At the beginning of my Acts class this semester, I asked my students in 400 words or less to tell me what expectations they had for this course. Here are some of their answers:
“I want to more fully understand what Acts describes as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” – Eduardo
“I want to know why the things that occur so frequently in Acts (i.e. the works of the Spirit) I don’t see in my church today.” – Jonathan
“I want to learn how to accurately apply the Book of Acts to my modern church context.” – Johan
I received about 45 expectations in all many related to having a deeper foundation for the subjects the book treats:
- The Christian church’s origins
- Baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues
- The planting of churches
- The apostolic preaching to different audiences
- The use of Old Testament citations by the New Testament authors
Many of the expectations had to do with how one could properly interpret and apply the Book of Acts to a modern church context.
- Which events in Acts were repeatable and which were not?
- What criteria should we use to make that determination?
- Should our modern churches try to return to the ideals or the practices of the “primitive church”?
Finally I should mention that a large set of expectations had to do with a deep desire to know more about the work of the Holy Spirit. For some this meant being able to distinguish between genuine and questionable manifestations of the Spirit. This topic was all the more relevant given the tremendous number of neo-Pentecostal churches that had taken root in Colombia in the past decades.
For others, as in the first set of quotes, they truly wanted to know why the dynamism and power so frequently encountered in the pages of Acts were largely missing from their corporate and personal church contexts.
My students expectations have given me much to reflect upon as I’ve prepared my lessons. Because many of them are training to serve in full-time church ministry, a course on Acts (which is mainly about “the church”) must balance academic inquiry with the practical considerations that the students will surely bring to the text. I’ll surely have to be on my toes for this one. Thank goodness for great expectations!
Gustavo M. Karakey