This article is an excerpt from The Heart of a Disciplemaker by Tim LaFleur. It will be released on 7/25. More information is below.
Dr. Lynn Anderson helps us understand the necessity of being among the people we minister to in his book They Smell like Sheep. If I presented you with two different shepherds and asked you to choose which of them did his job better, you’d likely choose the one who smelled most like sheep. That shepherd would have spent his days and nights among them. He would know the different sheep’s personalities. He’d understand what kind of pitfalls they were prone to.
Paul made the same kind of case for how to care for people in 1 Thessalonians 2. In that chapter, he remembered the way he and his coworkers lived with and cared for new believers in Thessalonica. Paul the preacher became Paul the shepherd by nurturing and helping them grow deep in their newfound faith.
As we will discover, this chapter in 1 Thessalonians explained that an effective disciplemaker ought to have the heart of a shepherd. Paul explained in detail what he and his coworkers felt and experienced, the things he did as a shepherd, and how the new believers responded. It is a shining example of how we ought to not only proclaim the gospel with our lips but also model the gospel by our manner of life.
We can have meaningful gospel-centered relationships as we make disciples when we apply these key principles taken from 1 Thessalonians 2.
- Entrust the Gospel in Spite of Adversity.
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered, and we were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. (1 Thess. 2:1–3)
Paul and his coworkers endured much hardship, like beatings with rods and imprisonment, but still remained faithful (see Acts 16). It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but instead, they grew bolder in their efforts to share the gospel!
If you commit to sharing Christ and making disciples, it will cost you something and will require sacrifice at some level. You may not be beaten or imprisoned, but it will cost you things like time, money, convenience, and peace of mind at the very least. As someone has said, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”If you commit to sharing Christ and making disciples, it will cost you something and will require… Click To Tweet
When we share the gospel “in spite of great opposition,” it becomes clear that we are pouring ourselves into the lives of others with the right motives, not with “impurity or an intent to deceive.”
I’ll never forget the first time I met Ramon Hernandez. He stood about six feet tall, and he had a rugged build and jet-black hair. Ramon looked more like a wilderness outfitter than a missionary. Little did I know that would begin a rich gospel-centered relationship that would span the course of more than twenty years.
My team and I had driven to Texas from Louisiana the day before and met Ramon for breakfast. Ramon then helped us cross the border into Mexico and navigate our way through the military checkpoints.
I traveled with Pastor Ramon as we crossed the border and were on our way to the interior of Mexico. Although he spoke broken English, we were able to communicate. As we traveled, we talked about his heart for church planting and missions. It became obvious that Pastor Ramon was the real deal: the churches in his network were not only thriving but planting other churches!
He told us how he and his mission teams had suffered persecution for the sake of the gospel. They had been abused, mistreated, stoned, and driven out of town for their faith. Yet, in spite of the persecution, the churches they planted continued to grow and flourish. They were faithful to make disciples even in the midst of adversity.
Jesus knows that His followers will face opposition and tough times. But some of the greatest comforts to us are His words found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. As we are making disciples, Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).