When Paul came to Thessalonica and tried to establish a church there, he was faced with vehement opposition, so much so that he had to cut his time there short after a few weeks and leave town by night (read the account in Acts 17:1–10). But a wonderful thing happened: the believers in Thessalonica imitated Paul’s Christlike attitude in persecution, and thus became examples to others in their entire region. This is the way Paul puts it in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
You know what kind of men we were among you for our benefit, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with the joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out, so we don’t need to say anything (1 Thess 1:5b–9).
This is truly remarkable. Because these new believers had caught fire and their faith radiated all around them, Paul, the missionary who had planted the church, didn’t need to say anything! This shows that we should not leave sharing and spreading our faith to a few God-called evangelists or those with the gift of evangelism (though God certainly uses these individuals; see Eph 4:11; 2 Tim 4:5). Instead, evangelism, biblically conceived, is first and foremost a corporate affair, something to be done by the entire church.
You’re not convinced? Here is what Jesus said in his final prayer according to John: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their message. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.May they also be one in us, so the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me. May they be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:20–23).
Do we have radiant faith? Do we have faith that radiates beyond our local church to the world around us? Do we have the faith that inspires others to “love and good works” (Heb 10:24)? Many can attest to the fact that we were attracted to the gospel message at least in part by observing the love Christians had for one another. This is the biblical model: for the body of Christ to represent Christ to the world, in love and unity, “so the world may believe” and know God’s love for them.
This is what they said about the first Christians: “See how they love one another!” (Tertullian,Apology 39.7). Can they say the same about us?