The Apostle Paul's Strategy for Evangelistic Success
A study of Paul's description of his interaction with the people of Thessalonica reveals the keys to his success, and the birth of this church
The secret to the birth and growth of the Thessalonian church
In the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles, the writer, Luke, recounts the experience of the apostle Paul and those with him when they went into the city of Thessalonica. Things went well at first, but a reading of the full account in Acts 17:1-9 shows that all did not end well. The apostle himself, in later writing to the Thessalonian church, reminds the believers that Paul and those with him had suffered at the hands of those in Philippi. In I Thessalonians 2:1-2, Paul reminds them of that, but also expresses his determination and that of those with him to share the gospel with those in Thessalonica. "For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.” While this may have been true – their boldness – that was no guarantee that success would follow. What did Paul and those with him do that made their efforts successful?
An examination of the verses that follow show the keys to their success. Let’s take a moment to read those now:
1 Thess 2:3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;
1 Thess 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.
1 Thess 2:5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness--
1 Thess 2:6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
1 Thess 2:7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
1 Thess 2:8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thess 2:9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
1 Thess 2:10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;
1 Thess 2:11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children.
Reviewing what Paul has said in verse 3 reveals that three things stand out in Paul’s presentation: truth, purity and integrity. No accusation could be leveled against Paul and those with him regarding their message or their motives.
In verse 4, Paul makes it plain that he understands that he was not self-appointed, but had been called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and that Paul and those with him were required to be faithful to the gospel message. If this message was unpopular, so be it; they were not there to be men-pleasers, but were intent on pleasing God.
Any suggestion that Paul and those with him used under-handed tactics or had self-serving desires was ludicrous. None of Paul’s hearers had detected a hint of self-importance or egomania. And though Paul was a chosen, sent apostle, he never used his office as an apostle as a ‘club’ to beat into submission those whom he attempted to share the gospel with.
In verses 7-8, Paul reminds the believers in Thessalonica of his nature and character as he strived to share the gospel with them. He uses the comparison of a nursing mother to describe the gentleness of him and his co-workers. Moreover, he continues by relating to them the extent of their love for the people there: “so fond an affection for you…willing to share our lives with you, because you had become very dear to us.”
In some of Paul’s other letters, he tells of those who came, bragging on themselves , who would take advantage of the believers. Paul and company were always self-supporting, never being a financial burden to the church .
Paul calls on them to bear witness with God concerning their conduct, using the adverbs devoutly, uprightly and blamelessly in verse 10, and uses the comparison of a loving father’s actions toward his children in speaking of exhorting, encouraging and imploring them in their spiritual growth. Paul’s objective is plainly stated in verse 12: that they would walk in a manner worthy of God.
In reading and reviewing these verses, and following the strategy of Paul and those with him, it would be safe to say that this plan might be termed a “life-style leading others to eternal life”.
We would do well to study these passages, memorize them and find ways to implement them in working with those who new to the gospel or skeptical about the validity of the church of Christianity. We might well experience the success Paul had back in the first century.
All scripture passages have been quoted from the New American Standard Bible