Someone recently joked that I was a traveling preacher just like the Apostle Paul. They dubbed our work “Ken’s Missionary Journeys.”
Uh, not quite.
Our method of travel is smoother, more relaxing and quicker. Our accommodations have been very comfortable. And I have not been beaten. Stoned. Imprisoned. Or run out of town.
But there is at least one thing that occurred me our ministry has in common. The goal of strengthening the churches.
The book of Acts records the history of the church from its establishment to its growth and spread across the Roman Empire. This includes Paul’s three missionary journeys and voyage to Rome.
As Paul concluded his first journey, Luke writes that he returned to the churches he established, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith” (Ax. 14:22).
When Paul chose Silas to go on his second journey they “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Ax.15:32).
On his third journey, he began by traveling “through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.” (Ax. 18:23)
These verses remind us of the importance of the second part of Jesus’ Great Commission. “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20).
While evangelistic outreach is obviously vital to the saving of souls, so also is “strengthening the souls of the disciples.” When you strengthen disciples you strengthen churches.
Thayer says to strengthen means “to establish.” “To render more firm.” “To confirm.” Vine adds that it means “to support or reestablish.” The root word means “to make stable.”
Our spiritual strength doesn’t happen automatically or accidentally. It requires effort, energy and the intentional execution of specific steps. Daily Bible reading, weekly worship, frequent fellowship with fellow believers are at the core of Christians being strengthened.
Big buildings, large numbers, multiple programs, and financial stability are not the key ingredients that produce a strong church or strengthen souls. In our travels we have visited small churches in old buildings with few resources but the members are spiritually strong.
Spiritual strength is based on the Word. More gospel preaching. Not less. More Bible classes. Not fewer. More meat. Not just milk. The Word produces faith. Grounds us in the Truth. Encourages us to remain faithful. Stimulates us to good works. And reinforces our eternal hope.
Strengthening souls and churches is vital to “(fighting) the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). You see, the devil hasn’t retired. He’s active. And on the move. He’s deceptive. Devious. Duplicitous.
And so, Paul offers this serious warning and encouraging exhortation: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).
Pastors, preachers, and teachers are charged with shepherding, preaching and teaching to strengthen the disciples. We must take seriously our responsibility and fulfill our ministry. Yet, each one must individually work to learn. Grow. Develop. And get stronger.
Are you serious about strengthening your soul? The souls of your children? And the souls of those in your church family?
Are you into the Word? Praying without ceasing? Engaged in mutual edification? Using your time, talent and treasure to minister your God-given gifts? And sharing your faith?
We are thankful for opportunities to strengthen churches. Our underlying purpose and overall goal can be summed up in Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians.
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor 16:13-14).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman