The concepts of being “approved” by God and “entrusted” with His gospel played a key role in the Apostle Paul’s self-understanding of his mission, his relationship to God, and his relationship with all people including the Thessalonians. This approval and trust empowered him to minister boldly in the midst of great opposition, to remain committed to avoiding error, impurity, and deceit, and to stay focused on pleasing God rather than people.
(Now that I have begun a PhD program in organizational leadership, I will use my monthly blog to discuss leadership theories and offer practical application in ways that will help the Church accomplish the Mission.)
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, English Standard Version)Empowerment of the Apostle Paul and His Team
Motivation and empowerment increase when people’s work matches their values, when they possess confidence that they will be successful, when they can choose when and how they perform their work, and when they believe they can make a difference. God delegated to the Apostle Paul tasks of appropriate difficulty that related to his career as an Apostle. In his empowerment of the Apostle Paul, God delegated in a manner consistent with what is considered good delegation: (a) specifying his responsibilities clearly, (b) providing adequate authority, (c) monitoring his progress, (d) providing necessary information, support, and assistance, and (e) turning his mistakes into learning opportunities (Yukl, 2013).
God’s empowerment of Paul noted in 2:1-4 fits with psychological empowerment as a leadership theory. Paul referred to himself in 3:2 as a co-participant, sunergon, with God in the Gospel, and described the delegation of duties in 2:1-4 in various ways. God approved Paul and his team and entrusted them with the Gospel. Consequently, Paul ministered with great motivation to please God and appeal to people with the Gospel.
The four elements of psychological empowerment are: (a) meaning, (b) self-determination, (c) self-efficacy, and (d) impact. Paul felt empowered because God changed his life and gave him a new mission (meaning), trusted him to develop his own strategies and methods (self-determination), infused him with confidence that he could be successful (self-efficacy or competence), and allowed him to witness the results of conversion and transformation of people, and the establishment of churches (impact).
Empowerment Continues for Us Today
As a public Apostolic epistle, 1 Thessalonians was meant to be read aloud to the faith community in Thessalonica and to all faith communities (5:27) for their encouragement. God’s empowerment of Paul extended to the empowerment of the Thessalonian believers, and it has continued to extend to His Church ever since and all throughout the world. From the Apostle Paul’s ministry model with the Thessalonian church Christian leaders and churches today can shape and re-shape their ministries accordingly, and by God’s Spirit and grace can expect similar results that will bring Him glory through increased effectiveness and spiritual joy.
Christians should proclaim the gospel boldly and live out the gospel genuinely. The Apostle Paul served as an entrusted messenger, teaching Christ-followers how to live out the gospel they preach. Can Christians today likewise appeal to others to examine their lives as Christians, and ask God to do the same? Such transparency speaks volumes to the world about honesty, integrity, and authenticity. The world needs more Christians like this. This will further strengthen and empower the church as God keeps supplying a greater boldness and the grace to prove faithful as those “entrusted with the gospel” (v.4).
Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership in organizations (8th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.