In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul and co. describe their time in Thessalonica again, this time from their perspective. They remind the church that their motives and methods were sincere. This is a good, practical passage for missionaries and pioneers today.
When Paul says his “coming to you was not in vain,” he could be saying that the results were good, or that his motivations were not wrong. In the next statement, referring to their suffering in Philippi, Paul makes clear that he intends the second meaning. Missionary motivations must be the right ones; otherwise their efforts will be in vain. What do correct motivations and methods look like?
They are not “in error.” The motivations do not arise from a mistaken sense of calling or an outright false desire to go. Missions is a romantic ideal for some people. They are not “impure.” Missionaries should not operate out of a desire for personal gain. (Duh) If you did, you should question not only your calling, but your intelligence!
Methods are not “by way of deceit.” If you are there for the right reasons, just tell the story you have been given. Do not engage in “got-cha” techniques or trickery witnessing. Sometimes we forget we are witnesses and think we are to be elaborate persuaders.
Paul describes the apostolic or missionary relationship with three familiar pictures. Missionaries should be “infants.” They are not meant to dazzle or impress with huge displays of intellect or strength of presence. They are to be “mothers” who care for and educate people out of a true sense of love. Finally, they are to be “fatherly,” firmly exhorting, encouraging and imploring people who accept the message to walk (live) in a worthy way.
The expected results of such efforts? Acceptance in spite of the resulting difficulties.