spiritual growth. Without it we might not grow.
  2. The world is fed with broken bread—Ps. 51:17.

Paul came to Thessalonica fresh from an experience of suffering to see God use him in a wonderful way. This, by the way, is what often happens today. A high percentage of those who have a hurtful church experience—some who are even forced to leave—follow up that experience with a very successful ministry. (See survey results in "Forced Exits: Personal Effects")

A Daring Evangelist/Teacher—vv. 2b, 13.

v. 2b—"but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition." v. 13—"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us..."

Notice the two key words show the human and supernatural elements working together.

  • Dared means the words flowed freely without fear.
  • Help from God: implies the obvious; no evangelism is successful unless God initiates it and gives us the "help" to do it.

The implication is that we need to have a daring evangelism strategy, but we are completely reliant on God for the strategy and its success. As a church, we felt at one point in our ministry that we had one of two options to choose from:

  • the church as a force, or
  • the church as a field

We chose the force concept, which in summary means that everyone in the church is responsible to share the gospel with those around them wherever they find themselves, seven days a week. The outreach of the church is not limited to a building or service times, but the church by definition is to be "a dynamic force of people filled with the Spirit called to meet people's needs whenever and wherever they find them."

The church is to dare to tell you the gospel even if there is strong opposition, but its people can't do this by themselves. The help/enablement comes from God as He fills each person with His Spirit and calls/nudges and enables them to use their gifts in the Church gathered and scattered. Spiritual gifts are for the marketplace, too. The result of this philosophy of ministry is that most people are won to the Lord apart from our services.

What's your daring approach? How do you personally know you are receiving help from God in your witness, e.g., no fear, words flow, memory is sharp, etc. What happens to you and your strategy when opposition occurs?


His Message. vv. 2b-3a —

"...but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3] For the appeal we make does not spring from error..."

Notice how specific Paul is. He makes it clear it is

God's gospel—v. 2

This gospel is not something made up. If someone were to ask you what the gospel is, what would you say? Are we sharing the whole gospel? Take another look at what the gospel consists of; write it down and be prepared to explain it to someone else.

Free from error—v. 3

It is crucial that there is no wandering from the truth or being led astray in our presentation of the gospel. This commitment to freedom from error has several obvious implications:

  • It's only God's Word that is free from error and will have a powerful impact—Heb. 4:12-13. Staying in the Word is the only way to avoid error.
  • The Word must be properly interpreted in its context.
  • The Word must be handled correctly. 2 Tim. 2:15—"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." If we use 2 Timothy 2:15 as a guide, we see that in order to present the gospel free from error, we need both the necessary personal experience and personal effort.

Having the right message and handling it correctly is absolutely critcal to our spiritual effectiveness.

Beyond our message and our ministry, our heart must be right too. Paul adds to the resume of a spiritual leader by sharing with us the motivation for what he did. Notice his motives are mentioned several times in this passage.

His Motives—vv. 3b,4,6

3] For the appeal we make does not spring from. . . .impure motives..."

4a] "...we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

4b] "We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts."

6a] "We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. "

In 1 Thessalonians Paul is not only giving a review of his time in Thessalonica, he is defending his ministry against those who questioned his authority as an apostle. Thus he makes clear the three-fold impetus for his ministry:

He was spurred on by purity of heart, not impurity.

v. 3—"For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives..."

It is apparent some had apparently made appeals with less than stellar motivation, e.g., for financial gain, acclaim, to gather a following, etc. Paul had another impetus to stay pure, for Who was testing his heart and ours as well? 4b—"We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." (See also 1 Cor. 4:1-5.)

This is an admonition for everyone is the ministry, even if they believe they have had the highest motivation in the past. The nature of temptation is that it becomes more and more interior and subtle as we grow in the Lord. At some point in our growth we may not be tempted as frequently with the overt temptation of our younger days, but we will always have to deal with temptation of the heart.

The key question we need to ask ourselves constantly, then, is why are we doing what we are doing? What is our motivation?

He was an approved investor.

v. 4a—"On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel."

"One approved" was approved because he had been tested—and passed the test. Here are some key questions regarding motivation for investing:

  • Are you motivated to make wise investments of the gospel, your time, and your ministry in the lives of others?
  • Are you motivated to make the most of your opportunities?—Eph. 5:15-17.
  • If you were asked to summarize, what are your highest priorities in ministry?
  • Can you list the priorities and Scriptures that affirm your highest priorities?

He was pleasing to God—vv. 4b,6a.

Why is pleasing men one of the most difficult temptations to avoid? What will enable us to make pleasing God our highest goal?

  • 1 Cor. 4:1-5
  • Gal. 1:10
  • Rom. 14:17-18

With his ministry, message and motives in mind, how did Paul do what he did?

His Methods—vv. 3c, 5 (his defense)

The negative. There was:

No trickery—v. 3c. No methods to trick people into responding to us or our message. Paul is literally talking here about catching fish with bait—any crafty design for deceiving or catching. Our message should not require any enticements or false promises—it is compelling because of its inner strength and integrity.

No flattery—v. 5a. This is about deception by slick eloquence—acceptable speech with the purpose of lulling someone into a sense of security, so that one may obtain one's own ends.

No masks to cover greed—v. 5b. There are no hidden motives to get some personal profit.

No desire to please men—v. 6b. Paul was not looking for praise because of his work—to be honored or receive fame or renown.

No burden—v. 6b (also v. 9).

The positive. He showed the feminine & masculine side of love:

A mother to them—v. 7.

  • gentle—like a nurse/mother among her children talking in baby language, or tenderly talking and adapting to his hearers.
  • caring—to warm, cherish, care for tenderly, e.g., used for the mother bird—Deut. 22:6. How we feed can be as important as what we feed. It's our words and life.
  • loving—v. 8. A term of endearment derived from the nursery.
  • delighted to give/share—v. 8b. (both the gospel and life—our own selves. He is not only giving the message, but his whole being is communicating)
  • worked hard for/with them—v. 9a.
  • preached the gospel—v. 9b.

A godly father to them—vv. 9-16 (See also I Cor. 4:14-15).

  • working for/with them—v. 9
  • preaching the gospel—v. 9b
  • exemplary character—v. 10. No charge can be laid against him because he is holy—set apart for God; righteous—conformed to the Word; and blameless—without cause for reproach
  • encouraging—v. 12
  • comforting/tenderness
  • urging them—v. 12b: to live lives worthy of God. He calls us into His kingdom and into His glory
  • teaching them the Word—v. 13. It was received, heard, accepted, and it worked in them.
  • helping them through hard times—vv. 14-16.

A brother to them—vv. 17-20,14

  • worked for/with them—v. 9
  • sought them out—v. 17 when torn/orphaned—v. 17, and when stopped—v. 18.
    ("Stopped" means to put up a trench. Satan wants to keep us from strengthening new converts, but we should keep praying—1:2-3; keep longing—2:17; keep trying to see them—2:17; send letters—5:27 and send others—3:1-2.)

His Measure of Success

It is people standing in God's presence—vv. 19-20.



  1. How was Paul able to minister so faithfully and lovingly to the new believers in Thessalonica? What were his motives? Outline them from verse 4 to the end of the passage.


  2. What ministry do you presently have that will be your hope, joy and crown at the judgment seat of Christ? Picture the scene described in I Cor. 3:10-15 and 2 Cor. 5:10. What will stand the test of fire? What are you doing that will give you great joy in the presence of Jesus?


  3. What ministry would you love to do but haven't gotten around to yet? Picture yourself standing before God. Give your excuse to Him for not doing that ministry. Is He impressed or disappointed?


  4. In your ministry, do you need to grow in your care as a father, mother, or brother? What will help you? (Use this passage for your answer.)


  5. What has stopped you from evangelism or follow-up of new converts—vv. 8-9, 17-18? How has this passage helped you?


Forced Exits: Personal Effects,

YOUR CHURCH: Special Report

by John C. LaRue, Jr.

This report is found in a series from Your Church, a publication of Christianity Today, as part of a series on Forced Exits. In this article, the gains and losses of a forced exit are listed. Here are the gains:

The Gains

With God in the mix, a negative situation can lead to a number of positive results. For example, two-thirds of ousted pastors report that their faith and prayer life improved because of their trying experiences. On the home front, the majority say their ability to be a loving spouse and caring parent was enhanced. Even though a third of all pastors forced out have not yet returned to local church ministry, nearly half (48%) say their ordeal encouraged their sense of call to the pastorate.

According to the ousted pastors we surveyed, there often is a "greener pasture." For most it's not found in secular employment but in ministering to another congregation. When pastors are finally called to another church, the vast majority (85%) find the new situation to be easier. In fact, over six in ten (63%) discover the new parish to be much easier to handle than the one they had left. Still, 15 percent found that the experience of shepherding a new flock was about the same or worse than where they'd come from.