We currently face barriers to have residential foreign missionaries living in country of service. We can look at a non-residential approaches from various passages of scripture. There were different approaches used in different non-residential settings. There was a lot more to Paul’s Thessalonica ministry than the three week initial visit.
In one sense Paul ministered through a non-residentially approach in every city where he planted churches. Here I want to look at Paul’s approach for Thessalonica.
Thessalonica was a strategic Greek city on an important Roman highway and sea route. Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) is where Paul spent the least amount of time present in terms of physical presence, but it was one of the healthier churches we find in the NT.
What did Paul do in the very short time (3 weeks) he was there and what did he do subsequently to fan into flame the church established there.
- Went to Thessalonica with Silas and Timothy Acts 17:1-9
- Focused on the resurrection of Jesus for three weeks
- Saw response from men and women of Jews and God-fearing Greeks and pagans 1 Thes 1:9
- Encountered persecution and departed
- Left Jason and other local believers there.
- Paul became far removed from Thessalonica, but Silas and Timothy stayed nearby in Berea
- Paul wanted to re-visit and he tried to re-visit but Satan stopped him (1 Thes 2:18)
- Sent Timothy to Thessalonica (1 Thes 3:1)
- Timothy reports back regarding Thessalonica church health.
- He wrote 1 Thessalonians shortly after his arrival in Corinth (very soon after he left Thessalonica)
- Night and day earnest prayer to revisit
- Wrote 2 Thessalonica at the end of Corinthian one year stay
- Paul discipled Aristarchus in Ephesus and took him on his ministry travels. (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24).
- A few years after his initial visit and letters he re-visited Thessalonica probably at least twice Acts 20:1-6, Philippians 4:16 on his way to Greece (Acts 20:1) and again on to Jerusalem (Acts 20:3)
- He arranged for Thessalonian leaders Aristarchus and Secundus to meet him for a leadership training event in Troas. (Acts 20:6)
- Aristarchus from Thessalonica accompanied Paul to Rome (Acts 27:2) and became his fellow worker and prisoner.
Besides these recorded ministry actions in Thessalonica there are many other ways Paul likely continued to pour into the church and leadership at Thessalonica directly or indirectly not recorded in Scripture.