August 26 - September 1
Structures for Witnessing
ORGANIZATION EQUALS SURVIVAL. A honeybee colony requires an organized structure for survival. The queen lays the eggs that hatch into worker bees. The worker bees do all the chores, including gathering nectar and pollen, cleaning empty cells, and fanning fresh air into and stale air out of the hive. The drones mate with the queen.
"System and order are manifest in all the works of God throughout the universe. Order is the law of heaven, and it should be the law of God's people on the earth."Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26.
Members of a local church may organize structures for witnessing in several different ways, including: (1) assigning territory, (2) organizing small groups, (3) creating teams, and (4) sending their own "missionaries" to "nonentered areas." This week we will take a closer look at each of these four structures to see how they enable us to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ. As you study, think about which structure best suits your gifts and talents and how you can begin to work within that structure.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. Territorial Assignments (Acts 1:8; 22:21).
II. Witnessing Teams (Acts 13:13; 20:4).
III. House Churches (Acts 2:46, 47; 5:42; 12:12).
IV. Church Planting (Acts 9:31; 14:21-23).
V. Missionary Families (Acts 18:1-3, 18, 24-26).
MEMORY TEXT: "For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth'" (Acts 13:47, NKJV).
Where did God first ask the apostles to serve as witnesses? Acts 1:8.
Acts 1:8 "gives the outline for the book of Acts: The proclamation of the gospel to (1) Jerusalem and Judea (chs. 1 to 7), (2) Samaria (chs. 8 through 10), (3) and the uttermost part of the earth (chs. 11 to 28)."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 124. Jesus instructed His followers to expand their witnessing activities in broadening circles so that eventually they would cover the whole earth with the knowledge of the gospel.
To what specific territories did God call Paul and Peter?
Acts 22:21 __________________________________________________________________
Gal. 2:7, 8 __________________________________________________________________
In the Old Testament times, each tribe of Israel received a specific territory as they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 13-23). Even though we do not see such a precise arrangement in the New Testament, it is clear where God wanted these two apostles to serve.
The basic territory assigned to the member of a church is that member's own family and neighborhood. The Church Manual is clear in this respect: "Since evangelism is the primary work of the church, the first item on the agenda of each church board meeting is to relate directly to the evangelization of the missionary territory of the church. . . . As far as possible, each family and member should be encouraged to accept an assignment of territory. Every home in the church territory will thus be assigned to a church member. The member will be encouraged to [make] . . . missionary contacts in every home of one section of that territory."1995 ed., pp. 80, 81. Acts 1:8 assures us that we will be given the power to do so. But it is no ordinary power. The word "dynamite" comes from the Greek word dunamis, which in this verse is translated "power." Such power "gives (1) power within, (2) power to proclaim the gospel, (3) power to lead others to God."SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 124.
What do Acts 13:13 and 20:4 suggest about Paul's strategies for mission?
According to Luke's records, very soon after Barnabas and Saul began their first missionary trip, there were two major changes in the affairs of their mission:
1. After referring to the encounter with Bar-jesus the sorcerer, Luke starts using the Roman name Paul (Acts 13:9).
2. Luke abandons the expression "Barnabas and Saul" (12:25; 13:2,7) and for the first time speaks of "Paul and his company" (13:13).
Because Paul took Barnabas and John Mark with him on his first missionary journey, he believed in teamwork. Later he chose Silas (15:40). And in Lystra, he asked Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1-3). Acts and the Epistles mention the names of many people who worked side by side with Paul. He felt better when he was with his fellow workers (see Acts 17:15; 1 Thess. 3:1; 2 Cor. 2:12, 13). But his preference for them was not dictated only by his desire for companionship. It was related to effectiveness in ministry (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1).
Keep holding hands. A group of children were hiking in the woods along an abandoned railroad track. All of the children tried walking along the narrow rails but would fall off soon after they started. The last two children to try jumped on opposite rails, reached out to hold hands, and walked the section without losing their balance.
