Speaker: Jerry Cisar
Will Willimon tells a story from when he was a young pastor serving in a small Southern town in the throes of school desegregation of a tense, frightening scene. A white citizens’ group had been formed to fight the court’s desegregation order.
“In a packed auditorium, speaker after speaker condemned the court’s order and urged people to resist. Then, sometime well into the tension-filled evening, the pastor of the local Baptist church came in. … He walked to the front of the auditorium and took a seat. He listened for a while. Then he rose to speak. … The pastor, who had served in that congregation … for decades, spoke in deliberate, grave tones. ‘I am ashamed. I am ashamed. I have labored here for many years. … I might have thought that my preaching of the gospel had done some good. But tonight I think differently. I cannot speak to those who are not of my congregation, but to those who are, I can only say that I am hurt and ashamed of you and might have expected more.’ He then left the podium and walked out of the auditorium. The meeting resumed awkwardly. But one by one, most of the members of the Baptist church quietly left the room until the auditorium was half empty and the meeting dribbled off into adjournment with no action taken. The schools integrated the next month without incident.”
This aged pastor who had labored for much of his life in that town with the gospel was ashamed. He was ashamed because he considered that if the gospel had not taught them to love their African-American neighbors as they love themselves, it had not taught them much of anything at all.
Paul had no reason to be ashamed. In fact, Paul had not preached for many years in Thessalonica, but for at most six months. Yet Paul had reasons to thank God for what the gospel had produced. Paul sees a people in whom the gospel has made a difference!
In our series in Thessalonians, I want to learn from that church. I want to learn what it is about the gospel they believed that resulted in such transformation in their lives. Don’t you?