Sunday, February 19, 2012
Could You Teach for Twelve Hours?
There’s a fascinating vignette in Acts 20. Most people talk about Eutychus, a boy who falls asleep, falls from the window, and is raised to life again. I want you to consider another aspect of the story: pay attention to the time duration.
“7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”
They begin with a meal, most likely the evening meal (v7). Paul had plans to leave the next morning, so he taught until midnight (v7). After the event with Eutychus, they had a meal and Paul continued to teach until daylight (v11). The overall time was easily 10-12 hours of teaching and interaction with this group of new believers.
I don’t believe the event was planned this way. I doubt there was a church bulletin announcement listing the times as 6:00pm to 6:00am! I doubt that anyone involved, including Paul, thought during the first meal, “OK, let’s get cracking, there is 10 hours of material to cover!”
I also don’t have an impression here that people left early, drifted away, dwindled down to two fanatic listeners. Paul, and the discussion held the group for many hours. It was meaningful, weighty, engaging. (Ok, one boy went into a deep sleep, but it turned out ok even for him.)
Put yourself into Paul’s situation here. Could you teach and lead discussion for 10-12 hours with an interested group? What would you say? What source material would you use to keep their attention? What tactics would you employ to keep the dialogue moving along constructively, to exhort and encourage the group?
Can you even imagine yourself in this situation? Quite different than a 30 minute Bible study lesson, isn’t it? Instead of focusing on a few verses, this would be like a systematic walk-through of the entire Gospel of Mark, or a long review of the history of the judges and kings leading up to Jesus’ coming.
Can you imagine the people you regularly teach being engaged for this long a period? We’ve trained them to expect much less, haven’t we?
What would it take for you to be prepared to teach and lead discussion like this? Almost certainly you would need a great familiarity with the Bible. You’d need to be practiced with leading dialogue in a desired direction. You would need some teaching endurance power that you might not have today.
Why not work on these things and be prepared?