Working together as a team can solve many problems and create a strength no one person could ever have alone.
"Why do not believers feel a deeper, more earnest concern for those who are out of Christ? Why do not two or three meet together and plead with God for the salvation of some special one, and then for still another? In our churches let companies be formed for service. Let different ones unite in labor as fishers of men. Let them seek to gather souls from the corruption of the world into the saving purity of Christ's love. . . . Let them reveal Christlike forbearance and patience, speaking no hasty words, using the talent of speech to build one another up on the most holy faith. Let them labor in Christlike love for those outside the fold, forgetting self in their endeavor to help others. As they work and pray in Christ's name, their numbers will increase."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 21, 22.
The early Christian church did not own buildings but used private houses as its primary place of worship. From the beginning, homes appear to have been the place for the most important aspects of early church life. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit manifested His presence and power "as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2).
Acts records the many church activities that took place in believers' homes:
1. prayer meetings (12:12),
2. fellowship (21:7),
3. "breaking bread" (2:46),
4. worship and instruction (20:7, 11; 5:42),
5. impromptu evangelistic gatherings (16:32), and
6. planned meetings in order to proclaim the gospel (10:22).
Paul also worked out of various homes. In Thessalonica, he used Jason's house as his base of operation (17:5-7); while in Corinth he "entered in the house of a certain man named Justus" (18:7, 8, NKJV).
Early Adventists followed a similar pattern. At first they "assembled for worship, and presented the truth to those who would come to hear, in private houses, in large kitchens, in barns, in groves, and in schoolhouses."Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 26.
Provide the names of families who offered their homes as "house churches." Rom. 16:3-5; Col. 4:15; Philemon 1, 2.
Rom. 16:5 _________________________________________________________________
Col. 4:15 _________________________________________________________________
Philemon 1, 2 _____________________________________________________________
|Give three reasons why a home is an ideal setting for witnessing activities. Does a home need to be elaborate for people to meet there? What is the most important thing a home should have for witnessing activities to be successful? List three ways you can use your home to provide witnessing opportunities.|
Paul and Barnabas preached in the region of Lycaonia (Acts 14:6, 7) and planted churches there. What did they do in order to secure these churches? Acts 14:21-23.
|DEFINITION: Church planting means proclaiming the gospel in a certain area and then gathering into fellowship groups those in that area who believe so they can worship, receive nurture, and work for others in the extension of the kingdom of God.|
In New Testament times, because many believers were Hebrews, they continued worshiping God in the synagogues. When they gathered with other believers who were not Hebrews for such activities as fellowship, prayer, worship, or the Lord's Supper, they met in homes. Ekklesia, the Greek word for church, simply means "assembly," "gathering," or "congregation." It did not refer to a church building as we know it today. Does your area need more and varied churches?
Witnessing should not be limited to listening to our neighbors when they have a problem, giving our testimony to a nonbeliever, or even sharing the gospel through a Bible study. As the number of individuals who are evangelized increases, so also must the number and variety of churches. "Those who are the chosen of God are required to multiply churches wherever they may be successful in bringing souls to the knowledge of the truth."Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 199.
What happens when Christians walk "in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit"? Acts 9:31.
Experience demonstrates that "the single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches."C. Peter Wagner, Church Planting for a Greater Harvest (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1990), p. 11.
|It is a proven fact that new churches usually grow faster than established congregations. Why do you think this is so? Which nearby cities, villages, or neighborhoods in your area do not have an Adventist presence? What is the possibility of planting a church in one of those places?|
Answer the following questions by reading Acts 18:1-3:
What was Aquila and Priscilla's occupation? ________________________________________
Why did they go to Corinth? _____________________________________________________
How did Paul establish contact with them? Acts 18:1-3. _______________________________
Why did Paul engage in "secular" labors? 1 Thess. 2:9; Acts 20:32-35. __________________
|DEFINITION: "Tentmakers" are missionaries who earn a living by engaging in secular employment while also doing missionary work in the country or city where they work.|
While in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla helped Paul establish a church by offering their house to be used for church activities (1 Cor. 16:19). They accompanied Paul (Acts 18:18, 19) to Ephesus (modern Turkey), where again they were instrumental in planting a church (Acts 18:18-26). Later they returned to Rome (Rom. 16:3, 4).
