When I was 13 years old, a young married couple moved into the house behind us in Tasmania. The husband ran a boys youth club on the other side of the river at their old church and invited me to attend and I did. He started to encourage me in my bible reading and prayer time and they would invite me to have dinner with them once a week – with my parents approval. On those nights, after dinner, Rod and Jeanette would focus their time with me on reading the gospels and learning how Jesus grew his disciples. Together with my dad and Rod, we built a gate into the back fence to allow for easy access between the two properties which made it easy for our two families to come and go. When they had their first baby, they would let me nurse the infant and even take her for walks down the street as they realised that I had experience with babies because my sister was on two years old. One day they asked if I would look after the baby while they went out for their wedding anniversary. I jumped at the opportunity and was amazed that they trusted me to do this when I was so young. (I did realise that my mum would probably come over to see how I was going throughout the evening). After 6 months Rod suggested I invite some of my friends to come along to their place for a ‘youth group’ once a month on a Saturday night. I did and over the next two months the group grew because there was no youth group at any of the local churches. We had more than 40 teens coming within three months and I started to learn various aspects of running a youth group by watching what Rod and Jeanette did and then doing some of it with their help each evening. My experience as a disciple moved from Rod saying ‘I do, you watch’ to ‘I do, you help’ within a few short months, and by the start of the following year parts of the night were ‘I help, you do’ as Rod began to release me into more and more leadership. In the course of that year of high school I saw a number of my male and female friends become disciples of Jesus.
In the reading today, we see glimpses of what Timothy would have experienced as he continued to watch and learn (vs 1-9) and as the mission team moved on to Berea, Timothy would have been significantly impacted by the way in which Paul ministered within this community because we see modelled here, serious study of the Word of God, backed up by focused reflection on the implications of this study on the lives of those who were listening ‘for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed as did a number of prominent Greek women and men’ (vs 12). Significantly, trouble again beset them and Paul was sent away by the believers to continue his mission in Athens with others of the team but Silas and Timothy stayed on for some time in Berea before joining Paul in Corinth some time later. Why did Silas and Timothy stay in Berea? We have a hint in verse 14 ‘The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea’ along with the instructions from Paul for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. There was obviously something for them to do before moving on to join Paul – and that something is almost definitely to give further instructions and training in the gospel and in making more disciples. Timothy has moved from the ‘I do, you watch’ to ‘I do, you help’ and finally to ‘You do, I watch’ – even from Athens and Corinth.
Rod had become my Paul, (and actually, as you will find in chapter 18, Rod and Jeanette together, had become my Priscilla and Aquila too) inviting me to become part of their extended family, learning what Jesus did and then watching what Rod and Jeanette did. As an interesting connecting point, within months of us starting the youth ministry in that house with many youth from local churches attending, the ‘vicar’ of the church that I attended with my parents, literally ran us out of town, so to speak, as he publically expelled us from the Sunday gathering for starting a ‘sect’ and drawing the youth of the parish away from the church. My mother was the Choir leader, I was in the choir and my dad was robed and leading the service when the Vicar stood before the Lords Supper and demanded we leave the building. As a family we did the ‘walk of shame’ down the aisle and out the main door that Sunday morning, because we dared to proclaim the importance of making disciples of Jesus Christ. In a way, that was my personal ‘Thessalonica and Berea’ experience. Are you learning what Jesus said and did? Are you intentionally looking for new opportunities to watch, and help and do? Are you looking for younger disciples to teach, and model and encourage and cheer on?
(PS – there is a follow up to our families expulsion from the church – I will share that in tomorrows devotion)