Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bible Study Resources

As a regular participant in a weekly Bible Study Group (called "Sabbath School" in the Adventist denomination) and having served as a Sabbath School Director and an Adventist Church Pastor, I am passionate about small group Bible studies. Below you will find a compilation of articles, discussion guides, stories and more.

Simple Bible Study Discussion Guide: A single-sheet template for preparing and running a discussion based on a passage of Scripture.

Teaching Great Sabbath School Studies: My strategy for leading Adult Study Guide-based Sabbath School classes.

StartWarmers - Start each small group meeting with the heart.

The Jesus Journey - Mark (Video Series)

Jesus Journey - Part 1 - Mark 1:1-13

Jesus Journey - Part 2 - Mark 1:14-20

Jesus Journey - Part 3 - Mark 1:21-2:12

Jesus Journey - Part 4 - Mark 2:13-3:6

Jesus Journey - Part 5 - Mark 3:7-35

Jesus Journey - Part 6 - Mark 4:1-20

Jesus Journey - Part 7 - Mark 4:21-34

Sabbath School Stories

Published as "Building a Fellowship System"
in Sabbath School Toolbox - Q3 & Q4 2014
Steve's First Sabbath School - A Parable
The story of a healthy holistic Bible study group that put into practice the following Mission Statement.

Sabbath School Mission statement " Published in 2014 in two parts in the print edition of "Sabbath School Toolbox".

Jesus Comes to Sabbath School - A Parable
What if Jesus came to your Bible Study Group? This parable leads the reader into a time of repentance and confession that will quicken your heart and strengthen your faith. Written as a study help for week 6, Q3 2013.

Sabbath School Manifesto and Training Articles

4 Ways to Make Sabbath School Great Again
This is my Vision and Mission Statement of how to have a healthy life-giving church. Just like the early Seventh-day Adventist movement, it all starts with effective holistic Sabbath School classes!

The Secret of Our Strength
Using the story of the strongman Samson, the strength of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is explored particularly focusing on well-run holistic Sabbath school classes.

Sabbath School reStoried
Storytelling is the purpose of Sabbath School because this is the purpose of community. We were created for a story greater than our moment in time and are only fully alive when we take our place in the story of the ages as both character and narrator. His story is your story is my story is our story is salvation's story for the world.

The Purpose 
This short piece explores the purpose of Sabbath school, links it with the primary purpose of being a Christian and ends with a personal challenge!

Energise your Sabbath School - A Workshop
This video of a workshop I ran demonstrates how your church can empower Sabbath School to fulfil its purpose: Grow the church!

The Perfect Sabbath School
A short piece I wrote reflecting on the four-fold mission of Sabbath School.

Lest We Forget!

Sabbath School - June 29 - Malachi
A Sabbath School resource
from the Victoria Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia

Read Malachi 1:1-5

How do you feel about God using His demolition of a land a people as proof of His love? 

Are there better examples of God’s Love? Why do you think God chose to use this example? 

Read Malachi 1:6-10

Is God justified in wanting someone to shut the temple doors? Why?

How seriously would you take an apology that was accompanied by a handful of wilted flowers and a half-eaten box of chocolates? Why?

How did the foreshadowing of every offering to God increase the backhanded statement of their defiled sacrifices? Who were they comparing to blind, crippled and diseased animals?

Read Malachi 1:11-14

Why is it that people who barely know God honour Him but those who profess to worship Him treat God disrespectfully? How do you see this happening today?

Read Malachi 2:1-9  

How do you think a priest (in front of an audience, no doubt) would have felt to hear this message read aloud to them? 

Are priests held to a higher level of responsibility for spiritual things? Why?

Back to the flowers and chocolates... After receiving wilted flowers and half-eaten chocolates as an apology, what statement would it make if you removed the flowers from the vase and empty water over the head of the one who brought them to you? Is God’s threat in vs 3 similar to this? Is it worse? What message is God trying to make very clear?

