Lesson 13

Post-witnessing Activities

(Acts 14, 1 Thessalonians 5)
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Introduction: All this quarter we have been discussing how to BRING people into the church. This week we look at how we turn them from believers into those who BELONG to the church. Rick Warren, in his excellent book "The Purpose Driven Church," devotes an entire section to the issue of how we integrate new members into a functioning church. He refers (page 309) to the transition from referring to "that church" to "this church" to "our church." Let's see what the Bible has to say about getting believers to the "our church" mentality.

  1. Strengthening the New Believers

    1. Read Acts 14:1-5. Assume you are a new member of the new Iconium church. What are conditions like in your church? Your community?

      1. On whose side are the community leaders?

      2. If you were Paul and Barnabas, what would you do in light of the threats of stoning?

        1. Would you leave your new members untended?

    2. Let's read on: Acts 14:6-10. Paul and Barnabas decide it is best to leave so they move on to Lystra and there heal a man who never before had walked. Should that miracle convert the city?

    3. Read Acts 14:11-13. What a triumph, they even converted the priest of Zeus! Or did they?

      1. If you were Paul and Barnabas, how would you react to this new development in witnessing? (Read Acts 14:14-15. The problem was these people were not converted, they were incorporating Paul and Barnabas into their existing belief system.)

    4. Read Acts 14:18-21. What a change of fortune! Who is creating the trouble?

      1. The "punch line" that I want you to focus upon is verse 21. What do you think about returning to these cities? Aren't these the very cities which either stoned Paul or threatened to stone him?

        1. Would you go back?

        2. Is there any reason to think that it would be safe to return? (No! Notice that the Jews from Antioch and Iconium were the direct cause of their problems in Lystra. Therefore you can expect those people will be waiting for them.)

      1. Why did Paul and Barnabas return to these cities? (Read Acts 14:21-22. They wanted to strengthen these new believers.)

        1. Given this background, how important do you think it was to Paul to strengthen new believers? (It was important enough to risk getting killed.)

          1. How important a task is the strengthening of new believers in your work? In the work of your church?

          2. Does your church have any special plan for strengthening new converts? If not, should it?

        2. The lesson points out (Monday) Win Arn's book, "The Church Ratio Book" that notes that if a new believer does not have a minimum of seven new friends in the first six months, they are likely to leave the church. Does your church have a plan to address this potential problem?

          1. If your church does not have a plan, do you have a plan?

  1. Integrating the New Believers

    1. Let's read on in Acts 14. Read 14:23. In each church Paul and Barnabas appointed elders. What do you think was the purpose for that?

    2. Read Romans 12:4-8. How important is giving the new believer a "job" in the church? What if the new believer fails in his or her job? (In her book, "Testimonies for the Church," Ellen White says, "Everyone who is added to the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of duty.")

      1. How would you guard against failure and discouragement by the new believer?

      2. When it comes time to select the leaders and officers of your church, do you start out with a list of "positions" and attempt to fill them? Or do you start out with a list of members and match a position to each? Which would be better?

  2. Specific Advice on Building Believers

    1. Paul gives us specific advice on encouraging and building up believers (not just new ones) in 1 Thessalonians 5. Let's read 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13. Is it our goal to "encourage" and "build" believers?

      1. How is that consistent with verse 12, which suggests that we should "admonish" some believers?

        1. Would a call or a note to someone who has missed church recently be considered an admonishment?

        2. Is this kind of admonition important? (People want to know you have missed them. I once read a study that said if a member misses three weeks in a row, the odds of the member permanently leaving is very good.)

      2. Whenever I read newspapers published by labor unions they are always talking about (v.12) "respect." How important is it to respect fellow believers? What, exactly, does that mean?

      3. If you look carefully at verse 12, it seems to request respect for those who "work hard" and "who are over you." Do you respect the leaders in your church?

        1. Does Paul's advice here seem "upside down" - do we normally find that the pastor admonishes the members or the members admonish the pastor? (I rarely hear, except in a sermon or in the case of adultery, any pastor admonishing members. However, I hear members admonishing the pastor all the time!)

        2. Is following Paul's advice on respecting leaders and hard workers relevant to building up new members? (It is not good for new members to see conflict in the church.)

    2. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18. When Paul speaks of idlers, is he referring to church work, regular work or both?

      1. If this also refers to regular work, is this another "upside down" area? Don't we hear more warnings that WE must help the homeless and chronically unemployed, then we hear warnings directed to the homeless and chronically unemployed? Should we hand out warnings instead of sandwiches?

        1. Does Paul's statement to "help the weak" fit in here?

        2. If this refers to idlers in church work, how would you suggest warning them in a way that will build them up?

      2. Do you know timid people in your church? How about in your Bible class? How would you encourage them? How would you match them to a job in the church?

      3. Are we instructed to be patient with idlers, the timid and the weak? How about being patient with our leaders?

        1. How will being patient with other members help build up the church? Or will being patient just prolong the problem?

      4. We are told to "make sure" that no one retaliates. How are we supposed to do that? (The way this is written suggests that we should not be a part of retaliation. We can lead by example.)

      5. Do you know people in your church who are always (v. 16) joyful? Does this include you?

        1. How do you react to joyful people?

        2. What difference do you think you could make if you were always joyful when dealing with new members?

        3. I once read an article in a magazine blasting the idea that we should celebrate in church. The article, sadly lacking in Biblical support, argued that we should be very sober in church in light of our sinfulness. What does Paul say about the attitude that we should reflect in church and otherwise? (Paul not only tells us to be joyful always (v.16), but he also tells us (v.18) to "give thanks" in all circumstances. Can you imagine a worship service in which the congregation is full of joyfulness and thankfulness? What a place for new members!)

      1. Paul says that we should "pray continually." How is that possible? (I think this is that frame of mind when you are in contact with God. )

    1. Friend, we have the important task of strengthening new members so that they will feel they belong to the church. We need to encourage our church to be as vigorous in strengthening new members as we are in witnessing.

  1. Next Week: The Results of Witnessing.

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