Paul, Silas and Timothy were three missionaries who first brought the gospel to Thessalonica, as revealed in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. In these scriptures, this trio is addressing the Church a second time offering thanksgiving and encouragement. In their words there is a formula for success to ensure these continued survival of the vibrant work. For a church to survive and have success, it must do the “2b’s + 1g” — brag, beg and grab.

Like parents bragging over their children, Paul, Silas and Timothy were bragging to other churches about the success in Thessalonica. The church, under the leadership of the Spirit of God, had accomplished much. As Paul outlines, their faith had grown, their mutual love for one another had increased and their patient hope had allowed them to endure many trials. Paul’s boasting was an encouraging word. Every church family needs members who will boast about the accomplishments of others. Each church needs encouragers who will celebrate the good things that God is doing in the lives of the other people.

The church must have leaders who will beg. In the early church at Thessalonica, the founders did their begging in the form of a prayer. Paul states in verse 11, “We always pray for you.” They petitioned God on behalf of the church family. The church today must hear a similar call to prayer. There must be those within the walls who will truly become people of prayer, praying for the needs of others. Recently, a missionary from Africa spoke to a local congregation. He described many of the hardships of his work. There was a need for better health care, better sanitation and better living conditions among the people with whom he worked. He describes a number of areas that desperately needed careful attention. But when asked at the end of the presentation, “How can our church help you the most?” he replied, “Pray. Your prayers change lives, lift spirits and open doors. There is no stronger tool anywhere.” If the church is to survive, members must hear the call to pray without ceasing.

The church needs a savior who grabs. Paul prayed that “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him” (12). To paraphrase: “May Jesus grab you, and you grab him!” It was Paul’s fervent prayer that the members of the church would seek Jesus with all their hearts, with the wonderful assurance that as they did, they would discover his loving arms already extended in their direction. They were to be so closely aligned to Jesus that his glory would shine through them. Ready to leap out in prayer and action.

Our world and churches needs embracing. The poor, the lonely, the grieving, frightened, the sick, the disenfranchised — all need to feel the loving arms of the Savior. When his glory begins to shine through his people, the arms become his arms, grabbing those who need to be drawn into the fellowship of the church. The gospel must become flesh again, living and loving through the outstretched arms of the church and Jesus Christ. Will you take that step and being to brag, beg, and grab? How are you helping to grow the church? You hold the answer(s)!

J.B. Morris leads the Rock Hill United Methodist Church.