An Exciting Way to Get Involved

An Exciting Way to Get Involved

Scripture: Matthew 9:37-38
Date: 09/05/2020  Lesson: 10
"Small group ministry is ordained by God to enable each church member to grow spiritually, experience warm fellowship, and utilize their God-given gifts in service."

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Is It Easier to be Saved or Lost? - Paper or Digital Download
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Jëan Ross: Good morning, friends. We'd like to welcome all of you to "Sabbath School Study Hour" here at the Amazing Facts offices in Sacramento, California. And Pastor Doug and myself, we are going to be studying our lesson together, and this is lesson number 10 in the series we have been studying entitled "Making Friends for God." Lesson number 10 is an "Exciting Way to Get Involved." And so we hope that this will help inspire you to get involved in outreach and evangelism and witnessing.

We do have a free offer we'd like to tell you about. It's a book entitled "Is It Easier to be Saved or to be Lost?" And this is our free offer for today. If you'd like to receive a copy of the book, the number to call is 866-788-3966 and ask for offer number 124. Again, that number is 866-788-3966, and just ask for offer number 124 and we'll be happy to get that in the mail and send it to you. If you're outside of North America, you can get a digital download of the book and you can read it. All you have to do is text the code SH039 to the number 40544. Again, that's SH039 to the number 40544. You don't have to be outside North America to get the digital download. Just text that code wherever you are in the world and you'll be able to read the book, "Is It Easier to be Saved or to be Lost?"

Well, before we get to our study this morning, we've got a special musical item that we'd like to share with you at this time.

♪♪♪

Jëan: Welcome back, friends. Thank you, Emma and Nathan, for bringing us that beautiful encouraging song, "The Old Rugged Cross," one of a favorite of many people. Well, before we get to our lesson, as we always do, let's start with a word of prayer.

Dear Father, we thank You that we're able to open up Your Word. And even though we are separated through distance, we can still study together. We know the Holy Spirit is not limited to a particular place, but he is everywhere, speaking to our hearts here as well as those who are joining us. And Father, we pray that as we study a way in which we can be involved--more involved in witnessing and sharing, that You would bless our time together, for we ask this in Jesus's name, amen?

Well, Pastor Doug, as we mentioned, our lesson today is entitled, "An Exciting Way to Get Involved," and one of the important things when it comes to evangelism or witnessing is getting the church members involved. We're all part of the body of Christ, and each part of the body has a work to do. So that's going to be our study today. And we'd like to let our friends know, those who are joining us on Facebook, we're happy to take your questions. If you have a Bible-related question or a question related to witnessing or small groups or how do you share your faith, this is a wonderful opportunity. You can actually make a post on Doug Batchelor Facebook page, and they'll be emailing those questions to me. And we haven't seen the questions obviously beforehand, but we're going to try and tackle as many questions as we can. We're going to sprinkle it throughout our lesson as we study together. So with that, Pastor Doug, lesson number 10, "An Exciting Way to Get Involved."

Doug Batchelor: We always like to start with the memory verse. Greetings, friends. This is a great study talking about-- the title of it is "An Exciting Way to Get Involved," and it's really-- the theme of the lesson is the value and the importance of small groups. And we have a memory verse, a memory verse I think most people know already. Matthew chapter 9, verse 37 and 38, "And he said unto his disciples, 'The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'"

You know, there's no shortage of people out there that want to and need to hear the gospel. We always think, "I'm afraid to witness. Nobody's really interested." That's not true. There's a lot more people out there interested than you think. The devil wants us to think that nobody wants to hear the gospel. But Jesus said the harvest is great; the problem is we have few laborers. And one of the key ingredients, then, that we're dealing with in this lesson is we're more powerful when we work together. Even when Jesus sent his disciples out witnessing, he sent them out in groups of two or sometimes three. You can think of when Paul and Barnabas and Mark went together as a group of three because the Bible says in the mouth of two or three witnesses let everything be established.

There's more credibility there if you've got a team that works together, and God created human beings for fellowship. The Bible says it's not good for man to be alone. Of course, that was talking about wasn't good for Adam to not have his Eve, but it's really a principle of life; that man or woman, that we are designed to be social creatures. We are made by a social God who is comprised of three persons in the Trinity. And so that plays out being made in God's image, that we operate and we flourish in small groups.

Jëan: And of course we've got small groups that make up our lives in all different ways. Most of us have a family. That is a small group. We participate perhaps at work with a certain group of people. We're interacting with them, and of course at the church. Now, some churches are smaller. They might be a small group in themselves. The Bible says where two or three are gathered together in God's name, that's where He is. Some churches--most churches, though, are comprised of, you know, anywhere from 50 to 60 to 100, to even 5,600 people, 1,000. And it's so important, especially when the church starts getting bigger, that we have small groups within the larger church. Then we're going to look at some of the reasons why in our study today.

