The Empty Nest Family Shepherd

sheep birdSeries: The Empty Nest Family Shepherd: A Fatherly Pastoral Letter to Adult Children

Article #1: Introduction of 1 Thessalonians and Series

Ok, I’m mixing metaphors in the title. Are we talking about birds or sheep? Actually we are talking about human adult children. My personal Bible reading journey currently has me in the book of 1 Thessalonians. This book is a letter from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy to the church in Thessalonica. These three men are in essence the spiritual fathers to the church. On a missionary journey, Paul visited the city and proclaimed the gospel. Those who comprised the church were those who were converted by the power of the gospel.

While reading some of the sections, I noticed the strong heartfelt connection between Paul and this church. While I love our church, I began to relate more and more to Paul’s words as a father. The more I read, the more I realized the parallels between this shepherd of the church and my shepherding role as a father. Like Paul to this church, I am no longer living in the same city or under the same roof as my children. They are all adults. But my role and responsibility to and for my children has not ended.

Paul himself compares his relationship to this church to both a mother (2:7) and a father (2:11).

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Paul longed not only to see his spiritual descendants, but to continue supplying what would build up their faith. As I did a structural analysis of Paul’s letter, the theme of the letter became very clear. Immediately after the salutation, Paul mentions his prayers for the Thessalonians. He continues that theme until the final verse of the letter. As a family shepherd to adult children, my constant thoughts for my children become prayers.

In the days to come, I will hopefully post more insights from 1 Thessalonians from the perspective of an Empty Nest Family Shepherd. In this article I am leaving you with a big picture look at the structure of the letter. This snapshot will enable us to see that the vital connection between Paul and the church and between the parent and adult children is prayer.

1 Thessalonians Structural Layout

A Prayer of Thanksgiving (1:2-2:16)
A Prayer for Reunion (2:17-3:13)
A Prayer for Sanctification (4:1-5:28)