“The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore – you’re the message!”
A good preacher knows how to stand up, speak up, and shut up! Abe Lincoln reportedly said, “It is better to be quiet and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!” Solomon observed, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise” (Proverbs 17.27). There is most certainly “a time to be silent” (Ecclesiastes 3.7b).
I know how to speak up. My acute, well-defined, finely-tuned (and usually self-motivated) sense of justice sees to that. However, I could use a little help learning to shut up. Paul invested himself so completely into the lives of his Thessalonian converts that they began to imitate Paul and the Lord. This, of course, was Paul’s goal.
“You became imitators of us and the Lord.”
1st Thessalonians 1.6 NIV
Eventually the Thessalonians graduated from just being imitators of Paul. They became models of the faith.
“And so you became a model to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
1st Thessalonians 1.7 NIV
This evolution of understanding in the church at Thessalonica became the apostle’s cue to stop talking. As a disciple-maker, Paul was so successful he made himself obsolete. He worked himself out of the preacher’s job. He no longer had to say anything. The people of God in the church at Thessalonica became Paul’s message.
The gospel is not an opportunity to hear ourselves speak. Anyone armed with even a little Bible knowledge can easily over-sermonize. Oatory ad naseum is not hard to do. The goal is to re-create ourselves by inspiring imitators of Christ who model our faith. These people become our message and eliminate the need for us to speak at all. Their lives say it so we don’t have to. We can… dare to shut up.