The second thing we can do in terms of ministry is "comfort the fainthearted." That is, we are to give encouragement to those who are prone to lose heart. The Christian life is not always easy. Difficulties assail the Christian from all directions. Those who are prone to fall behind are to be surrounded by those who are strong in the Lord. They are to be protected from wolves and encouraged in the midst of difficulty. A primary application is that of encouraging others toward perseverance.


The third thing we can do in terms of ministry is "uphold the weak." In this case, the primary application is that of holding one up who is prone to fall into sin. We are to hold one another accountable and aid our brothers and sisters in the battle against sin. We help them to stand in the midst of temptation (much like the admonition to stand in Ephesians 6:10-18 ) or we help them up after they have fallen prey to sin.


The fourth thing we can do in terms of ministry is be "patient with all." The Christian life, the spiritual battle, the shepherding ministry to which all of us have been called to one degree or another, is long and arduous. People fall and they fall again. We are to be patient. Believers act like saints and they act like sinners. We are to be patient. Brothers seem to get victory and then they lapse. We are to be patient. We are to be patient with all.


The fifth thing we can do in terms of ministry is not render evil for evil. Paul says, "See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all." It is possible that Paul has in mind here those false interlopers who were not only slandering his own name but were leading the Thessalonians astray. As the saints see the truth of the situation, they are not to render evil back for the evil that has been perpetrated upon them.


At the same time, it may be that all Paul gives here is general admonition. In either case, his point is the same. We are not to render evil for evil to anyone. We are not to take revenge. We are to leave that to the Lord. We are not to retaliate.


The sixth thing we can do in terms of ministry is pursue what is good. Paul does not stop with what we are not supposed to do. He gives us the positive dynamic or action on the other side. We are to "pursue what is good both for [ourselves] and for all." We are to keep up the chase in regard to that which is good. The good is whatever is good in the situation. It may be God's glory, it may be sanctification, it may be what is true, it may be what is wholesome, etc. We are to pursue the good thing for ourselves and all those whom God brings into our lives.

Fourth, we can do our part to develop and maintain a healthy church if we understand our benefits from the body of Christ. At least four beneficial implications can be gleaned from the foregoing. In doing our part, we will be bring much glory to the Lord, aid in the sanctification of others, watch unto our very own souls, and bear witness to Christ's changing power.


With Paul's teaching here, there is a sense in which we are getting a crash course in shepherding souls, biblical counseling, and/or pastoral discipleship. As we take his teaching to heart in these practical ways, we will not only reap the noted benefits, we will also be doing our part to develop and maintain a healthy church body for the glory of God and her joy in Him. Let us be about shepherding one another to and for the health of the church.

See also the latest entries on  Dr. Dean's blog.

Sign up free for "Christian News and Views," a weekly e-mail newsletter highlighting relevant news stories affecting Christians. An editorial by Dr. Dean is included as well as a link to his comments on selected stories. The e-newsletter goes out each Friday and is sponsored by "Calling for Truth," a daily, live, call-in radio program co-hosted by Dr. Dean and Kevin Boling. Simply e-mail to receive your first issue this Friday.