Incredible. These Thessalonian believers became what every pastor or Sunday school teacher wants his converts to become. Notice the progression: we see that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; then they became followers (disciples) of Paul and of the Lord; then they became examples to the churches in Macedonia and in Achai of what a church should be. That is what we call fruit that remains!
But how did this happen? It certainly wasn't an accident. Another question: why don't we see this more often in our own ministries? I believe this passage in 1 Thessalonians 1 gives us some vital keys to having a vibrant, growing ministry.
1. The first key is that the gospel did not go to these Thessalonians in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost (v. 5). This is huge. How many times have I gone to the door while soul winning, said all the right things, had the perfect smile on my face, and yet walked away knowing that nothing was done to further the Gospel in that person's life. Now, I recognize that not everyone is ready to trust Christ as his Saviour. I also recognize that every person has a free will to choose whether or not to trust Christ, even when the Holy Spirit is working in that person's heart. But I have to admit that many times I have brought the Gospel in word only, and not in the power of the Holy Spirit. Little time was spent in prayer in the morning hours, begging and pleading with God for His power.
2. The second key is that these Thessalonians saw what manner of men Paul and Timothy were. (v. 5b) In other words, Paul and Timothy lived godly lives. They lived what they preached. And not only that, but they lived in such a way that the Thessalonians could see them. It is not enough just to live a godly life; we must live our lives in the plain view of other people, so that they can see how the Christian life is to be lived. It is directly related to one of the qualifications of the bishop. Can you guess what it is without reading ahead? Hint: it is found in verse 2 of 1 Timothy 3. The answer is "given to hospitality." This literally means, "fond of guests." I believe that the lives of Paul and Timothy were open books for the Thessalonians to read. I believe if Paul had an office, he would have had an open door policy for new believers to come and and ask questions about the Christian life. Of course, there must be a balance. We must not do the work of the ministry at the expense of our families, and I am not implying that. But we must be willing to tear down unnecessary walls of selfishness so that we can mentor new believers and model the Christian life. Again, Paul said, "...as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." Paul modeled the Christian life so that the Thessalonian Christians could see it.