Thomas Monaghan founded Domino’s Pizza in 1970 and served as President and Chief Executive Officer until 1985. The megalithic pizza chain grew from a small debt-ridden chain to the second largest pizza company in America, with sales over one billion dollars.
When asked what accounted for the company’s exponential growth, Monaghan said, “I programmed everything for growth.” How did he do that? He said, “Every day we develop people – the key to growth is developing people; not special cheese, not tasty crust, not fast delivery, but people! People are the key to all effective leadership.”
In what we know as the New Testament, Paul addressed numerous aspects of the growing church. He offered encouragement and discipline; he both directly and indirectly dealt with certain leadership and pastoral skills. In some places, Paul confronted charges against him. In the second chapter of First Thessalonians, Paul addressed ministerial strength as well.
It’s paramount to remember the reason for Paul’s writing, which was to strengthen and build up the believers in Christ. One of Paul’s challenges, however, was correcting the charges against him by those persecuting the church. To do so well, he thought it necessary to describe his ministerial leadership to the readers. Paul now speaks to the strengths of the minister in the model church.
Ministerial Strength Reveals Itself in its Fruit
What Paul clearly suggests is simple: My ministry among you was full and fruitful. He’s reminding them that the work was effective. Paul ministered to people; some received Christ, experiencing genuine conversion. These same members were now living for Christ in the most difficult of circumstances: persecution. The charge of a fruitless ministry was categorically false.
I recently taught Entrepreneurial Leadership in the practicum track at YTI. When first consulting the selected text, I thought, “What’s so entrepreneurial about church leadership?” The answer rests in comprehending what entrepreneurial means.
Entrepreneurship is about doing something new, unique, and different to satisfy a need in the marketplace, according to Goosen & Stevens (2013). Talk about putting forth something new. Paul was on the cutting edge of church leadership. Strong ministerial leadership is about seizing opportunities and gaining personal satisfaction from the assumed improvement. Fruitful leadership is also about establishing the appropriate habits, seeking opportunities, pursuing those opportunities, focusing on execution, and engaging all of the players. Paul’s ministry was as fruitful as it was entrepreneurial.
Ministerial Strength Reveals Itself in Bold Preaching
Along with bearing fruit, we can assume from Paul’s writing that he preached boldly, considering opposition as part of the work to which God called him. Prior to beginning the ministry in Thessalonica, business folks in Philippi had incarcerated Paul then forced him to leave the city. Now, in the midst of similar abuse in Thessalonica, Paul didn’t give up or become discouraged. He may have been even bolder in the face of opposition.
Paul did not return insults or complain about his circumstance. He maintained his focus from his platform, proclaiming the “gospel of God.” He spoke freely and without fear; Paul wasn’t concerned with ridicule, embarrassment, mockery, or persecution. He persevered regardless of circumstances.
I cannot recall ever encountering a minister who preached guardedly. At some point in their ministries, all preachers I’ve known have, at the least, bumped up against controversy. Paul preached at the edge of the Christian frontier. Bold may not be strong enough a word to describe Paul’s circumstances. He was speaking of a new way to live life, encouraging folks to place their trust in Jesus, not Jewish or Greek tradition.
Martin Luther was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. From the perspective of boldness, Luther said, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Ministerial strength binds itself to courageous preaching. Such ministers will emulate the styles of Paul and Martin Luther. Such a minister will be willing to speak against the cultural grain, realizing that doing so will likely be costly.
Ministerial Strength Reveals Itself in Honesty
How often do we encounter ministers who reach a certain point in ministry and simply begin to be foolish? A long-time foreign missionary, who had gone to work at a seminary in Texas, found himself tangled in an affair with a woman in a church where he served as the interim pastor. A north Texas pastor encountered a similar situation a number of years ago.
An employer once said, “Barney, I happen to know that the reason you didn’t come to work yesterday was that you were playing golf.” Barney protested, saying, “That’s a rotten lie, and I have the fish to prove it.”
I’m certainly not telling you ministers will be perfect. There’s no such thing. God doesn’t call folks to be perfect ministers; God calls all people, including ministers, to be ethical and do what is right, and if we’re honest with one another, all of us occasionally have trouble in that department. It is imperative the minister set the example with honesty.
Harry Truman once commented on the importance of polls to leadership with the following insight. “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if he’d taken a poll in Egypt? What would Jesus Christ have preached if he had taken a poll in Israel?” Similarly, how would the reformation have gone if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It isn’t the poll or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership. People with fortitude, honesty, and belief in the right make epochs in the history of the world. Paul believed in the right way to do things, regardless of the circumstance.
On opening day of hunting season in one state, game wardens put a sign on a certain highway that read, “Check station 1,000 yards.” At 500 yards, there was a convenient side road. Lawful hunters went straight ahead. Over the limit and doubtful hunters took the side road. The check station? It was 500 yards down the side road.
Ministerial Strength Reveals Itself in its Strength
While I didn’t mention it at the beginning, please remember that Paul wrote the letter to the church at Thessalonica to encourage the local church. As the blossoming Christian church began to expand, it encountered persecution and struggle, and part of Paul’s inspiration for the church was to demonstrate exceptional leadership, regardless of the circumstance. In this instance, ministerial strength revealed itself in fruitful work, bold preaching, and honest living. It’s a lesson as important today as it was in Christian antiquity.