From lighting and angles to teaching tips, here are some practical ideas for how to navigate.
The Good, the Bad and What to Avoid
Online isn’t so bad. While we miss in-person fellowship, there are upsides to doing it online. With our online studies, my husband and I have been able to meet despite adverse weather or illness and even over the Christmas season when studies are usually on hiatus. (What else was there to do!?) When we started meeting in the fall, we were the only group from our church meeting online. Now we’re the only group meeting period due to COVID restrictions.
Technical concerns: While a nuisance, technical issues need not deter you. Generally, people are understanding with these things. Often, it’s best to forge ahead even if things aren’t ideal. If not, restart the device and hope for the best.
Reading the room: It can be hard to gauge your online audience. Often faces are obscured or far away; perhaps all you can see is a ceiling fan. It’s hard to tell if people are getting jokes, let alone if they’re under conviction or confused. This makes leading a study challenging and tiring! But there are things you can do to counter these obstacles.
DO: Give yourself lots of time (30 min) the first night to get everyone set up. In subsequent studies, ensure you’re on 10-15 minutes early to address technical issues and welcome people as they join.
DON’T: Don’t assume everyone knows how to use your chosen app. Some people will need coaching to get set up the first time.
DO: Send out reminders for your study. Many people have little routine these days, needing regular reminders.
DO: Get links and other information to your group at least 6-24 hours before your study, giving lots of time for potential issues to surface.
DO: As the leader, ensure you have a good set-up. Make sure your face is lit up nicely and the angle of your camera is pleasing. (No one wants to be looking up your nose for the duration of the study!)
DO: Conduct the study as if you were all in the same room. If you’ve never done a study using GoodSeed tools, watch this short video.
DO: Use the videos interwoven with the text. These can easily be shared via the screen share option. Videos are a huge help, helping to engage your audience. It’s also helpful to use the companion workbooks for review. Watch this for tips.
DON’T: Don’t forget to have your group highlight key points. Ask them to help you by reading the verses in the text. This also helps them to stay focused on the material.
DO: If someone misses a meeting, make sure they know what you covered so they can read the material themselves and get caught up.
DON’T: When your meeting is over, don’t rush to leave the app. Some people may hang around at the end to ask questions or talk privately. These can be sweet times of fellowship that you won’t want to miss.
Ideal for Online Studies:
Bible Overview Study
No Ordinary Story explains the Bible from creation to the cross. Each booklet can be read in less than 50 minutes, a perfect Bible study length. Included are links to short video clips, which add interest to the material. If you wish to go more in-depth, choose from The Stranger (Christianized worldview), By This Name (Eastern worldview) or All the Prophets (Islamic worldview).
The Next Step for Believers
For those who have been taught through one of the books listed above, The Captive and the King’s Will is the follow-up book to help the believer understand sanctification. Looking at the life of the Apostle Peter, this book covers how the Holy Spirit and God’s Word guide us, baptism, finding a church, our position in Christ, the security of the believer, persecution and trials and many other essential topics for believers.
Training for Believers
Learn how to:
Share with the biblically illiterate, confused or hardened
Overcome fear and lack of understanding
Make the most of spur-of-the-moment and long-term opportunities
Engage and share without being preachy
Help people understand the life-changing central message of the Bible
Make being an ambassador for Christ part of a lifelong lifestyle
TERM for small groups is comprised of 50-minute sessions that build confidence in the gospel to change lives, including your own.
Whether as an in-home study with your family or an online study with a group, the Tabernacle is a fascinating study for young and old alike. Learn the significance of the structure and its furniture as you assemble the scale model.
While most of us were happy to bid farewell to 2020, things haven’t suddenly turned a corner with the beginning of a new year. Many are waiting till things return to normal to take up certain activities, whether it’s a hobby, exercise or to reach out to others.
But let’s not wait for circumstances to improve before we step out in faith. Let’s look for opportunities where they lay and not allow less-than-ideal events to waylay us. This will likely require flexibility and creativity.
Have you been wanting to do a Bible study with a friend? Don’t wait until COVID clears up in order to get together. Make arrangements to get started right away. Many have had effective studies via phone, over Zoom or Skype, outdoors with social distancing and any number of other avenues. GoodSeed materials are very well-suited to this type of study. See more below.
