Discipleship vs. Talmidim
by Dan Stolebarger
Director of Koinonia Institute
Koinonia Institute exists to nurture the spiritual growth of believers. The church today is, in general, illiterate when it comes to grasping the Word of God. Far too many Christians settle for so little and thus, as a whole, Christianity is left severely lacking. This is especially apparent when measured against satanic religions that require month-long fasts and, when declaring world jihads, do not lack personnel for suicide missions.
Why does the Truth seem so powerless in comparison? Could it be that the followers of the Truth have so dramatically "lowered the bar" and have accepted such a watered-down version of truth that the original cannot be seen today? If this is true, then what is the remedy? Let's begin by looking at our educational roots.
For Jews living in Jesus' day, there were three separate educational venues. The first was called Bet Sefer. At the ages of six through twelve, Jewish children began their formal education. Both boys and girls attended synagogue school and learned to read and write. The textbook was the Torah and the goal was not just to read but to memorize the sacred text. Can you imagine what this would be like? As a child of six, you would go to the synagogue and the most respected man in the city would greet you with a slate and he would put a dollop of honey on the slate and then he would remove the ancient scroll of the Torah. As you sat speechless and in awe, the rabbi would have you taste the honey on your slate and tell you that the Torah is sweeter than the honeycomb (see Psalm 19:10).
Can you imagine the impact this would have on a young child? You can bet that whenever that child tasted honey he was always reminded of the Word of God! Now at the conclusion of this, a bar mitzvah for the boy welcomed him into the community as a full-fledged male member. Following this sacred milestone, usually the boy then began to learn the family trade. Only the best of the best continued on in their education.
For the best of the best, the next educational opportunity was called Bet Midrash. Boys - from age 13 to 15 - who were deemed worthy to continue their educational pursuits went on to study (and memorize) the entire Tanach, as well as learning the family trade. (It is noteworthy that few, if any, of Jesus disciples made it this far in their educational training.) Very few were selected for this pursuit.
Of those who finished Bet Midrash, again only the best of the best were able to pursue the final educational leg, which was called Bet Talmud. This was the longest in duration; it went from the age of 15 to 30. To participate, he must be invited by a Rabbi and, if selected, he would begin a process of grooming that would lead to the potential of becoming a Rabbi at age 30. Those who were chosen were referred to as talmidim. They would literally follow in the dust of their rabbi - desiring to emulate him in all of his mannerisms. They would eat the same food in exactly the same way as their rabbi. They would go to sleep and awake the same way as their rabbi and, more importantly, they would learn to study Torah and understand God the exact same way as their rabbi.
It appears that Jesus Himself followed this model. At twelve we know that He attended His first Passover in Jerusalem and He began His formal ministry at 30. The Bible is silent as far as His mentors, but we do know that He selected His disciples and, just like those young fifteen year olds when invited to Bet Talmud, they left everything to follow after this Rabbi from Galilee. No doubt they walked in His dust, wanting to be just like their Rabbi! They were His Talmidim! History and the Word reveal to us that Jesus trained His talmidim in three years (not fifteen) and His training was so inspired that they (His talmidim) literally changed the world!
Now, back to the beginning. How are we as the Church doing in raising up talmidim? I believe the time has come to reclaim discipleship and to again raise the bar. We all need to follow in the dust of our Rabbi. But where do we start? We start in the same place as those six year olds - we start with the Word of God! Our desire at Koinonia Institute is to provide as many opportunities as possible for believers to grow and to become more like their Rabbi. We currently have ten courses that can be studied alone as self study or taken online, where we provide a bit of structure as well as an opportunity to interact with other talmidim.
Im excited to announce that we have a new course to offer. Every so often you are able to complete a project that has extra meaning. Today was such a day! I am holding in my hands an unbound edition of our new Revelation Workbook - Tetelestai - it is finished! This means that we will be adding Revelation to our Koinonia Institute course menu (see here). The course will be broken into two parts, each being a three-unit course. If you are interested in the online class of Revelation I (BIB 204), it will start in January 2006. We are also going to launch an online class of Learn the Bible in 24 Hours: Old Testament Survey (BIB 101) in January. If this is something that is of interest to you, do not hesitate! Sign up today!
It gets better - the month of March for KI is all about Israel. Chuck and Nancy are leading a trip in early March that will include the renewed Temple Conference Update as well as a session from some new friends we have made over the last year from the Knesset. You can receive up to three units of credit through KI for this trip.
A trip to Israel, for many, becomes the trip of a lifetime. The Land of Israel provides the Christian with more memories than your mind can comprehend - too bad we cant purchase extra memory sticks for our minds! The Land itself shouts out the testimony of Jesus. There is no equal throughout the world than to walk through the Old City and meander around the Galilean countryside. We believe these trip experiences more than outweigh any tape series or books you may read. There is no equal when it comes to "experiencing the Land." For more information on either the courses or the trip, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure you have some time if you want to talk about Israel - you dont want to get me started!
In April, when we get back from the Holy Land, we will be offering as online classes Part II of both Revelation (BIB 205) and Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (New Testament Survey; BIB 102). As KI continues to grow, our goal is to continue to increase our curricula, so check with us often to see whats up with KI, and lets all commit together to becoming His Talmidim and reclaiming the faith that once turned the world upside down!
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