We need to be connected with people and we encourage one another in our witnessing endeavor. You know, Pastor Doug, it is kind of strange that here we're talking about the importance of being in a group and belonging and being connected, but at the same time we're going through a pandemic and we're being told time and time again you got to social-distance. You got to be separate. You got to keep space. Now, we are grateful that this does not-- this is not the permanent norm. At least we hope not. Because throughout the Bible, we do find a theme of connecting with people, especially fellow believers. If we're going to be effective in evangelism, it's connecting with others and working together as a team.

Doug: Yeah. And I think people have become especially sensitive to that during this pandemic, where so many people are feeling isolated. They're realizing that, "Yeah, there might be physical benefits in avoiding people that might have a contagious virus, but there are definitely--" There are detriments to our health because-- as social creatures, and God designed us that way.

Some people are struggling with depression. And they say that even during the pandemic, they're seeing a terrible spike in suicides. Some of that may be because some have lost their jobs and some of it just people feeling isolated, and it's affecting their depression.

You know, being together is part of God's original plan. You can see here in Genesis chapter 1, verse 1 and 2, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth was out form-- without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'"

Even God enjoys association. Even God wants to socialize. And God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, are seem to be there in the creation and all the way to the last book in the Bible where it specifically mentions God the Father, God the Son, and some of the closing words in the Bible says, "And the Spirit says, 'Whosoever will, let them take the water of life freely." And so you have the person--the assembly of God, those three witnesses that are seen right from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and then God made us where we-- how do we communicate intelligence? How do we communicate thought? You need people who are listeners. We grow as iron sharpens iron. So he made us to be social creatures.

Jëan: You know, God made us to be social creatures even at a high risk, a risk to Himself. And of course we know about sin. We have a freewill. But despite the risk, God felt it necessary to create beings that could love Him, that could choose to serve Him. We could interact with God. God can show His love and His goodness to us. So that sort of places the importance of being connected at a very high level. God values friendship. He values interaction, communication. Of course, these are all aspects that we find when it comes to evangelism, and especially connecting in a small group. These are some of the benefits of being connected in a group.

Now, Pastor Doug, we've got a question that's come in, and I want to thank those of you who are sending in your questions. Again, if you'd like to send a question related to small groups or witnessing, you can do so at Pastor Doug's Facebook page. We have a question that's come in. It says, "My question is, is there a right time and is there a wrong time to share the Word of God?"

Doug: I'd say that--of course, whenever you have an opening and as you walk with God and you walk in the Spirit and you practice the skills of witnessing, you know, you're going to represent--or you're going to recognize when there are those prime times. With farming, there's a good time to put seed in the ground and there's a bad time to put seed in the ground. And so there are seasons, and every day-- and even in people's lives, you're going to see there are seasons where a person is open. And sometimes you might do a little test and talk to a person about spiritual things. You can see they're kind of closing up to it, might not be the right time. And so sometimes you'll never know unless you try, and I think we're surprised. We assume that people don't want to hear it, but I think it's important to more often than not what's the risk. Float some spiritual inquiry asking them, you know, where they're at spiritually or find out what their interest is and you'd be surprised. Some people are more open than you might think. So you might just, you know, do a little test every now and then and see if you can make progress.

Jëan: You know, one of the things that we teach in our AFCOE class--AFCOE is the Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism. We teach witnessing. And we ask people--if they meet someone and they start engaging with them and they want to try and move the conversation to spiritual things, one of the questions they can ask of the person is, "Did you grow up in a religious environment? Did you grow up going to church?" And usually we find people are more willing to talk about something that maybe happened in the past, maybe something happened in their childhood, and you can kind of get a sense or a feel as to where they are, do they still currently go to church, do they have interest in spiritual things.

So the way that we pose the question can kind of open up the door for some further discussion. So that's a good thing to keep in mind. Ask the person, "Did you grow up going to church? Did you grow up in a religious family?" And usually people are willing to share about their background or about their family.

Doug: Yeah, you're asking them about them, and sometimes people, they're-- even if they didn't have a good experience growing up with a religious background, they're happy for an opportunity to vent and to tell--and then it teaches you a lot about where they're at and what their perspective is. That's very important. You know, something else you can see right here in the beginning-- now, we're still under the section small groups are God's first idea. In the beginning, families were the catalyst for the small groups. Abraham offered sacrifice for his family, and he had a pretty large household and--same thing with Jacob and with Isaac, and they would worship God in their families. They didn't have churches quite like we have today, or several places of worship. They had altars that were scattered around the country as they wandered.

One of the dangers you see is when sin entered the world, it damaged relationships. Everything from Eve and Adam blaming each other for sin, Cain killing Abel, you can see that there was some tension, some separation. And one of the reasons we need small groups--people say, "Well, I don't like going to small groups, because I have trouble getting along with people." That's why you need small groups. It's because it helps us grow, it makes us accountable, and it's just part of God's plan to redeem us to learn how to love each other.

