Jesus, Philip, and Joe

He sat alone in the right hand corner of the front pew — just left of the pulpit. As I recall, he was a relatively short man in terms of physical stature. He wore thick, black-framed glasses and had a red, flat-top hair cut. He had a broad smile. He always wore a dark suit on the Lord’s Day to the worship assembly. He sang bass — I mean real d-e-e-p bass. His loud voice would resonate throughout the auditorium during services. I learned to love singing bass largely because of Joe. He sang well, and it was obvious that he loved to lift his gift of praise to the Father.
Joe was my Wednesday night Bible class teacher one year. Always prepared. Very knowledgeable. Concerned about his students. Friendly. Supportive. Personally interested.
One of Joe’s classes sticks out in my memory above all others. For some reason, the rest of my fellow students didn’t make it to Bible study this particular night. So this evening I was Joe’s only pupil. Other teachers might have been tempted to send me to another classroom, since I was the sole student. Not Joe. Like I said, he took a personal interest. To him Bible class wasn’t just about imparting information, it was about making connections with people. Nobody had to “strong arm” Joe to teach the Word; he did so gladly. Well, he sat down with me that night and talked to me about my soul — about my salvation. We didn’t go through the Bible class workbook, we just talked about how to become a Christian — what I needed to do to be saved and why. A few days later — May 17, 1972 — I put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27). Much of the reason I did so was because of Joe Flannary and our little one-on-one Bible study that Wednesday night at the Overlook church in Dayton, Ohio.
Jesus valued people as individuals. He talked one-on-one with Zacchaeus (“…For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke 19:10). He held a night study with the Pharisee, Nicodemus (“…Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3). He conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well (“…Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst,” John 4:14). It’s not surprising that Jesus gave his attention to individuals like these; he knew the worth (cf. Matthew 16:26; 10:29-31) of one soul.
Like the Master, Philip knew the worth of one. Remember Philip (Acts 8)? He left his work with many in Samaria (Acts 8:6,12) to speak to just one from Ethiopia (“…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him,” Acts 8:26ff). It has been suggested by some that the eunuch made his way back home to Ethiopia following his conversion and then, in turn, preached the Word to his fellow-countrymen and spread it through the region. I have no way of affirming or denying that proposition, but I do know that even if the eunuch lived and died the only Christian in Ethiopia, it was worth Philip’s efforts and time.
What if only one student came to your Bible class this week? Like Jesus, would you give him your individual and undivided attention? Like Philip, would you get in your vehicle and drive a long distance, even if you knew only one person would be present to hear God’s message? Like Joe, would you stay with him in class and talk to him about eternity and his soul, or would you send him over to another teacher because you only had one student?
Jesus practiced one-on-one teaching. So did Philip. So did Joe. All three were effective. What about you, dear Christian…? Would you be willing to teach just one…?

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