Leading Like Paul - Part 1: Introduction

Apart from Christ, Scripture offers perhaps no greater example of leadership than the Apostle Paul. During his lifetime his influence stretched throughout the whole of the Mediterranean, and following his death, it reached worldwide proportions. Whether a persecutor of Christians or an Apostle of Christ, Paul always commanded a loyal group of followers. The book of Acts, suggests that it was common for groups of men and women from various backgrounds, professions, and races to approach Paul for leadership upon his arrival to their city. Thessalonica was no different. Despite only spending roughly 90 days in Thessalonica, Paul's impact was dramatic. He sparked an insurrection and was accused of "turning the world upside down." (Acts 17:6) This series of posts will offer a synthesis of how the Apostle Paul's character and leadership practices enabled him to gather and influence the masses in Thessalonica.

Thessalonica was both a proud and strategic city within the Roman province of Macedonia. Located on the Egnatian Way it rapidly developed into a main trade hub because of its natural harbor. Gordon Lightfoot described it as "the key to the whole of Macedonia... it narrowly escaped being made the capital of the world." Acts 17 recounts Paul's second missionary journey to this city. Upon arriving in Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy, Paul went immediately to the synagogue and "as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." Through this process, several Jews became Christians along with a great many Gentiles. However, opposition soon arose. Blaming Paul for their waning influence, several powerful Jews instigated a riot that resulted in the city magistrates punishing several loyal believers for housing Paul. During the course of the trial, the men were found guilty of befriending "men who have turned the world upside down... and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." (Acts 17:6-7) Fearing for their lives, Paul, Silas, and Timothy left for Athens immediately. Despite a fruitful start, the increasing violence prevented Paul from returning to the city for several years.

During Paul's absence, these same opponents jealously criticized him for his premature exit and his motives in ministry. They suggested that Paul's ministry was driven by a quest for power and that his abrupt departure and failure to return was proof of having little regard for the church.

Paul wrote I Thessalonians in order to repudiate these allegations. The letter is a heartfelt reminder of his motives and conduct in relation to the church at Thessalonica. Paul's defense is not built on eloquence or rhetoric; he simply recounts how he spent his time. Thus, I Thessalonians provides a unique glimpse into the method and character of Paul's leadership. In order to prove his sincerity, Paul explains how he built relationships, carried himself, and treated the church. In essence, he explains his leadership. Thus, this series will provide a verse-by-verse analysis of the leadership principles that emerge from Paul's letter to the church.

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