Read Malachi 2:10-17

How are these three things similar:
   A man who marries a woman who worships foreign Gods.
   A family who claim to be related but disrespect each other. 
   A people who claim to worship God but do so dishonestly.

Why is it so offensive to God if a man divorces his wife just because she is old and he wants a young one? 

How powerful is a covenant made by people before God?
How powerful is a covenant made by God?
How do these two things reflect each other?

Read Malachi 3:1-5

Malachi mean “My Messenger” — In these verses God speaks of a Messenger to come  that He is sending with a special message. How do Malachi’s messages to the people of Israel foreshadow the words and actions of Jesus?

Read Malachi 3:6-18

What are the key messages about God and His nature in these verses?

What are the key practices God gives that His people can follow to demonstrate their allegiance to Him?

What will result from such allegiance? Why?

In this context, what does it mean to “fear the Lord?”

Read Malachi 4

To put it simply, Malachi the Messenger has this to say, “God is passionately displeased when those leading and worshiping in His community act in a disrespectful, selfish or half-hearted way. He’s cleaning house so the new Messenger, who is coming soon, will have a place where His message will be heard.” 
Did the message get through? Were they ready for Jesus when He arrived? How receptive was His hometown? 

Jesus daily approaches the temple of our hearts, hoping to find a place where His message will take root and grow. With the Temple of Jesus day as an example for us, how can we hear the words of Malachi the Messenger and take them to heart?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Drama: God Noticed

Narrator: One ordinary day, as Moses was looking after his father-in-law’s ordinary sheep, he saw something out of the ordinary.

Moses: Hey look, It’s a bush!

Narrator: But it wasn’t an ordinary bush.

Moses: (somewhat surprised) It’s on fire.

Narrator: I suppose it was the fire that was out of the ordinary.

Moses: Wow! It’s still burning! That bush is really out of the ordinary.

Narrator: The fire kept burning long after the bush should have been burnt to a crisp.

Moses: That’s extraordinary! I really must have a closer look. (walks toward bush)

God: (BOOMING VOICE) Take off your shoes, Moses!

Moses: But, I like my shoes.

God: (BOOMING VOICE) You are standing on Holy Ground!

Narrator: Moses realized something out of the ordinary was happening here. And he took of his shoes.

Moses: Yeah, yeah. I get the point. Shoes off. (takes sandals off)

God: I have noticed my people in Egypt.

Narrator: God explained that He had noticed His people in Egypt.

God: I have noticed they are in great suffering.

Moses: (stroking chin) Yes, I remember them. I ran away.

God: I noticed that, too.

Narrator: God notices everything.

God: And I noticed you suffering here in the desert.

Moses: It has been a tough 40 years.

God: I looked after you by providing a wife for you, and a job, working for her father.

Moses: (sarcastic) Yeah, thanks for that. Having my father-in-law as my boss has been wonderful.

Narrator: Moses was being sarcastic.

God: Yes, I noticed that.

Moses: It’s not easy working for family.

God: But it has shaped you into a man able to be both a leader and humble.

Narrator: And that’s not easy!

Moses: I noticed.

God: And now, we have a lot of work to do.

Moses: Yes, Father.

Narrator: Moses had accidently called God, Father.

Moses: Did I?

Narrator: You did.

God: And I liked it. Let’s get to work, Son.

Moses: He called me Son!

Narrator: I noticed . . . . God encouraged Moses and explained the strategy they would use to set His people free. They would do it together.

Reader's Theater: All Things Right (Reconciliation)

Adapted from 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

1: So we have stopped judging others from a human point of   view.

3: Oh we have, have we?

1: At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

2: Christ, who’s that?

4: Jesus, the God who loves you.

1: (nods) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.

4: The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

3: We could use some new life around here.

2: I’d sure would like a new life! But that would be too hard for someone like me.

1: And all of this is a gift from God,

4: See, it’s a gift! You can have it right now! It’s free for everyone!

