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(Devotion, Discussion, or Leader-team Bible Study – about 60 minutes)
For discovery of how we meet the needs of those who are Theophilus to us. . .
Dialogue with Theophilus Exercise
Luke met the needs of his “Theophilus.” All of the people we are leading are like Theophilus, or at least we want to nurture the Lover of God that is in the heart of every believer.
This little exercise can be carried out by a leadership team or in a workshop with leader trainees in a church, or on a hike, or riding on a train with a group of believers. Sometimes we may be forced to “have church” in odd settings.
First meditate individually:
Take about five minutes to prayerfully ponder your reasons for reading the Bible, especially the New Testament.
- Think about why you read, that is to say, why you are “following” the leadership of the men used by God to give us the New Testament. Ask yourself why those eight men wrote those 27 books.
- How do your reasons for reading compare with the reasons for which they wrote those early Christian documents that are now in our Bible?
- Answers do not need to be spoken aloud, but you may want to jot down some of your reasons in a journal or diary, or text them to yourself for deeper reflection later.
Then, engage in a Luke and Theophilus Dialogue:
Questions that follow develop the idea of the original purposes of the New Testament authors, with the example of Luke writing to Theophilus.
- Luke wrote for particular reasons. In a larger group, read aloud Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-4. Let a few people or each one, paraphrase Luke’s purposes. These purposes can be described in various ways.
- Now either pair up, or divide the group in half with one side assuming the role of Luke and the other side Theophilus
- For those who are Theophilus (the name means “lover of God” or “friend of God”) – what are some questions you might ask Luke before he wrote this for you? How do you think Theophilus would describe his needs? Share.
- Then let the Luke representatives articulate what might have been Luke’s assessment of the needs of Theophilus. What answers would you as Luke give to the sincere inquirer? What other directions and ideas might you share with Theophilus?
- Now again, as Theophilus, think for a moment and imagine what you might say to Luke after reading what he wrote. Let a few share their ideas. What additional questions you ask as Theophilus?
- Now as Luke, what would be your responses to the reactions Theophilus just shared? What might you ask Theophilus after he read your book about Jesus?
- Think about those questions Luke might have asked Theophilus, and share with each other why those particular questions are important to ask.
Evaluation in a large group:
Does this help you re-examine why you are reading the Bible? Does this help you with understanding why you are leading? How so? In the larger group together discuss your conclusions from this imaginary dialogue.
- Brainstorm and write down on a projection or on a white board a list of 5 to 10 reasons early believers might give for reading any of those documents of the early church that are now the books of our New Testament. This is not to be an examination of every book, but only to give a flavor of the reasons people followed, and necessarily the reasons that leaders led.
- Compare the reasons you jotted down earlier with these 5 – 10 reasons the group gave. If you are comfortable, share one or two of your reasons with the group. Is the reasoning comparable to what early Christians might have had? What kind of changes (if any) should be adjusted? Why?
Readers are to Writers as Followers are to Leaders
These reasons for reading the documents of the New Testament writers can illustrate reasons for following leaders. Certainly we want to be aware, and understand why people are following us.
- From these reasons for reading, what can we conclude about the reasons we follow godly leaders? So, based on these reasons for reading, what then are the reasons people are following us?
- How are we doing as leaders in meeting the needs of those who are Theophilus to us? Pray together or in pairs about filling these needs.