We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:3
The church in Thessalonica was a healthy church, maturing in faith, living in hope, and serving in love. When Paul and Silas first came to Thessalonica, they stirred up controversy quickly with those who felt the two church planters were “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Paul and Silas had to sneak out of the city quickly. But the hostility and opposition in the city did not stop this new community of believers from quickly gaining a reputation in surrounding cities for their hospitality and strength of faith.
Pleasant Dale is a healthy church, maturing in faith, living in hope, and serving in love. Of course, we are in the middle of corn fields; Thessalonica is on the sea. We worship in the 21st century; they worshiped in the first. We have little concern of persecution; they were largely unpopular with the dominant powers. But as Paul wears his heart on his sleeve, encouraging this church by the sea he loves, I read his words and find that they express how I feel about this church among the fields that I am so grateful to be a part of.
We began this year with a visit from Sara and Travis, consultants with Ministry Architects. As I anticipated their arrival, I was eager for them to experience the love and welcome of Pleasant Dale, to discover that our family is an extended family, and that they can find a home here, even if their stay is brief. If the 26 page report they left us is any indication, I believe they witnessed and experienced such a welcome among us. Like a positive report card from my child’s teacher, their assessment of our church encourages me. I am proud of Pleasant Dale.
Of course, a helpful report card not only identifies strengths, it also includes important observations to help identify specific areas that may need focused attention and extra work for continued growth and maturity. So it is with Sara and Travis’ assessment. It is important for us to consider their recommendations carefully while remaining faithful to the strengths that make us who we are.
Paul praises the Thessalonian church, but, ever the nurturing motivator, he does not hesitate to identify their shortcomings and urge them to continue the task of Christian maturity. Growth in faithfulness and Christlikeness is an unending process. Just as an athlete cannot simply stop exercising or eating well when she feels strong, the church must not become too content or comfortable. Paul tells the Thessalonians they are doing a wonderful job of living out their faith, then he says, “do so more and more!” (1 Th. 4:1). Shortly thereafter, he praises their love for one another, and then proclaims, “do so more and more!” (1 Th. 4:10).
God has blessed our church, and his Spirit has moved in our midst in powerful ways. We have experienced his embrace and discovered beauty, truth, and goodness together within our family of faith. As we continue to seek his direction for our church, may we respond to his faithfulness with humility, intentionality, prudence, and mutual encouragement. And most importantly, let us do it together. Paul urges the Thessalonians to be patient with one another, and to work together. In order for the church to be healthy, everyone must participate. We are, after all, family, and everyone has a voice and a role in the household.
The Ministry Architects report is available online at discoverpd.org. The password to view it is “love.” I, along with your other pastors and leadership of the church, encourage you to spend some time reviewing the assessment. If you have questions, input, or thoughts, please share them with us. Sara and Travis will be returning March 9-10 to spend time with leadership and help us clarify and refine our vision, so that we may continue to be faithful to our identity and calling as a church family.
In the words of Paul, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:16-17). With gratitude and anticipation,
- Pastor Jonathan