Why should I disciple someone? It’s too messy. I don’t have time. I am not qualified. What if I fail?
These are all thoughts that goes through many Christians mind when challenged with the idea of discipling someone. The Apostle Paul too, faced obstacles in his efforts to evangelize and make disciples.
In 1 Thessalonians 2, he opens up this part of the letter by recounting tremendous suffering that he endured at Philippi before coming to Thessalonica. Yes, he and Silas were used of God mightily to establish a great work in Philippi. Most of us know the story of the prison earthquake and the jailor and his family coming to Christ. But Paul left Philippi both physically and emotionally beat up. Acts 16 says he and Silas were beaten severely and thrown into a prison dungeon. No doubt thankful and encouraged by the work accomplished there, they are forced to leave town where they arrive in Thessalonica preaching the word of God boldly in spite of opposition there as well.
In this letter, we learn that Paul’s stay with the Thessalonians was short. He ministered three consecutive Sabbaths in the synagogue pretty much suming up his public ministry there. But what we don’t know, is how long he ministered in the marketplace with his tent making occupation. Many Bible scholars say that he could have been there months after he was forbid to preach in the synagogue. It took time, much longer than three weeks to build productive relationships. While there in the marketplace, he and Silas broke bread with believers and nonbelievers. They bought supplies and sold their goods among the locals while sharing the good news of Christ one-on-one and possibly in small informal group settings.
Paul complimented the Thessalonians later in writing, “…you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
What I want you to see is what we often miss. Paul and Silas just didn’t preach in the synagogues three Sabbaths. They were in the midst of the marketplace at Thessalonica, and not just there but everywhere they went. They were bartering, doing business with the people of the various cities they ministered in. They were letting the common people see their human side, working alongside them on a daily basis – laughing, listening, watching, being normal people and doing what normal people do through the work week.
Paul and Silas must have been effective. While in Thessalonica in a very short time, a group of believers – a church was established. Mainly, made up of Greek men and some women. Who were these converts? Yes, they heard them preach in the synagogues for a few Sundays, but they watched Paul and Silas live out their lives in the flesh day to day in the marketplace.
After being made to leave Thessalonica, Paul just didn’t thank God for the results and move on to another city. He left a piece of his heart there. He wrote, “…we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us (1 Thessalonians 2:18). At the end of chapter 2, Paul calls the believers there “our glory and joy.” In Chapter 3:1, Paul begins the letter, “When we couldn’t stand it no longer, we sent Timothy to visit you.”
I could go on making my point, but please don’t miss this – discipleship is about relationships. I believe the Apostle Paul learned about this first hand in hearing it from the disciples of Jesus. He didn’t just hear it, he witnessed the great devotion and commitment to Jesus by the disciples. Paul knew that disciples were not made in the public synagogue or church classrooms, but in letting people see the real you in daily relationships where people sweat, eat, work, cry, laugh, and do life together.
The lessons in level four are much different than the previous three levels. Here, we attempt to intentionally encourage you to reach out to people. People are of great value to God. People who are lost and living in darkness. People who live messy lives. People in the marketplace, in your neighborhood, who shop where you shop, and go to the same school activities you do. It’s these people who need the Jesus that is in you!
The objective here is through sharing our faith, giving and blessing others, praying in the harvest, intentionally making disciples; we will realize the quantitative destiny that Christ has for us all – to be fruitful. Some sixtyfold, some eightyfold, and some a hundredfold, but all called to be fruitful.
Jesus said, “Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” John 15:5-8