The Snowball Effect

Does anybody remember the old Sabbath School attendance records? Seems to me that they had spaces, not just for recording who actually attended that class, but also spaces for recording how many pieces of literature were handed out, how many contacts were made, and, in the children’s departments, who brought a visitor to Sabbath School. I wonder why we don’t talk about this kind of thing much anymore. Maybe it was a little too much like keeping score. What do you think?

Image © Jeff Preston from

Is there anything wrong with keeping track of and reporting on what we’re doing to spread the word of Jesus to our neighbors and what the Lord is doing for us? It seems like it was something the apostles did whenever they came back from a mission trip. They’d go to their home church and report on what they taught and how people responded to the teaching. The practice started when Jesus was still with them. They’d come and kind of debrief with Jesus.

“Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught.” Mark 6:30

Why do you think they did that? Is it something we should be doing today? What purpose do you think it served? Is it about keeping score? Who has visited the most shut-ins, handed out the most leaflets or signed the most people up for Bible studies? Maybe for some people, but I don’t believe that’s the outcome we’re looking for.

I believe there are some other much more important benefits of reporting on the progress of our evangelistic or missionary projects to the church. I believe it holds us accountable to our church family to keep the project going.

Even though we don’t work for congratulations or accolades, it helps to get encouragement from our friends.

“Let those who gain such an experience in working for the Lord write an account of it for our papers, that others may be encouraged.”( E.G. White, Colporteur Evangelism, p.85)

It always helps to know that there are friends praying for you. Remember what happened in Acts 4? Peter and John were taken to jail because they wouldn’t quit preaching about Jesus, but then Peter preached to the Sanhedrin and Peter and John were released. What was the first thing they did when they were released?

“And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: “Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.”

“‘For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.’

“And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:23-31

Now that’s exciting! And I believe that’s why reporting to each other is so important. Yes, as individuals we’re encouraged to carry on, but when we see the boldness of others for Jesus, we pray for that same boldness to do what Jesus asks us to do.

What happens, though, when not everyone agrees with what’s going on? What if one group thinks we ought to do one thing and another group thinks we ought to do something else? Remember the twelve spies that Moses sent out?

“Then Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land.’ …

“So they went up and spied out the land … Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs. … And they returned from spying out the land after forty days.

“Now … came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel … and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.  …’

“Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’

“But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants …; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” Numbers 13:17-33

Wow, outvoted ten to two, but Caleb and Joshua were right and they knew it. But did you notice that they never quit being team players. When God sent all the rest into the wilderness, Caleb and Joshua didn’t say “Told ya so! We’ll be right here when you find your way back.”

They never stopped working for God, even as they spent the next forty years in the wilderness. Being right is often less important that loving our fellow travelers. Sometimes compromise is the best answer as long as we don’t let go of the truth. If we’re fighting amongst ourselves, we won’t have time to spread the Good News.

As we share our successes and failures with each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other, we all become stronger for our task.

 “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

Remember, we’re not keeping score of bits and pieces, we’re trying to start an avalanche of people on fire for Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and spreading the Good News – people who love to talk about their Best Friend, Jesus!



The Snowball Effect — 9 Comments

  1. Lillianne, I’m struggling to find the correlation between the disciples experience and what the lesson is suggesting. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that they kept a running list of each witnessing endeavor they were involved in from their beginning as disciples nor after Christ’s ascension. The memory text in Mark was not the beginning of their work as disciples, “As Jesus ministered to the vast multitudes that gathered about Him, His disciples were in attendance, eager to do His bidding and to lighten His labor. They assisted in arranging the people, bringing the afflicted ones to the Saviour, and promoting the comfort of all. They watched for interested hearers, explained the Scriptures to them, and in various ways worked for their spiritual benefit. They taught what they had learned of Jesus, and were every day obtaining a rich experience.” Desire of Ages, pg 349
    On a practical level of reporting to the church, I don’t know how a church body of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, etc, would hear the reports of each member’s witnessing activities during the week. I do appreciate the value of communication in the church body, of both the good and the not so good but how to make this week’s lesson meaningful and impactful to the people in the pews is something that remains to be seen.

  2. YES, I do remember the days when the attendance record asked about the litrature distributed, visitors brought and a few other things. I also remember distributing lit. right after church so we could have it listed in the Sabbath records.

  3. Lillian I love the quote you shared, “Let those who gain such an experience in working for the Lord write an account of it for our papers, that others may be encouraged.”( E.G. White, Colporteur Evangelism, p.85). It's like Ellen White saw Facebook and blogs from her day too! 🙂 I love facebooking and blogging for this very reason.

    Also, in one of our conference worker's meetings a while back, we discussed that we no longer keep the Sabbath school records anymore because it was too legalistic with all the numbers and seemed to be works orientated. I think what encourages people more than the numbers are the stories of how peoples lives have been changed when the gospel is shared, which is what your post here points out.

    Thank you for this post!

  4. We have a very limited time in both Sabbath School and Divine service. All the programs are arranged and an order is followed and where is the time to hear reports of people involved in ministry. If this is so and if the reporting is so vital How can we accommodate this important aspect of reporting in our churches so that other members could be inspired to work for the Master? Do we meet as a church on another day to hear reports? Or Do we allocate appropriate time for this in Sabbath School or Divine Service?

    How? and When?

    • What an excellent question! Especially since we encourage and enliven the work we do for Jesus when we do share our successes.
      Definitely something that needs more thought.

    • Yes, I agree Lillianne it is a good question but I don't know if most of the churches are willing to commit to such a thing at this point. In my opinion we are first going to have to get serious about our relationship with our Lord and when we do then I believe all the other peripheral junk that we have will be replaced by the more important things, not because we are told to do so but because we are on fire for the Lord "And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn 5:3 NKJV).

    • In our little church group, we reserve 15 minutes about every other Sabbath for testimony and witness stories. We do this every other Sabbath before we close Sabbath School. There are some things that can be cut in order for lay members to tell/share how God is working in their lives and ministry. It is important to reserve a slot at least once a month for testimonies--I've found that hearing others tell of the wonder working power in their lives and ministry (big or small) has helped encouraged me in my own walk with God.

      In another church I visited, they had testimony/share time right after children's story during Divine Service.

  5. Unless some change suggested from the top level organization, usually the pattern of worship doesn't change in most of the churches. I mean the order followed in Sabbath School and Divine service. We also stick to a certain time frame for these two. To be honest, Most of us do not like to come to church any more if it goes beyond 12 noon. If churches realize the need for the importance of reporting Then must accommodate this in the worship. I cannot think of the New Testament complete with out the book of Acts of Apostle, Full of spirit filled reports. This encourages preachers, members and all to engage in work of the Lord. Our reporting I am sure will inspire and encourage the other members to involve in finishing the gospel work. Let us pray about it and do the needful. I will with prayer sell this idea to be accommodate in my church.

    • I think in a lot of cases you are right but I don't believe it has to be that way. If a pastor sees that the church is moving in a biblical direction - if he is any shepherd of the flock at all he will not impede that movement and in most cases will openly support it.


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