3: Free? Everyone? I never win anything.

1: (nods) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.

2: Christ – That’s the one who loves me? (starting to get excited) All this is a gift from Him?

4: That’s right.   And God has given us this task of forgiving people and drawing them to Him.

2: You mean, I have to be nice to him? (looks over at number 2)

1: Well, God was in Christ, forgiving the world, and stopped counting people’s sins against them.

4: And he gave us this wonderful message of forgiveness.

2: So we are Christ’s ambassadors;

1: God is making his appeal through us.

4: So; We speak for Christ when we plead,

1,2,4:  (turn to number 2) “Come back to God!”

3: Are you sure He’d want me?

2 & 4: (step close to 3 and put arms around)

1: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Storytelling Strategies for Life

Last week I had an exciting opportunity to use my storytelling skills in a new and creative way.

I was asked to be on a brainstorming team for a new approach to explaining the Adventist faith to visitors to the website of the Adventist Schools Australia website. Many of the visitors are considering our schools for their children and need a clear and concise statement of what Adventists believe. How are we different to other Christians? How are we the same? Are we a cult? What are Adventists, really?

Our first meeting focused on bouncing some key ideas around. Here are some thoughts which resulted from my storytelling background.

1. Teach positives. In storytelling training sessions I challenge tellers to "know the value" you are teaching and build your story around that value. It is easy to tell fear-based stories because they are shocking, captivating and compelling. They seem to be working - because people are listening.

But, the true work of a story is in it's long term power - it will be remembered. Therefore, the value which will be remembered is the one organically embedded in the story - not the positive spin you put on the story at the end. So, it is extremely important to tell a story which exudes the positive attitude, value or viewpoint rather than the negative one. While developing a story which teaches the positive is more time consuming and telling it takes more artistic flair, your message will be remembered alongside the story in years to come.

One of the perceived needs for the website is to "dispel myths" of what an Adventist is or is not. The natural way to approach this would be to have a "Myth-busting" approach. But, because of the way the mind remembers information, putting the myth in bold print, before busting it, means you have to put the negative myth in bold print. This image in print will reinforce the story the viewer has already heard about that myth - giving it credence - even if it is proved false in the next sentence. I challenged the team, from my understanding of values in story, to research the myths. Make a list of them. And then develop positive ways to tell the "truth" about Adventists without reintroducing the myth. Yes, it's more work. But it will also be more effective as showing us to be a positive and trustworthy people!

2. Ask Questions. Jesus was a master storyteller. He presented far more questions than answers. Why? Because, as songwriter Michael Card sang in Could it Be: "questions tell us more than answers ever do" — questions empower us on our search for meaning.

A great storyteller spends time presenting questions to the audience and then exploring the answers with them. The old preaching strategy of "I'll tell you what I'm going to say. I'll say it. Then I'll tell you what I said" has seen it's day — if it truly ever had one... We spend far to much time giving answers before anyone is asking the question. This leads to work-a-holic preachers and bored listeners. When someone asks a question, they are ready (and hoping) for an answer. We should be about answering the questions we hear as we listen carefully to the world around us.

In the presentation of the 28 fundamentals of the Adventist Church, I suggested the website should have three core questions. Then, nested under those questions should be a simple answer to each and a few more questions that arise from that answer. Thus leading the viewer deeper in understanding, but following their own chosen thought path.

I hope you have found these bits of storytelling advice helpful. I'm sure there are a myriad of ways in which you can practice "teaching positives" and "asking questions" in your conversations, workplace, parenting and lifestyle today!

Children's Ministry Experts

Since coming back to work, I have been blessed to work alongside brilliant children’s ministry experts. It has been a pleasure to team up with them, in their environments, and watch them shine.

On April 22, I spent the morning with Lilydale Academy Chaplain Hayden Petersen. After speaking to the High School students for chapel, Hayden and I chatted for over an hour. If you’ve met Hayden, you have most likely experienced his creativity, passion and heart for the Gospel. My boys both attend Hayden’s school and have a deep respect for him. Thank Hayden!

