In 1964, a young man at the age of 16 began what has become known as one of the greatest scams of all time. Over a period of five years, Frank Abagnale, Jr., passed 2.5 million dollars worth of forged checks in 26 countries, while continually escaping from the law. How did he do it? He was an expert forger, of course, but he was also an expert impersonator. He pretended to be a pilot. He pretended to be a doctor. He pretended to teaching assistant, and an attorney. The incredible story of Frank Abagnale Jr. was made famous in 2002 in the movie, Catch Me If You Can.
When I think about the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., I am always struck with how easy it is for people or even organizations to pretend to be someone or something they are not. I think of how easy it is for people to assume the identity of a church-going Christian. Yesterday I started a series that I am calling "Authentic Ministry: Learning from the Church that Didn't Play Church." The purpose of this series is to look at the book of 1 Thessalonians and see how they exhibited a church that didn't play games.
But before we jump into the book, I wanted to illustrate why this church was authentic. A church that is birthed out of severe suffering & persecution will only contain those that take it seriously. Nobody would fake going to a church that will cost them physically. They would have been the real deal. And their story is found in Acts 17:1-9. There were five principles I shared about the birth of an authentic ministry.
First, An Authentic Ministry Is Started Because People Are Not Scared Of What Others Think Of Them. In the city just before entering Thessalonica, Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown into prison. But that didn't stop them from preaching in the next city they enter. If we ever become paralyzed be the world because we think that if we respond Christianly in that moment, it might come at some personal cost, we might just be proving to everyone that our faith is anything but genuine.
Second, An Authentic Ministry Is Built Upon The Authority Of The Bible. When Paul entered the city, he went straight to the Synagogue of the Jews and opened the Bible for them. He used the Bible as his authority. A ministry that is not centered and built upon the Bible will almost certainly produce shallow people in the faith.
Third, An Authentic Ministry Consistently Points People To Jesus. Paul opened the Bible, and his message was about Jesus. He reasoned with them that the Christ had to suffer, die, and rise again. Later in his message to Corinth, he said that he determined to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).
Fourth, An Authentic Ministry Sees People Converted To Jesus. When he preached Jesus, some people responded. We are called to be faithful in preaching the gospel and then trust God to open hearts and change lives. But Jesus does say that as we are faithful at spreading the seed, some will fall on good soil. He will do a work in our midst's.
Fifth, An Authentic Ministry Will Experience Persecution. While some responded well, some of them really got ticked off. They were extremely angry at the message of Paul. They drove him out of town and eventually drove him out of the next town, Berea. While they persecuted Paul and these young believers, the church not only survived, but grew quickly.
If you are interested in listening to the entire sermon, you can find it HERE.