1 Thessalonians 2:6-9
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked day and night in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the Gospel of God to you.
Today we will look at Paul’s strategy for making disciples. In all three of Paul’s missionary journeys, we see him practicing the strategy of “purposeful proximity.” Paul knew that in order to transfer spiritual DNA, he would have to live in close proximity to those he hoped to disciple. He obviously learned this from Jesus’ model of ministry. Herb Hodges, one of the greatest disciple-makers of this modern age, once wrote, “Discipling is one Christian imparting his whole life to another, by example, leadership, and relationship.”
When Paul went into an area to preach the Gospel, he would often stay for long periods of time to develop the leaders who would be entrusted with the ministry in that region. By sharing in their lives, he gained influence, and this enabled him to impact their thought-processes with the transformational truth of the Gospel. I have often said, “Discipleship is the ministry of influence.” Therefore, relationships are so important. Without meaningful relationships, you have no influence. Paul knew this and that is why he was “delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well.”
The Big Question
In what ways are you practicing “purposeful proximity” with other believers? How is Jesus’ model of ministry similar to Paul’s model? What does “purposeful proximity” look like in the 21st century? Who is in your sphere of influence? In what ways are you influencing other believers to grow in their faith? In what ways are you influencing non-believers toward the kingdom of God?
Spend some time in prayer meditating on what God revealed to you today.