On April 27, I helped Katherine Darroch run a workshop for parents at Victoria’s Adventurers Camporee. I am always impressed and inspired by Katherine’s Ministry. I have been blessed by her assistance many times over the past few years. This was my first time assisting Katherine! Again, I was amazed at Katherine’s excellent organizational skills. I have so much belief in Katherine and her abilities that I recommended her to replace me while I was away on sick leave. When I returned to work, I resigned from the Children’s Ministry directorship and Katherine continued. I believe, Katherine has been raised up for such a time as this!

From April 29-May 3, I joined Sheri Gray and Anthony MacPherson, chaplains at Victoria’s new school Gilson-Mernda, for the school’s first Week of Worship. Each morning, the children (most of whom are not Christian) sang songs of worship and I told them stories about people who met Jesus and the impact He had made on them. Our theme for the week was, “I Want to See Jesus!” I was so impressed to watch the ministry of Sheri and Anthony. Their impact in the lives of these children has just begun and already the kids love and respect them. It is clear why - they have a heart for the children!

During the next week, I visited the other Gilson campus for both High School chapels (Monday) and both Primary School chapels (Friday). With nearly 800 students, the Chaplains at Gilson have their work cut out for them! Mau Tuaoi and Chrissie Cooper are the chaplains to the High School students and Samantha Ridley chaplains the primary students. I had a long chat with Samantha and Chrissie on the Monday and was overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and impressed with their passion to meet it head-on! 

In the final week of May, I had the joy of visiting Prescott Southern Primary School in Adelaide. I had been invited over by school chaplain Lili Panozzo. Each morning I spoke twice - first to the younger kids, then to the older kids - for their Week of Worship. On the Sabbath morning, I gave a final presentation for the students, their parents and the church family of the Morphett Vale Church. During the week, I was amazed by Lili’s ministry. She has been chaplain there for six years and her connection to the families and community are very evident. The kids call out to Lili from across the playground and she calls back. They are like a big family. I owe particular thanks to Lili for the relationship she formed with my daughter Rachael, whom I had taken to Adelaide with me. They became fast friends and Rachael still talks about Lili. Thanks Lili! In Lili’s office I noticed a stack of unopened nappies. I made a joke about them and she told me the story. This stack was only the remnant of thousands of nappies which were once piled here. she had been giving nappies away to new parents for years. Lili is connected, from birth to graduation - and beyond!

This last weekend I joined a fantastic team in Canberra for the SNSW Conference Adventurer Fun Day. And what a fun day it was! I was absolutely blown away by this event.  The theme was “Jesus is the light of the world.” The kids were colour-coded in five groups and rotated through activity areas. I was looking after one of the areas where I blindfolded the kids and told them the story of the man born blind. In the middle of the day we had an absolutely delicious lunch. There was a worship service at the beginning and end of the day in which I told a story. Even though I totaled 7 stories told by the end of the day, my part was simple compared to the organizational gymnastics required to make the day run smoothly. That was the task of SNSW Children’s Ministry Director Andrew McCrostie. The sheer number of volunteers and the excellence of each was impressive. Then, watching them work like a well-oiled machine was beautiful. Such teamwork and expertise can only be the result of consistent and faithful leadership. Well done Andrew, and team. A big thanks to Andrew and Jossee for looking after Rachael and I for the weekend. You are truly generous hosts!

So, home once again, I am encouraged as I reflect on the excellence of ministry to children that I have witnessed in the past few months. May God continue to bless each of these people as they continue to change the world - one child at a time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Canberra Trip - Rachael

I've managed to score a speaking gig in Canberra in each year when I had a grade 6 kid. 
This is Rachael's trip to Canberra!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heaven’s Best Gift (Zechariah - part 2)

Sabbath School - June 22 - Zechariah - part 2
A Sabbath School resource
from the Victoria Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia

Let’s have a careful and prayerful look at Zechariah 8. The lesson deals with much more and if you are wanting a general overview, have a look at the other lesson guides. There is so much to be learned from Zechariah 8. Comparing ourselves and our world to the world and people in Zechariah’s day could lead to great things!