Jëan: The plan of salvation-- plan of redemption actually started in a small group. We find in Hebrews chapter 1, verse 2, it says, speaking of Christ, "Has in these last days spoken to us by His son," so God the Father is communicated by His son, "whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom also He made the worlds." So the plan of salvation involves the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three play an important part in our salvation in the plan of redemption, and that's an example for us; that when it comes to evangelism or soul winning, there are different roles, different parts that different people play in reaching out to those in the community.

Doug: Now, there's one more part in there that you talked about that I think you missed. Not only the Father, the Son, the Spirit and us, it says the worlds. So--you know, part of the plan of salvation is redemption of this planet because we've been basically quarantined from the unfallen angels and other worlds that God may have out there, and we want to be restored to communion with God and all of His creatures. And so being in small groups and learning to love is part of that school.

Jëan: You know, there's an interesting statement that you find in the book, "Fundamentals of Christian Education." This is page 186. It says, "The plan of salvation had its place in the councils of the infinite from all eternity." Now, Pastor Doug, someone might be wondering, "Well, what is this council that's been referred to here?" What is the council of infinite, or who is this group?

Doug: Yeah, well, when it says God said, "Let us," there must have been some sort of forum where the Father, Son, and Spirit-- I don't know if they use Holy Spirit telepathy when they communicate with each other. I doubt they sat down in a boardroom with a PowerPoint, but they consulted together and there was an agreement. And so even the world was brought into existence, you might say, in the catalyst of a small group: God.

Jëan: All right. Well, let me ask a question. I think this one came from the Philippines. The question is, "How do we share the Word with someone who is a devout Catholic?" So, of course, you have different denominations in the world, different religions. How do you share, in particular this is asking, with someone who's a devout Catholic?

Doug: You know, this is probably a good time-- I've just remembered. Friends, alert. Now hear this. Amazing Facts is doing an evangelistic meeting that will go around the world, including the Philippines, in October of this year. We've just done the release this week. The website has just become active. The meetings are called Revelation Now, and it's talking about unfolding or decoding the Bible secrets of prophecy. And I think the subtitle is, "Things are never going to be the same." And so Revelation Now, matter of fact, we have a website called revelationnow.com. You can go take a look there right now, and you can join us in being part of that in the Philippines. Because if you got a Catholic friend and they watch that series--well, we have a lot of people from the Catholic Church that has said, "Wow, where have I been?" And they've accepted the truth.

So one thing is, get them involved in Bible studies. You might take them through an evangelistic program and-- you know, there's different subjects that you can study gently with your Catholic friends. I find--depending on the background, I would begin with a charismatic, a little different than I would maybe with a Baptist or--and then again differently with a Catholic, knowing their background. One of the things I found is if you take the Catholics into a Bible study of prophecy, they never get that. Just take them through Daniel chapter 2. They're inspired with the inspiration of the Bible, then you can begin to show them some of the other things. I find they always respond well to the study on the lake of fire because they're so happy to hear that God is a God of love and they don't have to worry about everlasting burning. And so there's just a couple of ideas there. What do you think?

Jëan: Absolutely. Yeah, start by reaffirming. And I think this principle is true no matter who you're studying with. Start by reaffirming the authority of the Bible, and I think prophecy is one of the best ways to do that. Many of these different religious groups or denominations, we might assume that the people might study the Bible or know the Bible, and they are. There are denominations that do study the Bible. But many of these different groups, they just sort of follow the tradition. They might get their information from a pastor or a priest, but they haven't actually sat down and studied for themselves.

And so it's an exciting experience for people who might be a devout Christian to actually get into the Word and especially, as Pastor Doug says, a prophecy. Start with Daniel and work your way into some of the prophecies of Revelation. These are things that most denominations shy away from. They stay away from Revelation and Daniel. So we have a great opportunity to share it with people from those books.

Well, the next section that we have in our lesson, and probably need to move along here, is small groups in Scripture. And of course, we looked at small groups at the beginning. We can see God Himself, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; a small group right there. But in the Bible, we also have small groups, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Doug: Yes, sir, like when Moses was going through the wilderness, his father Jethro came to visit him. He saw Moses was sitting from dawn till dusk judging the people. He said, "You're going to surely wear away. This is too great for you." He said, "You need to organize your people into smaller groups." And you can find in Exodus 18:21. He said, Exodus 18:21 and 22, "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God--" Small groups need to have leaders. So that's another subject, how to be a small group leader. "Able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, rulers of tens."

I was just looking this morning online. The smallest unit in an army is a squad that will have somewhere between 17--7 to 14 soldiers. So that'd be like--group of ten would be that category. But the army found that that's the smallest group, and they needed a leader, usually a sergeant, and they were very effective. You'd send a squad on a mission. And it says that the smallest group was ten. "And let them judge the people at all times, and then it will be that every great matter they'll bring to you--" Now, Moses was the Supreme Court. "But every smaller matter, they will judge themselves so it will be easier for you and they will bear the burden for you."