The Lord delights in shining his grace into the lives of others through his children, especially as we walk through times of difficulty. Don’t wait for things to get better. Often, your most effective outreach happens when things are most decidedly not ideal. Let’s take advantage of this time and not wait for a “better” day in the future.
Christmas is an ideal time to share the Gospel with others. It tends to be a season of greater openness, of gift-giving, of sharing the things close to our hearts. Christmas gives us a unique once-a-year opportunity to touch the lives of those who might otherwise not be open to receiving such a gift.
Here are some ideas to consider:
These booklets are ideal for mass giveaways. Costing less than a Christmas card, consider giving the Gospel message instead. Hand them out at the close of your Christmas Eve service, include them in gift baskets given away for the season, or tuck one into your gift to your neighbour or co-worker.
Do you have a burden for specific individuals in your life? Perhaps you have children or grandchildren who need to firmly understand the Bible’s message. Or a neighbour, co-worker or friend with whom you’ve built up a relationship and would accept a gift of this nature. Christmas is a natural time to give such gifts and have them readily accepted.
Whatever happens this Christmas, let’s be people who are full of the Good News of Christ and ready to share “a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
After months of planning, packing and COVID delays, we’re thrilled to see GoodSeed Australasia opening in Queensland. This week we launched our Australasian online store and it is now live. Check it out at https://au.goodseed.com.
Most of us sincerely desire to reach others for Christ. But what if, instead of giving others a helping hand in learning about Jesus, we unintentionally become an obstacle they must overcome.
Credible: offering reasonable grounds for being believed. (1) Credibility:the quality or power of inspiring belief. (2)
The issue of credibility is a big one these days. It involves who we trust and why we trust them. When we are proven trustworthy in one area of life, the result often is that people trust us in other areas of life. We are credible.
Sadly, the Christian community is losing credibility these days due to how some believers choose to express their opinions (whether about politics, COVID or a myriad of other issues) so vehemently in the public arena. In my small circle, I have seen a great deal of name-calling, shaming–even salvation and godliness–questioned between believers simply over a difference of opinion on a minor issue.
In the words of the Apostle James: “…things should not be this way” (James 3:10).
Not only is tone a big issue, but the level of discernment is also concerning. For some, the criteria used to determine credibility is often based upon shared ideology. Does a person have a liberal or conservative worldview? What are that person’s political convictions? What do they believe about Covid? How about the …[fill in the blank]… theory? Based upon agreement in one area, opinions may be formed for a wide range of issues. Then when those opinions are expressed without discernment or humility, it leads to a lack of credibility. When we espouse ideas as if they’re the gospel truth, yet they cannot be clearly and gently defended from Scripture, we lose credibility before the world, and our witness is significantly compromised.
Putting one’s faith in the gospel is the most consequential step a person can take. An individual’s eternal destiny is at stake. The message of the Bible is hard for many to believe. People are skeptical. The starting point for many unbelievers is a belief that Christians are gullible, non-critical thinkers who are no different than the rest of world. In that light, it’s essential that we work hard to be credible in all areas of life, keeping in mind that an unbelieving world is watching… and watching closely.
Now, I’m not saying we should compromise on areas of Scripture that clearly teach difficult truths in order to be more relevant to the world. Not at all! The Bible does contain truths that are truly hard for many to swallow and we are right to stand by God’s Word. But let’s be oh-so-careful in how we communicate. And let’s be wise about which of our own opinions and soapbox issues is worth adding to the list of things “difficult to swallow.”
We need not throw up additional barriers for unbelievers to navigate before they believe the gospel.
The Apostle Paul gave us wise guidance that is so pertinent to the times in which we are living. These are mainly found in Romans 14, though surrounding chapters are also helpful in this area. I highly recommend sitting down and reading Romans 12-15 through in one sitting.