Read Zechariah 8:1-8

What would it feel like to, as a prophet, receive such an exciting and encouraging message from God for your people?

The people receiving this message were refugees. Every one of them had a personal story of being driven from their land and hoping to reclaim it one day. Consider the refugee situation in the world today. Many people in our church have been personally driven from their homeland and people. What would it feel like to hear a prophet declaring this message for your people, today? 
(If you have refugees in your church, consider asking one to tell of their journey from danger to safety, the suffering they have gone through and are going through and their response to the above question.)

How would it feel to be told, not only that you will be going home but that God will be living there with you and protecting you?

Read Zechariah 8:9-13

Based on the repeated message at the beginning and end of this passage, what is God wanting His people to do? Why?

If they are faithful in their building what does God promise to do? Why?

Consider a current task that your entire church is needing to accomplish. What is it? Why is it important? How does this message of promise to the people of Jerusalem give encouragement to your church in it’s task?

Read  Zechariah 8:14-23

In these verses, God gives His people some pointers on how to be a healthy community. How many actions and emotions can you find that God calls them to demonstrate toward each other? Make a list. 

Do you want to have a healthy thriving church? Apply this list of God’s wishes for His people to your church. How are you doing on each? Where do you shine? Where do you need work?
What kind of place would our church be if we were all of these things?
Is it really possible that how we treat each other can have such an impact? 
When have you seen ‘joyful and glad occasions’ at church? How did people respond?
When have you seen ‘love truth and peace’ in action among church members? What effect did it have on those nearby?

How can we become more compassionate to one another for the sake of the Kingdom? 
(Is there a story you can tell from your church about someone or some event that brought people into the church because of the compassion shown? Tell this story to demonstrate the power we have when we ‘love truth and peace’ and have ‘joyful and glad occasions’ in our churches.)

When you have a church like this, people will cling to you when you are going to church, saying, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.” How would that make you feel? How do you think it would make God feel?

May we create such places — where God is worshiped in both word and action and revealed through the character of each church member as they interact with each other and the world beyond our church walls. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Seeing with God's eyes

This morning I spoke for chapel at Lilydale Adventist Academy.

I told the story of Jimmy and the Sunspot followed by an activity that involved all the students and really challenged them! 

Jimmy's story is one I made up some years ago to teach compassion for the people society ignores. In the story, Jimmy gains the ability to look at a person and instantly see the greatest need in their life which he is able to fulfil. He soon realises that by doing what he is shown, he can make a powerful difference to the people around him. You can click on it to read the whole story. The main point is made in the last line when Jimmy decides to always see people the way he saw them "after looking at the sun." 

After telling the story, I had the students stand up, choose a partner, face each other and then I taught them a song:

Angel, angel, you are and angel
I see an angel in your eyes

It's a short song, but feels really long when you must look into the eyes of another person and, without looking away, sing the entire song. It was worth a bag of lolly snakes, so quite a few kids gave it a shot.

Those who couldn't make it through the song, sat down. I asked the remaining group to take one step closer to each other and we sang the song again - EYE CONTACT! - and sing! 

Angel, angel, you are and angel
I see an angel in your eyes

A few more pairs sat down. Then another step closer. EYE CONTACT! - and sing! 

Now, touching toes! EYE CONTACT! - and sing! 

More students sat down. Just two pairs remaining - all year 7's. (The youngest kids always win this!)

Now, touching noses! EYE CONTACT! - and sing! 

They did it! All four of them! So, I called them up the front and gave them their prize, to share. As the winners stood on the stage with me, I asked them if they saw anything in the eyes of the person they were singing to. Usually kids tell me, yes. They saw their own reflection.

