“And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:11, AV)
One of the ministries I had in Savannah Georgia was as the Director of Single Adults Ministries in a medium sized church. One of the things I started in this role was to have a Friday night Bible discussion group in our house. The group went well and the participants grew in their knowledge of the Bible. One evening a Vietnamese and Burmese couple decided to attend the study. They met at an English as a second language program. They left that night and we were excited to have this young couple join with us.
The following week, they came to the study very early, before anyone else arrived. They asked me a question. “Could you teach us the Bible?” I thought, of course and, misunderstanding what they wanted, stated, “The Bible study starts in a half-hour.” However, that is not what they wanted. They wanted private instruction. Their problem was twofold. First, there was a language barrier. The discussion format just was too difficult for them. Second, the Vietnamese man was not a believer and the discussion was too advanced for him.
They began meeting with me for an hour or so every week and we went through the Bible together. The first step was to communicate the gospel to them. To do this, I drew pictures and explained things, and then had him read the verses in his Vietnamese Bible. He came to faith in Jesus rather quickly. Following this they continued to come to our home every week and we went through books of the Bible. We continued for well over a year. The purpose of this was to have them grounded in the word of God.
After a year or so, they decided to get married. I had the privilege to conduct their pre-marital counselling. I took a lot of time doing this because, while their English skills had improved, it was still a struggle. Moreover, they needed to see the principles of marriage outlined in the Bible. Eventually, they were equipped and ready for marriage. I am not certain now regarding how much time we spent together in the word. It might have been on the order of two-years. However, the time was well spent.
Grounding people in the word is essential and it takes time. Some people get the impression that Paul went to a place, preached an evangelistic message and then left. However, this is not the case. He spent time with the new converts teaching the word of God to them. Paul spent one and one-half years in Corinth. What was he doing? He was ensuring that they were grounded in the essential teachings of the faith.
Today, I wonder if we have the same level of intensity. In many cases, the church may evangelize well, but does not disciple well. It seems that many professing Christians are saved and then seated in the pews, and while the preaching is probably good, fifty-two half hour sermons is insufficient to ground people in the word. Considering Paul and his year and a-half at Corinth, I would imagine that his teaching was intense, in-depth, and extensive, more than fifty-two thirty-minute sermons.
Today many have what I call doctrinal anemia, having not sat under a teacher who poured into them the depth of the riches contained in God’s word. Here, there are two possibilities. First, there may not be knowledgeable teachers willing to commit the time. Second, there may not be believers hungry to learn. Church leaders and parishioners, consider the example of Paul and the Corinthians in being grounded in the word. It takes time.