You know, if pastors would all get the vision of small groups, they wouldn't have to be wearing themselves out, especially when you get a church of 200 or 300 members. The key is build up your leaders, men and women who can lead in small groups. And you can have different groups. You can have a small group for the collegiate. You can have a small group for the young mothers. You can have a small group for retired men or just anything where they can connect together, and then keep it with a biblical Bible study focus and an outreach focus.

Jëan: You know, Pastor Doug, you're so right, especially, you know, our own church just to share with our folks who are joining us. We're in the process of building, and we hope that our facility will be available and we'll be able to meet. But Granite Bay has a membership of over 600, and one of the challenges we have is keeping people connected. We're very excited. The pastoral staff of the Granite Bay church, we've spent some time looking at how we can connect people, especially when the new church facility begins.

One of the areas that we're thinking about, which is a great idea, is to connect people who are going through similar life experiences. For example, young families. They have a little child. They go to Sabbath school together. They're going through similar life experiences. The youths; they're going through different challenges, different things that they face, so pull them together. You even got those who have retired and have a little more time on their hands. Connect them together and they can start planning and doing some kind of outreach. So there's different stages that a person goes through in life, and you can cluster or organize these small groups based upon where people are in their experience, in their walk. We found this to be a lot more effective in pulling people together that have something in common.

Doug: Amen, you know, along with what happened there with Moses dividing the people up into various group sizes, Jesus did this when they distributed the bread. Now, the bread for us, of course, is the Word of God. And so as churches get together for bread distribution, that's studying the Bible, how did he do it? Well, it says here that there were about 5,000 men, not counting women and children, that were fed when he multiplied the bread. And he said, "Make them sit down in groups of 50." But you look in Mark 6, verse 39, it says, "He commanded them to all sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in ranks of hundreds and in fifties."

Now, 50 would be a pretty big small group, but--you know, I don't agree with everything they do, but I think it's in the Jehovah Witness church. I agree that they go out two by two. That's a biblical-- it's a good method. I don't agree with their message, good method. Something else they do; when they get to church and they reach about, I think it's 300, they then swarm and they say it's time to start another group. You almost don't want a church to get too big. Now, we're doing something that's a little bit of an exception here with the Granite Bay church because we are a church that is training churches. So we needed a bigger facility for congregations, but we just planted-- or, I should say, we're in the process of planting another church.

Granite Bay is a church plant of Sacramento Central, and Sacramento Central planted several churches and they all started with small groups. Well, we had about 12 when we started Granite Bay.

Jëan: That's right, started in somebody's living room with about 12, 13 people and grew from there. So the principle definitely works. The next section that we have-- maybe I'll ask a question here, Pastor Doug, that somebody sent in. It might be a good time to ask. Very important question. So it's not directly related to small groups, but the question I think all of us have. It says, "Pastor Doug, what would you recommend for somebody to do who is trying to have a personal revival in their life?" Personal revival.

Doug: Well, I think that the three keys to revival are found in the holy place of the sanctuary. They are the secret weapons for revival and for the disciplines of a successful Christian. There were three things in that room. You had the altar of incense, which represents prayer according to Revelation; you had the bread, which is a symbol for the Word of God; and then you had a light, which is a symbol for witnessing, letting your light shine. And so if a Christian is involved in daily prayer, seeking after God; praying not just in regular times, but through the day, walking with Christ; reading the Word and getting an adequate Bible study in, that could be part of being part of a Bible study group, and then doing something with their faith. Don't just sit on it, but share your faith. Somehow reach out and minister to others. And I found if people do these things, it's the best formula for growth.

Jëan: Well, you know, Pastor Doug, it's interesting you mentioned the light could represent sharing our faith. And it wasn't just one lamp in the holy place, it said seven branch candlesticks. So they were tied together. Effective witnessing is connecting with others. Be involved in a small group; planned together, organized together, and start reaching out to those in the community around you. Well, then that brings us to our next section, which is organizing for service. So the purpose of a small group isn't just for us to interact and strengthen ourselves spiritually, but we're to be evangelistic. The Great Commission that Jesus gave us is to go make disciples. Preach the gospel. And so that needs to be a central theme of every small group not only inreach, but we also need to have an emphasis on outreach. And that's the next section. We see an illustration that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians about how the church and these different small groups are to work together.

Doug: You're going to go--why don't you read 1 Corinthians, what, 12 through verse 26? Jëan: Yes, 1 Corinthians 12 beginning verse 12 it says, "For as the body is one and has many members; but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and all have been made to drink into that one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member, but many members. If the foot should say, 'Because I'm not the hand, I am not part of the body,' is there therefore not-- is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, 'Because I'm not an eye, I am not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He is pleased, that there should be no schism in the body, but the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, then all rejoice with it." So we can see there's different responsibilities, different gifts that God has given and as we work together in small groups.

