Christianity Is a Team Sport (1 Thesslonians 1:1a)

In 2011, Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record, a record which had stood for 27 years. Can you name the center who snapped him the ball? The left tackle who guarded his blindside? The running back who caught the ball? Me neither, not without Google anyway.* But Brees couldn’t have broken Marino’s record without their help, or the help of the other seven members of the offensive team.

We sometimes think of the apostle Paul as a Lone-Ranger missionary who single-handedly evangelized Gentiles in Asia Minor and Europe. But like Drew Brees, Paul had help. He played on a team.

First Thessalonians 1:1 names the members of the team: “Paul, Silas and Timothy.” Silas joined Paul in Antioch at the start of his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40), and Timothy joined them sometime thereafter in Lystra (16:3). This was the team that founded the churches in Thessalonica (17:1-9), Berea (17:10-15), and Corinth (18:1-17, cf. 2 Cor. 1:19). Timothy also accompanied Paul on his final journey to Jerusalem (20:4).

We know a lot about Paul, but what do we know about Silas and Timothy?

Silas was a both a Jew and a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). He was a leader in the Jerusalem church (15:22) and part of a two-man team commissioned by the Council in Jerusalem to communicate its decisions about the requirements of Gentile conversion to Gentile believers in Asia Minor (15:22, 27). He was also a prophet whose words encouraged others (15:32). He was beaten and imprisoned alongside in Paul in Philippi (16:16-40), and with Paul escaped Thessalonica under cover of night in order to avoid a mob action (17:5-10). He is a named co-sender of two of Paul’s letters (1 Thes. 1:1, 2 Thes. 2:1), and he helped Peter write one of his letters (1 Pet. 5:12).

Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage, his mother being Jewish and his father being Greek (Acts 16:1). Prophecies had been made about him (1 Tim. 1:18). Although a team member on Paul’s second missionary journey, he evidently was not beaten or imprisoned as Paul and Silas were. He is named as co-sender of six of Paul’s letters (2 Cor. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:1, 1 Thes. 1:1, 2 Thes. 1:1, Phm. 1:1). He served as Paul’s personal messenger to churches the apostle had founded (Acts 19:22, 1 Cor. 4:17, 1 Thes. 3:2). Later in Paul’s life, Timothy served as the “young” pastor (1 Tim. 4:12) of the church in Ephesus, in which capacity he received two letters of advice from Paul (1 and 2 Timothy). Paul refers to Timothy as “coworker” (Rom. 16:21), “my son whom I love” (1 Cor. 4:17), “our brother” (2 Cor. 1:1), “servant of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1), and “man of God” (1 Tim. 6:11).

Christian ministry, like Christian life, is a team sport. Some players, like Paul, receive more attention than others. But no one can–or should!–play alone.

So, as 2012 begins, who is your Paul? Your Silas? Your Timothy? Who is on your team?

*Brian de la Puente (center), Jermon Bushrod (left tackle), and Darren Sproles (running back)

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