2 Thessalonians is written to remind us of what matters most: that we hear the words of Christ, that we follow the teachings of the Lord, that we share God’s love with everyone around us, and that we rejoice in all things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for each of us.
To understand Paul’s writings, you have to understand the art of letter writing. Paul wasn’t writing a collection of instruction books for the whole of Christianity, he was writing as an apostolic leader to communities of faith he planted. How we understand his writings will be wholly dependent on how we understand why he wrote.
We often put too much emphasis on the graph that shows church stats. But it is not the graph that defines us, it is the graft – our connection to Jesus Christ. He is the vine. We are the branches.
“We’ve always done it that way” is one of the least faithful responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Spirit gifts us for far greater freedom than being slaves to our past. There is a more faithful way.
We need to rethink our usage of the word “evangelical.” Evangelism doesn’t require that we tell others how sinful their lives are. Evangelism stems, from a Biblical perspective, from acknowledging that in Christ we are a new creation, and are, as such, gifted with the ability to see others through God’s lenses.
Paul makes it clear that if we’re living according to God’s desire, our first focus – our primary desire – will be the cares, interests, and concerns of others. How does our stewardship – our giving of time, talent, and treasure – support this call?
Jesus demonstrates for us an alternative approach to engaging with those in our mission fields. He doesn’t just say God’s love is available for “whosoever,” Jesus demonstrates what it means to offer that love to “whosoever.”
Paul helped structure the early church to live into God’s desire for the Church. Only, hierarchy and power perverted that design. Building up bigger buildings for ourselves, the church in America looks very little like what Paul envisioned. To reclaim that vision is challenging, but it’s necessary work to become who God has created us to be.
The celebration of 170 years of ministry does not come without some honest reflection. The story of Washington Street UMC is a story of redemption: If God could use the Roman cross and symbols of oppression, God can and certainly does use a church built with the money of slaveholders to tell a new story – a story of reconciliation, love, and resurrection.
The gifting of the Spirit at Pentecost gives us the rawest and truest glimpse of God’s desire for the church: to be the living witness and testimony to the goodness of God in the world. Everything else the church does should be to better serve this purpose.