Now it's interesting to note, different groups might have a different form or a different emphasis in evangelism. The hand would do something different than the foot. It's all connected to the same body. So you could have different groups focusing on outreach in different ways. Doug: Yeah, you know, I think this is the beauty, and the key to understanding the success of small groups is that you're going to have-- every small group is going to be different and it's going to be made up of people, and people are unique. And the key for Christians is learning to love and grow everybody regardless of what their different temperaments and personalities are, and those differences are usually because God made them different.

And so learning to love people and say, "All right. Well, this person may not be an ear, but maybe they're an eyeball, maybe they're a nose, maybe they are a foot or a hand." And just find out where is their spiritual gift? Where do they fit into the body, and help them to flourish, help them to be affirmed in what their role is in the body. And when spiritual-- when small groups get together and they recognize, "We're going to use everybody's different gifts--"

Just a famous quote from history-- I don't know who said it first, but if you want to go fast, you go alone. But if you want to go far, you go together. And I've just read several stories. I've talked many times about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. And when Captains Lewis and Clark were getting their team together, about 38 or 40 different guys, they deliberately picked very different people. They had one guy who was an expert blacksmith. They had someone else who was an expert hunter. They had someone else that could-- an expert on the water with rowing, then they had a carpenter. They had all these that were so different, but they worked together as a unit to do something remarkable.

I'll tell you another quick story most people don't know. That the reason we have an interstate highway system in North America is because there was a young captain who was given the commission, I think in the 1920s, to travel all the way from Washington to California with a group of soldiers. There were no roads back then. Automobiles were still in their infancy. And they took these primitive vehicles and they had to build the road as they went, forging deserts and crossing creeks. Well, the captain was Dwight D. Eisenhower. And then when he went to Europe during World War II and he saw the autobahns, he came back, he became president, and he said, "We need to fix our roads."

But the only way he made it across the country is he had people all different gifts. Some of them were on primitive motorcycles. He had mechanics, a lot of mechanics. He had welders and blacksmiths and engineers. But using the different gifts, they were able to build roads and get all the way across the country with no roads. And so you go far together. You can go fast alone, but you go a lot farther if you can work together. That's the way it is as a group. You support each other and use our different gifts.

Jëan: Absolutely, and I think we have spent some time in our study talking about different gifts that God has given different people and how we can utilize our gifts. Now, Pastor Doug, we have a question that's come in. And it's not exactly on our topic, but it's a-- I don't think we've ever seen this question before. So we want to ask it. It's kind of an interesting-- not a hard question, but it's an interesting one. It says, "Dear pastors, this isn't on the Bible topic, but it's on tithe." And here's the question. "If you saving tithe during time or during this time, a large sum of tithe, and somebody steals that, are you still to come up with the tithe again?" So you've been setting aside your tithe, somebody stole the tithe before you were able to turn it in. Do you have to come up with that tithe again?

Doug: Well, I would say that if you have a debt that you owe, if someone steals the money you were going to use to pay that debt, does the debt go away? So I know that that's a difficult answer. I would just say God's going to show you mercy. So it's not--God is not going to be looking saying-- you know, folding his arms and tapping his foot and saying, "Where's my money?" But I would say, "All right, Lord, maybe it was stolen because I was responsible and I misplaced it or whatever. I pray you can get it back and--" But in the meantime, I'd make a mental note and say, you know, "As time goes by, I want to pay some extra tithe and cover what was stolen."

Jëan: Maybe you won't be able to come up with enough to pay all of it, but it would be nice if you could at least try to do as much as you can to contribute to that. And of course, I think you've learned from that experience. You won't be leaving the money out for somebody else to take it. Another question that we have is, "What is the best way to discover your spiritual gift?"

Doug: That's a good question. One of the things--we actually have a spiritual gift survey, and some of you might want to email the Granite Bay church and we'll try to share with-- that with you if there's a way to do that online, but there's spiritual gifts surveys. You can probably find them online because a lot of churches use the same information to--you don't have to be a Seventh-day Adventist to find out what--how do we evaluate spiritual gifts. Sometimes it's things that you gravitate towards. God puts certain desires in your heart. You can counsel with other people. The Bible tells us in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Talk to those who know you and say, "What do you think my spiritual gifts are?" There's actually a test you can take where you answer these questions, and at the end it says, "Based on how you answered these questions, you probably have spiritual gifts in A, B, C." It's like an inventory.

You know, when students go to college and they're trying to figure out, "What am I supposed to do with my life?" They have these tests they take. And they get evaluated by kind of placement counselors and say, "You know, you really have strong gifts in mechanical areas. You should do engineering," or whatever. Or "You got real strong spiritual gifts in education." And they have some good tests that help you evaluate that. They have those online for Christians too. They'll say, "Your spiritual gifts are really strong in these areas." It doesn't mean it's the only place, but that's some of the things you can do.

Jëan: Absolutely. It's a good place to start. And then also you might want to talk to some of the other believers in the church and say, "Do you recognize a particular gift that I have?" They might be something that you might not realize that you're really good at. It might correspond with your personality or your talents, your abilities. Maybe you're good with music, and that might be a talent.

