Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Acts 13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; Romans 10:1-4; Romans 3:19; Acts 14:1-26; Romans 9-11
It’s a mark of distinction for a church in America to celebrate a 100th anniversary or even a 200th anniversary—though a few in the continental United States are over 300 years old. Recently, the Ukrainian government celebrated the arrival Christianity to their country, a change which took place 1,030 years ago. The country turned toward the Christian religion when Volodymyr the Great, a prince, was baptized in AD 988.1
In this week’s Sabbath School lesson, we are studying Paul’s first missionary journey, which included the establishment of the first Gentile Christian church in Antioch in Pisidia (not the same as Antioch in Syria). Here, over 1,972 years ago, Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue to preach the gospel in this Phrygian city (now in modern Turkey). The good news was well-received by the Gentile believers who begged Paul to preach again the next Sabbath when practically the whole city showed up to hear the message. The truth spread all around that region. The bad news is that it stirred up jealousies among the Jews who created conflict and urged the authorities to throw Paul and Barnabas out of town.
It’s a mark of recognition, that when the gospel makes great strides, especially in a new place, that the devil endeavors to put a stop the work through persecution—often through government authorities. It happened in many of the places where Paul successfully raised up churches. Perhaps that’s why he plainly stated, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Notice what happened in Antioch of Pisidia: “The Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region” (Acts 13:50). The missionaries were undaunted by this treatment. “They shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (verses 51, 52).
As we seek to serve Christ in mission work, whether across the street or on the other side of the world, may we remember that we too are set aside by the Holy Spirit to witness for Jesus. If we suffer, especially in setting up a new church in a new place, let it be marked with celebration.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Pair up in groups of two. Each pair is to draw 10 things they need for a missionary trip to another country or another culture. Have the pairs share with the entire group why they chose the items they did.
Sharing: We read in Acts 13:13-14 that “the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” What truth in this passage is still vital for the church today?
1. The church needs to be seeking and listening to the Holy Spirit.
2. The church needs to spend earnest time fasting and praying for the Spirit’s leading.
3. The church needs to continue to send people out to do the Holy Spirit’s will.
4. The church needs to be building the kingdom work as well as the local church work.
5. The church needs to look inside the flock for future missionaries to the world around them.
Applying: As a group, identify a religious group in your community that needs to hear the “good news.” Brainstorm how and where to reach them. List the materials and volunteers needed and schedule an outreach. Invite the church at large to join with you in this outreach through prayer and/or active participation.
Valuing: What do you fear about reaching out to others with the “good news?” What do you need from the Holy Spirit to calm those fears? Ask and trust.