BY: Vicar Bill Hartley
A story for you… from the annals of church history.
St. John Chrysostom was born in 347 in Antioch (modern day Turkey). A brilliant law student from a Christian family, John didn’t decide to be a Christian until he was 20. What is remarkable is that John, brilliant and educated as he was, did not get baptized right away. Rather, he entered into the church’s standard pre-baptism protocol, which required three years of preparation through instruction (catechism). At 23, John was finally baptized into the Christian faith… and ultimately earned the nickname “Golden Throat” as the head pastor in the imperial city of Constantinople.
This was not unusual, or new. 150 years earlier, Hippolytus, the leading theologian of the third century, charged the churches with these words: “Let catechumens spend three years as hearers of the word.”
I’m trying to imagine how it would fly if someone came to Christ’s Greenfield, and expressed interest in being a follower of Jesus, and we said, “you can’t be a member here until you complete this 3-year curriculum of courses.” I think most would turn around and choose to attend a church that is easier to join!
Because today, things are radically different. Not only do we not require significant catechesis before adults become Christians, we don’t even insist on Christian education after baptism. Sure, we offer a variety of classes, and we encourage people to take them. But many of us read our Bibles only sparingly, and rarely take formal Bible or theology courses. In a 2015 article, Christianity Today shares that 25% of us didn’t read any book this past year, 55% of churchgoers didn’t read the Bible even once a week, and 20% of churchgoers never read the Bible!
The Psalmist says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb… in keeping them there is great reward!”
Do we believe this? Really?? If I saw an infomercial that promised a revived soul, a wise mind, thrilled emotions, more valuable than gold bullion, and more satisfying than a gourmet meal… and then realized it was in my house all along? WOW! I would be poring over that book evening, morning and noon! What a gift!
And, it’s a gift to be shared! Research also shows that people’s involvement with the Bible spikes by 50% when they study it together in small groups. Not only is it enjoyable to study the Word of God in groups, it’s better! You can receive the ministry of spiritually gifted teachers. You can ask questions, and listen for answers. And the ideas you share could be life-changing for others. This is why the early church was “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching,” met every day in the temple courts for teaching, and met in their homes to discuss that teaching (Acts. 2:42-47).
Is this the year you choose to tap into the riches of the Word of God? We hope and pray so. We’re glad you regularly attend the worship services at Christ’s Greenfield. But we hope you’ll also avail yourselves of the rich opportunities to gather around the scriptures with like-minded groups of men and women.
Consider a Journey Group! – where the Bible is always the central feature of the gathering. It isn’t difficult to add a Bible study to your Sunday morning routine. Both our Men’s and Women’s ministry feature a number of studies throughout the year.
Whichever avenue you choose, may you rise to the challenge of Paul in Colossians 3:16, where he charges us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom!”