One of the other areas to discover your spiritual gift is look at the needs of the church. You know, we've had situations in some of the churches I've pastored where there was a particular position that needed to be filled and the church members all said, "Well, that's not my gift. That's not my gift." And it took somebody to say, "All right, it might not be my perfect gift, but I know there's a need. I'm going to step in and do my best." And sure enough, they really enjoyed it and they discovered, "You know what? This is a gift that God has given me in this particular area of service." So sometimes if there's a need, that might be the Lord leading you to step in there and do the best you can and then He can multiply or bless your efforts.

Doug: Yeah, I just talked to somebody this week that has been a Christian for years, and there was a desperate need in the Adventure program. And this person is in their 50s and they thought, "Well, if no one's going to do it, I'll step in." And then they said, "Voila this is my gift. I love it." And now they're just really loving working with the Adventures group. They did not know they had that spiritual gift.

Let me read a quote, Pastor Ross, because this is a good one. I don't want to run out of time. It's in your lesson, but it's from the seventh volume of the "Testimonies for the Church," page 21 and 22. "The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort has been presented to 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. If one place--if in one place there are only two or three who know the truth, let them form themselves into a band of workers. Let them keep their bond, even if it's only two or three," she said. "Let them keep their bond of union unbroken, pressing together in love and unity; encouraging one another to advance, each gaining courage and strength from the insistence of the-- or from the assistance of the other." And so yeah, even in spirit of prophecy, strong advocate of, you need to have, even in a bigger church, small groups that can nurture, do home Bible studies, and be part of a support team.

Jëan: Well, that brings us to our next section in the lesson. It's entitled "New Testament Small Groups." And I think this is where it really comes into sharp focus the importance of small groups. The first small group, of course, we find is Jesus picking the 12 disciples. Not only did he have 12 disciples, but you read elsewhere in the gospel there was a group of 70 that Jesus sent out preaching and teaching. But they were a larger group. So he had the 12 disciples and then--even amongst the 12 disciples, he had an inner circle of Peter, James, John, or even a smaller group that got to share some very special experiences with Christ. So right at the beginning of the Christian church, established by Christ, you begin to see the importance of organizing into different smaller teams, smaller groups in doing the work of evangelism. Doug: Yeah, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, he calls Peter, James, John, "Come pray with me." And Christ felt the need for his support group, you might say.

And it's so important that you have people who are close to you that know you. There should be people that you can be honest with, that there's accountability and there's intimacy. And we all need friends. What does it say? A threefold cord cannot easily be broken. Then you look at--all through the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts says, "After these things, Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth, and he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome, and he came to them. So it was they were of the same trade. He stayed with them and worked." Now, that's something to notice about a small group. You got Paul, Priscilla, Aquila. They had some things in common. And so while they were so intense, they could be giving Bible studies and supporting each other. And then you also see here--you might want to read Acts 20, verses 1 through 3, another sample of this.

Jëan: Yes, it says, "And there was an uproar that ceased. Paul called disciples to himself, embraced them, departed to Macedonia." And so we find Paul calling disciples or leaders together. "Now when they had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece and stayed there 3 months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia." So again, we find Paul connecting with smaller groups of believers on his missionary endeavors as he traveled throughout Asia Minor.

Doug: First thing Paul would do, he'd go into a new community and he would automatically go to the synagogue, where there were small groups of Jews scattered all through the Greek and the Roman Empires-- or Greek and Roman cities. And he realized that, "This is the places where I should go to have a support group and also a good place for evangelism."

And then you can also notice how Luke in the Book of Acts, he often mentions Paul's co-workers. In Acts 12, verse 11, "And when Peter came to himself, he said, 'I know for certain the Lord has sent His angel and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and all the expectation of the Jewish people. So when he considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying." He knocks at the door. A girl named Rhoda comes to the door. So you got Mary, John, Mark, Rhoda, and it says that the church was gathered in this upper room.

Now, this is not necessarily the same number you saw at Pentecost where there's 120. It may have been only 20. And so he--as soon as he was delivered from prison, he realized, "I need a support group." First thing he did, he said, "I've got to go find the church. I got to find where they're gathered together praying." It wasn't a Sabbath morning necessarily. They just went to where they were gathered in God's name.

Jëan: And you know, there's three things that we find almost in every small group that we discover in the New Testament, especially. Three things they did. They prayed together, they studied together, and they ate together, which is kind of interesting. You've got that social element. It talks about how they broke bread from house to house and rejoiced and prayed and studied and did evangelism. So we don't want to neglect that social aspect of a group of people connecting. The most effective evangelists are evangelists that are working together; they are friends, they love one another, they are connected, they have the same call, they know each other, they know their strengths, they know their weaknesses. And so when it comes to a small group in the church to be effective, it requires us spending some time getting to know people, praying with them, fellowshipping with them, and that makes the most effective team.