In Romans 14, Paul starts by instructing believers not to argue about “disputed matters” (v 1)*. According to Got Questions, “Disputable matters can be summed up as non-essential issues in the Christian life, or “gray areas” in which the Bible does not spell out clear guidelines.”(3) Later in the chapter, Paul says that if these disagreements jeopardize relationships, then “whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God” (v 22a). That’s tough to swallow in an age where it’s considered right and normal to argue publicly and aggressively about even the most minor issues.
Why would Paul tell us to keep our opinions on disputable matters to ourselves? Well, Paul says that when we are quick to judge others on things that are not clearly stated in God’s Word, we can in effect “tear down God’s work” (v 20). Paul fears that when our passions are ignited over debatable opinions, we may, sadly, “destroy … someone for whom Christ died” (v 15). This is serious business, not to be lightly dismissed.
People’s eternity is at stake.
“Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves,” Paul says in verse 22. We choose our battles wisely when we’re guided by our passion for leading others to Christ and living by His Word. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (v 8). Our lives need to be more about Christ and less about politics, health, or many other less essential views, no matter which side of an issue you stand on.
Last week, we wrote about keeping the Main Thing the main thing. That’s what we must come back to. And by doing so, we can save our credibility and be the kind of people who unbelievers might just turn to for insight into the really big stuff of life—like receiving eternal life after death.
*All quoted Scripture is from the Christian Standard Bible.
I recently walked through a cemetery in a small town that has experienced more than its share of tragedy. I was struck by how the lives of those snuffed out by disaster were summed up by their loved ones after the fact. Many tombstones expressed the relationships and love of those left behind. (“Loving wife and mother.”) Some epitaphs referenced a hope in Christ. But the one that most impacted me was a headstone that expressed its occupant’s love of a certain hockey team. That, I thought, was a true tragedy. A man whose whole life was best summed up by his sporting preferences – so much so that his grieving family thought it important to include on his headstone.
It got me thinking… What words would our loved ones inscribe on our headstones? What are the things we speak most passionately about? What are we known for? Not, what do we think we’re known for, but what is our actual reputation?
These days, with so many strong opinions being heatedly exchanged about the pandemic, social issues, politics–just to name a few–we can easily give the impression that those issues are our passion, instead of concerns of a more eternal nature.
It is during difficult times like these, however, when the glory of the gospel can shine forth all the brighter. The hope we have because we understand the big picture story of our world; of knowing that our future is safe with Christ; of the assurance we can have in our eternal destiny–these are things our world so desperately longs for and is the truth that grounds us during hard days… at least it should. But as believers, we have a tendency to get easily distracted. We forget to keep the Main Thing (the gospel) the main thing.
John Stonestreet on his Breakpoint broadcast recently described the common responses Christians might have to current events: “There are two likely reactions. One is despair that the world is irreparably broken and…there’s nothing that can be done …The other reaction…is to play a sort of cultural “whack-a-mole” [where] every little story that pops up gets completely blown out of proportion and we want to smack it on the head as if we immediately know all the details.” He goes on to say that it’s the gospel that keeps us grounded and keeps us from the extremes of despair and from hopping on every bandwagon that rolls our way.
Perhaps those two reactions are exactly what Satan, our enemy, wants for us. Distracted, alarmed, chasing after things that seem important today, only to be forgotten tomorrow when a new concern erupts. He wants us completely consumed with the things of this life that have no good eternal outcome. He wants the world to see that the Christian faith has no benefit in this life when the going gets rough. Satan would love it if, in fact, the world sees believers behaving badly during hard times. And if we’re honest, many of us have cooperated with Satan’s agenda for us.
So what can be done? How do we keep the Main Thing the main thing?
Focus: Wherever we focus our thoughts, there our emotions and actions will follow.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.
In a time where we can become so easily distracted and scattered, focusing our minds on Christ and his work on the cross and the work he wants to do in us is absolutely essential. (Follow the links to find materials that can strengthen your focus.)
Knowledge: What we think about needs to be based upon truth. These days, it can be hard to know what is true. Therefore, it’s important to focus on what is indisputably true and leave the questionable things to the Lord. We don’t want to waste our time following the rabbit trails of what-ifs.
Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy — dwell on these things.
