Matthias’ “Exponential” Bible Study Began with One Student and Grew
Rev. Ryan Matthias, Concordia’s campus pastor, began his personal journey into the 2023-24 school year by reading the book of Acts. During his reading, Acts 2:41-47 stood out to him. These verses detail the expansion of the early Christian church after Pentecost, when new Christian converts “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42). This was the impetus for “Exponential,” and it all began with Matthias and one Concordia student.
“I wondered, ‘what would this look like on campus?’” said Matthias. “Could we build a big ‘secret devotional society’ starting with me just asking one student? Could we replicate, in a smaller way, what growth looked like in that first century?”
So, at the beginning of the fall semester, Matthias invited one student to join him for a short Bible study. He asked this student to bring a friend the following week, and the pattern continued. Students were invited with small cards designed by Matthias' son displaying a design incorporating a fish, a cross, and an upward-pointing arrow. Now, the study includes between 50 and 75 students at each meeting and is still growing. Every one is brief, giving students the time they might need to get to night class or other activities.
“The students are so busy,” said Matthias. “This [Bible study] has to be something short and meaningful that they want to come back each week and want to invite someone else.”
Each session of the Bible study takes between five and seven minutes, giving Matthias just enough time to create a short devotional based on one word or phrase taken from the passage in Acts. On November 13, which was the last meeting of the Bible study before Concordia’s Thanksgiving break, he explored a phrase from verse 47: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
He then invited the student attendees to ponder the Bible’s use of the word “saved,” stating that an even stronger term could be “rescued,” explaining that all Christians are rescued by God, unable to win salvation of their own accord. Matthias has another reason for keeping studies short, however.
“I’m trying to teach [the students] how to speak the gospel if they only have five to seven minutes with someone, and I’m trying to teach them that if they enjoy something about Bible study, they need to learn to invite. That is how the first century church grew,” he said.
These five-to-seven-minute evening Bible studies were meant to teach students the power of sharing the Gospel with just one other person. Some of those present on the mid-November night had been coming for ten weeks, and others for just one or two. All of them came, however, due to another attendee’s invitation. Similarly to how the early Christian church grew, so did Matthias’ Acts 2 Bible study.
As Concordia students prepare to wrap up the fall semester of 2023, many of them now better understand the significance of sharing the Gospel with others and how their words can lead to exponential growth for the church.
Interested in worship and Bible study opportunities at Concordia? Learn more here.