The traditional model of church planting requires families and individuals to start worshiping together on Sabbath morning in a non-entered location, yet usually within the area of influence of an already established church.
The "colonization model" of church planting requires that a nucleus of members, sent by the parent church, moves to a different geographical area. Those members must sell their homes, find new jobs, and send their children to new schools. "Missionary families are needed to settle in the waste places. Let farmers, financiers, builders, and those who are skilled in various arts and crafts, go to neglected fields, to improve the land, to establish industries, to prepare humble homes for themselves, and to help their neighbors."The Ministry of Healing, p. 194.
|Do you think it takes more commitment and self-sacrifice to witness as a "tentmaker" than it does to witness any other way? Explain your answer. In what way are all forms of witnessing equal in God's sight?|
FURTHER STUDY: This week we discussed organizing structures for witnessing that included: (1) assigning territory, (2) organizing small groups, (3) creating teams, and (4) sending "missionaries" to "unentered areas." Read the following passages and decide which of these structures each passage describes: Luke 10:1; Mark 5:18-20; Genesis 12:1-3.
Also read any or all of the following: Christian Service, "The Church Expansion Movement" pp. 178-185; "The Home a Missionary Training Center" pp. 206-210; "Organizing Christian Forces" pp. 72-76; The Acts of the Apostles, "Heralds of the Gospel" pp. 166-176.
"The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err. If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members but for unbelievers also."Evangelism, p. 115.
SUMMARIZE in your own words the following concepts from this week's lesson: (1) Why is organization important to certain forms of witnessing? (2) How do the following organized structures help us to witness more effectively: the assignment of territories; the organization of small groups; the creation of teams; arranging for "tentmakers" to live in "unentered" territories?
How has this week's lesson changed your mind about witnessing? What will you do differently because of this change?
It was Holy Week, the week during which much of the world focuses on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In Bolivia the Adventist Church chooses this week to draw people to Christ through evangelistic meetings.
Following the counsel in the Spirit of Prophecy, the church has organized itself into small groups that form hundreds of ministry centers throughout the country that are effective tools to draw people into Bible studies. During Holy Week the churches hold special programs to reach these people for Christ. The Hamacas Church is located in a neighborhood that has been difficult to reach in the past. But lay members continue to pray and work for souls, and during the 1998 Holy Week meetings, God used dogs to bring one young woman to a knowledge of truth.
Eighteen-year-old Ellie Arcaya was returning home from school. She worked all day and attended school at night, leaving little time to attend religious meetings. Suddenly two street dogs ran out from behind some trees, barking fiercely. The young woman knew these dogs were unpredictable and could bite her. With nothing to defend herself against the dogs, she ran toward a nearby open gate and slipped through a door to escape the dogs. She found herself inside a church.
Fearful to leave the church lest the dogs were waiting for her outside, she sat down in the last row to catch her breath. Since she was inside the church, she felt it would be rude not to listen to the sermon. She had never heard the Bible explained so clearly before, and she decided to return the following night.
Ellie continued to attend the meetings and requested the Bible course that was offered. By the time she had completed the studies, she had given her life to Jesus and requested baptism. At her baptism she told how God had used two ferocious dogs to grab her attention and lead her to Jesus. Ellie's family expelled her from their home when she joined the Adventist Church, but she remains determined to remain safely in the hands of Christ.
Just as Ellie had fled the fierce dogs, many people are fleeing the enemy of souls. Will they find a safe refuge in your church? Will they find protection and salvation there?
Omar Paño is an accountant at the East Bolivia Adventist Clinic in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Mission Awareness
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