Action: Lastly, the old adage that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop” could apply here. Simply, if we are not actively doing what we can to share the Truth of the gospel, then we will default to actively sharing information that is far less worthy and uplifting. GoodSeed exists to help believers put feet to their faith.
Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Focusing on the Lord and on his work brings peace to our hearts.
Let’s be people who are known for the Gospel. Let’s not be defined by our political leanings, our COVID opinions or our pop-culture slogans. Let’s be characterized by a love for God’s Word and a zeal to share his message of hope.
1. The Lamb (Ages 5-8) Take your children on a journey through The Lamb, introducing them to a beautiful, yet simple and clear explanation of the gospel. Reading one chapter a day, this will take around 10 days. Don’t rush and make sure you ask the questions at the end of each chapter. See here for craft ideas. (2-3 hrs total reading)
2. No Ordinary Story (Ages 9+) No Ordinary Story is a series of small booklets, illustrated and easy-to-read. The books also give access to video clips to enrich the learning experience. This book will give your student the foundations needed to grow in one’s walk with Christ. (8-10 hrs)
3. The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, using the Worldview Rethink Course (Ages 12+) This course guides you through The Stranger, giving an in-depth overview of the gospel from Genesis to the cross. Using visual aids, video clips and workbooks, this course will give your teenager a solid foundation upon which to build his or her faith. (12-15hrs)
4. Tabernacle Model Kit (All ages) This model kit is truly a hands-on learning experience for all ages. Paint the various parts as a family if you wish. Then assemble the pieces as you learn about the Tabernacle and how it points us to Christ. Use the 10 lessons available from GoodSeed or follow more in-depth materials to guide you.
In Part One of this series, we saw that it is virtually impossible to understand the Bible if you don’t have a correct understanding of God’s nature, or his identity.
But it’s not enough to simply know the identity of a person in order to trust him. I could tell you that my friend Jason is a software programmer. You would then know the identity of Jason, but you would not know if he was a good man or a bad man. Is Jason reliable? Does he make promises and keep them? What’s his track record? You would want to know these things before you trusted Jason.
People need a little background and history to make sense of the gospel. If we tell them to trust God, but they don’t know what God is like, then they likely won’t trust him.
In the same way, we also need to know some of God’s history before we trust him. People need a little background and history to make sense of the gospel. If we tell them to trust God, but they don’t know what God is like, then they likely won’t trust him.
Building a case for the reliability and trustworthiness of God is critical if people are going to take the monumental step of staking their eternity on him. We must take the time to build their confidence in both God’s identity and his history.
This the Bible does throughout the pages of Scripture, putting God’s reliability to the test again and again through the giving of hundreds of prophecies. Is God reliable? Can I depend upon him making good on his promise of what will happen in the future?
In fact, we see a pattern emerge throughout Scripture. God often gave multiple promises to people at once, some of which would be fulfilled quickly, others at a later date. As the individual witnessed the short-term promises being fulfilled one after another, he or she could be increasingly confident that the promises made regarding a later future event would also come to pass at the right time.
As the individual witnessed the short-term promises being fulfilled one after another, he or she could be increasingly confident that the promises made regarding a later future event would also come to pass at the right time.
We find examples of this in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, on through the prophets and into the New Testament with Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and the disciples.
When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was told that he would have a child who would be the forerunner of the Messiah, he asked, “How can I be sure of this?” God gave him four specific short-term promises. (1. His barren wife would have a child; 2. The child would be a boy; 3. Zechariah would be struck mute; 4. Zechariah would be able to speak again once his child was born.) If these came true, Zechariah could be sure that the prophecies regarding his son’s future job description and the soon arrival of the Messiah would also be true. (1)
God took thousands of years to reveal his identity and history to mankind. Not only do we need the history of God to establish his trustworthiness, but we need that history to lay the foundations for the gospel, to make sense of his death and resurrection. (We’ll take a deeper look at that in a future article.) Let’s be sure we take sufficient time and care in our gospel presentations to ensure our listeners also grasp enough of God’s character and trustworthy nature to be confident in Whom they are placing their faith.
GoodSeed International has linked with Ambassadors for Christ to make this online booklet available over the Easter Season. For the next two weeks, you can download this booklet at no charge and share it with your friends and family.