When I was in high school we moved to a new town and visited a new church. In those days it was normal for churches to send teams out “on visitation”—dropping in unannounced on new folks, bringing information and an invitation. On this particular evening, the visitation team from the church had another agenda too: they wanted (and were trained) to check which of our family members were saved. From my parents down to my elementary-aged sister, they asked each of us a series of questions about Jesus, apparently making sure we all had the “right” answers. I don’t know what they would have done if any of us had gotten anything “wrong,” but my memory of that experience has stuck with me. It did not feel like an invitation; it felt like being grilled.
When Paul meets the twelve Ephesian believers in Acts 19, he asks them a question, but he is not checking that they have all the “right” answers to a Jesus 101 pop quiz. He likely knows that these disciples—for they are already disciples!—have learned about Jesus from another teacher. Paul’s mission isn’t to check up on what they know, but to find out what these disciples need. He is not trying to test them or trap them, but to make sure they have all the information so that they can fully receive and respond to God’s invitation.
It turns out they know about John the Baptist, and they know about Jesus, and they know about repentance. But they have never even heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul ministers to them, teaching them about the Spirit, baptizing them, and laying hands on them; then not only do they know about the Spirit, they personally experience the Spirit’s gifts.
No matter how easily we might ace a quiz on our beliefs about Jesus, we all have more to learn. We are all both enriched and limited by our teachers. We can all deepen our discipleship, and we can all experience the Spirit’s presence. A pop quiz is not a great way to welcome newcomers—or to encourage young disciples to deepen their faith. But generous information and a gracious invitation can create connections between us. Then we can share what we have heard, we can share the baptism we have received, and we can share the gifts of the Spirit.
- Have you ever felt like you needed to be more knowledgeable about Jesus before you could experience God’s presence or receive spiritual gifts?
- Think about your teachers in the faith. What are the most important things you have learned from them?
- Did you ever find out that some of your teachers missed sharing certain information with you? Why do you think those teachers were limited in what they could teach?
- When have you been in a position to teach someone else about faith? What kind of information did you share? What kind of invitations did you offer? Did you find true connection with that person as believers and disciples? What did you learn from them?
- Are there any areas where you are still growing and learning today? Are there areas where you hope to experience the Spirit’s presence and gifts more fully?
Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.
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