Doug: Yeah, you know, probably the most effective small group is the group that has a good cook in the group.

Jëan: Everybody wants to go to those small group meetings. Absolutely, now, this kind of leads us to our next section talking about small group dynamics. But Pastor Doug, just before we go there, a question has come in it that says, "What is self-denial? How can you give an example of giving up one's own will to God? What is self-denial?"

Doug: I think when it talks about taking up our cross and denying our self, anytime we know something is out of God's will, though we may want it--when we deny ourselves what it is that we may want, whether it's something you want to say that might glorify yourself and you hold your tongue because you think, "That won't glorify God," that's self-denial. If it's that extra cookie after dinner, we just talked about cooking, and you think, "I've had enough," and it's board--it's going from satisfaction to gluttony now, you say no, that's self-denial. Saying, "Oh, I can take that job and it would pay so much better, but I'd have to break the Sabbath or I wouldn't have enough time with my family," and you say no even though you want it.

So whenever you deny yourself anything for the sake of being a Christian, for serving Christ, that's self-denial. When you get up at night when you're tired and you go visit a friend who's struggling because they need prayer and you really would rather stay in bed, that's self-denial.

Jëan: You know, I've been reading some great testimonies and stories of early missionaries not only of our denomination, but early Protestant missionaries that were truly self-sacrificing; where they would say farewell to their family, good chance of never seeing them again, and they would travel to places they had never been before, very primitive conditions. They could have stayed home, lived a much more comfortable life, but they denied themselves so that somebody else can hear the gospel and have an opportunity to be saved. So there's an aspect of self-denial. Now, we might not be called to go to some distant land to preach the gospel, but sometimes we got to deny our self to get involved in evangelism at the church. You know, driving out an evangelistic series every night. Well, we've heard these messages before, but, you know, that's part of self-denial, by doing your part to reach somebody else with the gospel.

Doug: Yeah, you know, before we run out of time-- I see we've just got a few minutes left. We can back up to section five there. I just want to talk about what are some of the reasons that we need small groups. And I borrowed some of this, I'll admit, from online because the principles are truth--are true in any church denomination. They all flourish when they use the small groups. Personal growth is one. You grow personally. When you're in another group, you're getting new information, you're studying new subjects. When you're by yourself, you might come up with some eccentric ideas; but as you bounce those off other people, it guides and it shapes and it helps form you to have a healthy character and healthy theology.

Another reason is smaller communities are more cohesive. It's important for us-- in a big church, you can kind of get lost. People slip in the back. They slip out and you don't have the accountability, and it's not very cohesive. You're not connecting with other people. So that's another very important reason. Deeper friendships. In a big church, you can have acquaintances. I've got millions of acquaintances. Maybe not millions, but thousands. People--I know them. I shake their hands. "Hi, how are you doing?" Slap each other on the back. There's no intimacy there. It's not a real friend, it's an acquaintance.

You know, in the church, you need people that you're intimate with. And then the fourth part is maximum participation. It is so much easier to mobilize people if you know who the people are, you know what their gifts are. And group leaders know who the people are in their group that have the different gifts. And so you get your maximum participation in a church when you say, "Okay, we're going to have our mission planning group take charge of this project." You've got your gifted people. They do it. Our children's ministry group or whatever it is, they're formed into trained groups like an army.

Jëan: We just encourage wherever you are, whatever church you might be involved with, get involved in a small group. If you don't have a small group, well, it's a good opportunity to try and organize and start a small group. And again, not only is it for inreach, for fellowship, which is important, but the goal of every small group should be outreach focus, reaching out to others, sharing the gospel with them. So a small group is an important part not only for a healthy church but for a healthy individual, for a healthy Christian.

We would like to just remind those of you who are joining us about our free offer that we have today, a book entitled "Is It Easy to be Saved or to be Lost?" And this is our free gift to you. All you have to do is call the number 866-788-3966 and ask for offer number 124, and we'll be happy to get it in the mail. Again, that's 866-788-3966. Ask for offer 124, or you can get a digital download of the book by texting the code SH039 to the number 40544.

Doug: Also, Pastor Ross, before we say goodbye for today's lesson, I want to remind everybody something we mentioned earlier. Very important event coming, a major international evangelistic program between Amazing Facts and 3ABN called "Revelation Now." Starts October goes through November 14. Going to be a full-scale evangelistic program. Go to the website, revelationnow.com. Join us. Register. You'll get all the information on how you and your church or your small group can participate in reaching souls.

Announcer: Don't forget to request today's life-changing free resource. Not only can you receive this free gift in the mail, you can download a digital copy straight to your computer or mobile device. To get your digital copy of today's free gift, simply text the keyword on your screen to 40544 or visit the web address shown on your screen and be sure to select the digital download option on the request page. It's now easier than ever for you to study God's Word with Amazing Facts wherever and whenever you want, and most important to share it with others.

Announcer: Amazing Facts: Changed Lives.

