[This is a brief small group/Bible class series that parallels the sermons of Dean Barham at Woodmont Hills Family of God in Nashville, TN, for the month of July 2009. You may listen to Dean's lessons here.]
A Shepherd’s Presence
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
This text is one of the most “pastoral” passages in all of Paul’s writings. It reflects not only his heart for those among whom he ministered, but it also testifies to the nature of his presence among them as well as his purpose, motive, and method. This is a text that displays the relational nature of Paul’s ministry.
Paul had to leave Thessalonica before he wanted. It is a young church (perhaps only six months old!). He wants badly to return and has tried (1 Thessalonians 2:18). But, unfortunately, Paul has had to leave them in the hands of the leaders he left behind.
Paul reminds them of his ministry among them for at least two reasons. First, he does not want them to think he has forsaken them but rather that he deeply loves them. Second, by this example he encourages the present leaders (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12) to follow his lead.
How should leaders lead? How should they minister among people? Paul describes his own ministry.
Several broad ideas indicate some of Paul’s own understanding of ministry and leadership.
- Motive—please God or please others?
- Greed—for money or self-sacrifice?
- Nurture—sharing ourselves or seeking flattery?
- Honesty—transparency or hiddenness?
- Calling—live for the kingdom or for ourselves?
- Presence—parental-like love or self-interested power?
- Proclamation—the good news of the kingdom or self-aggrandizing rhetoric?
Shepherding means relationships as well as providing direction and declaring the good news of the kingdom. Paul expected leaders in Thessalonica to follow his own example.
Questions for Discussion:
- Given Paul’s descriptive testimony of his own ministry, which metaphors are particularly striking to you?
- Identify some characteristics in this text that you believe are particularly important for contemporary leaders to display. Why are these important to you? How do you manifest them in your own life?
- Reading this text, what do you think was the major charge against Paul’s ministry? Of what did they accuse him? What sounds familiar in this text in relation to contemporary leadership?
- How might contemporary shepherds insulate themselves from such charges? How does this text guide us?