Christine Vanorder: I was born into a family of criminals. When I got older and I started breaking the rules, no one ever taught me about "Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt not commit adultery." Anything like that. When I became a runaway at 14, I was just a wild and lost child. I had somebody tell me, "Hey, you want to earn some money cleaning this guy's kitchen?" So I went to this house on a different side of town than I was used to. Someone kept giving me alcoholic drinks, and being 115 pounds and 14 years old it really didn't take much time before I was so inebriated that I had no control over what was going on around me. He took me to another location, another town, and I was put in isolation. I would come out to be abused between three and eight times a day.

I was degraded. I was humiliated. I had no value as a human being, and I learned very quickly that what I felt and what I thought and how this made me feel did not matter to him at all. If I even thought about not doing what he wanted me to do, I would have a gun to my head, a knife to my throat. There was one time in particular where he had been tormenting me psychologically, and one day he said, "Oh, you'll never kill yourself. You'll never do it." And almost defiantly I would say, "I guess I will." And he handed me a big old handful of pills and I took them.

While I was overdosing, and I had been overdosing all night, I cried out to a God that I didn't even believe in. And at that very moment, in the most powerful way, God shone his light on me and he gave me peace of mind like I never had and he let me know right then and there while I was on that bathroom floor that he was real and that he was love. And that I did not know how at that time, but he was going to help me.

A little less than a year later, I became pregnant at 15. I loved my son with my whole heart. He also became something that my abuser could use against me in order to pump more fear and coercion. I had finally got away from my abuser and I had finally built up a support system to help me stay on the move and stay on the run. And I was at my grandmother's house, and on my son's third birthday he took my son. And when I called the police, said, "My son's just been kidnapped," they said, "He's the father. We can't do anything about it."

After my son was gone, I lost my mind. I started doing drugs. And within a month of it and a half, I robbed a convenience store. So I was sentenced to 70 months; 5 years, 10 months in prison, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started attending the church services in prison 7 days a week. It blew my mind. I was hooked. And then we went through--it was "Millennium of Prophecy" and "Net '99" that just solidified my faith in such a powerful way, and I knew God-- that God was leading me. Even the guards there commented on how much I had changed. And since I started doing the studies on Amazing Facts, I was so excited about what I was learning that I was coming back from there and trying to convert my hardened criminal friends with the Storacles of Prophecy. Every question I ever had, every worry, everything that I ever wondered about--the Bible answered everything, and it was so clear and so easy to understand.

It's been 11 years since I've been out of prison. I am married to an amazing, wonderful man; my first non-abusive relationship in my whole entire life. Before we got married, we watched the "Millennium of Prophecy" series together, and it was just such a blessing to be able to see him learn and see him grow. And I feel like my life now is just a gift, that every single thing that happened to me bad in the past is nothing compared to the joy and the happiness and the stability that I have now. My name is Christine Vanorder, and my life has been changed by Jesus Christ and Amazing Facts.

Doug: Today's smartphones are a virtual universe of information that fits in the palm of your hand. It's good thing we have opposable thumbs. With it, you can buy your groceries, take care of your exercise regime, watch a video, listen to music. You can surf the international World Wide Web, which may not always be a good thing. And you know, there is more computer processing technology and power in a little smartphone today than was used by NASA to put a man on the moon. And I almost forgot. You can also use these to make a phone call, but who does that anymore?

Today communication is not in complete sentences, it's all about short message servicing or SMS texting. That's right. There are about 2.5 billion people in the world today that are communicating with their fellow humans in short bytes called texting. That's more data that is being used than those who are surfing the web or even playing video games. And friends, nowhere is this more true than right here in the Philippines. Even though the Philippines has about 100 million people, they are responsible for the largest number of text messages of anywhere in the world. They're the 12th largest country, but they send 400 million text messages every day. Wow, that's a lot of finger fatigue.

Even though the greatest number of texters is here in the Philippines, the record for the fastest texter in the world is from Brazil; a young man by the name of Marcel Fernandes Filho. He was able to text 25 very complicated words in a little more than 18 seconds. Wow, it takes me longer than that to just say I love you to my wife and press send. All thumbs.

One of the neat things about texting is you can text just about anywhere. If you're surrounded with people and you want to send a personal message, you text. You're in a crowded subway or an airport, you can text. If you're surrounded by noise or nosy people, you can text. Just don't text while you're driving.

That's what's so wonderful, friends. You can always text God a message of prayer from your heart. When you're wondering, "What school do I go to? What job do I take? Who am I supposed to date that may be a future life partner?" Your prayers don't have to be long. The shortest prayer in the Bible is three words: when Peter prayed, "Lord, save me." Jesus answered his prayer.

And it doesn't matter how fast you can text when you're talking to God. He'll know what you're asking for and hear your prayer before you have a chance to say amen and press the send button. In fact, friends, you'll bring joy to God when you send Him regular messages from your heart to His. So why don't you talk to Him right now?

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