And I concluded: 
If we get close enough to any other person on earth we will see ourselves reflected in them. That's the way God made us. The closer we get to Him — the more we look at Him, like Jimmy looked at the sun — the more we will see what God sees in every person we meet. God sees himself in us! He created us in His image and when He sings to us God doesn't sing, "I see an angel in your eyes." God looks into your eyes and sings, "I see myself in your eyes!" Because God created us in His image.

May you have the compassion to see what God sees when He looks at each and every person. And may you never stop looking at the Son.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Visions of Hope (Zechariah - part 1)

Sabbath School - June 15 - Zechariah - part 1
A Sabbath School resource from the Victoria Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia
Check out the SS Hotspot Website for more Sabbath School Resources

Read through the first four chapters of Zechariah together as a group, stopping occasionally to discuss the following questions and other questions of your own.

Read Zechariah 1

Have everyone write Zechariah 1:3 in their own words. Then read them aloud.
What is the message here?

In which situation are you most likely to make a difference to the world around you?
  1. Living in comfort
  2. Being comforted by God in hard timesWhy is that?
In the context of our “comfort” level, how does 1:3 challenge you?

Read Zechariah 2

What stands out to you the most from this chapter? Why?

How do you think God’s people reacted to the message that “many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day” when God comes to lives with us? Why would this have bothered them? 

When God “springs into action” he wraps his arms around all of humanity. Are you comfortable with this idea?

Read Romans 16:25-27

In verse 25 Paul says ‘my gospel’ and the message of ‘Jesus Christ’ combine to reveal a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. 

How does the arrival of Jesus on Earth hearken back to Zechariah 2? How did Jesus “spring in to action” while He was here? 

What does the ministry of Jesus on Earth reveal about the nature of God that was unknowable beforehand?

How was Paul’s unique “good news” (Gospel) that he combined with the story of Jesus able to help people? What was Paul’s unique angle?

What is ‘your gospel’ that you combine with the proclamation of Jesus Christ to lead people to faith? Do you have a unique angle? 
What is the most effective way to share the Gospel with the world around us? What words should we use? What actions?

Read Zechariah 3

As you read through this chapter, list the stages of judgement and forgiveness for sin. 

Who brings accusations to the Lord?
What does God do with the accusations? What does he do to the accuser?
What does God do with “your sins”? Is this fair? Why does God do it?
What does God replace our “dirty rags” with? How does this make you feel?
What does God put out the head of the one He claims and cleans? What does this mean to you?
What solemn command and promise does God give to those he claimed, cleaned and crowned? (Verse 7)
What were the priests a symbol of? 
How Zechariah 3 a foreshadowing of Jesus’ Ministry?

How does the treatment of this filthy man (both at the hands of Satan and God) give you hope? How does it make you feel about the grace and mercy of Jesus? How does it empower and embolden you as you share your faith with others?

Highlights from the 1st half of Zechariah

Consider these messages of Zechariah’s first three chapters: 
Chapter 1: Return to the Lord and He will return to you. 
Chapter 2: God wants to save everyone, not just a select group.
Chapter 3. Salvation is a gift, not a reward. 

What other messages did you get from these three chapters?

How does Zechariah 4:6 build on Chapters 1-3?

A Tale of Two Temples

Read Zechariah 5:5-11
What does God do with the “sins of everyone”?
What do those without God do when the “sin in a basket” arrives?

Read Zechariah 6:9-15
What do those who live in the world but love God do with their wealth?
Who rebuilds the temple of the Lord?
What draws these people to come and build?
How far out does God branch in the rebuilding of His temple?

Compare Zechariah 5:11 and 6:14
What are the similarities and differences?
When people came to each temple, and saw the memorial (basket/crown) of what would they be reminded? How does this reveal the heart of the two temples?

Both temples draw a crowd but for very different reasons.
Read Zechariah 7:8-14 
How does these verses explain the core purpose of the temple of God?
What kind of people would be drawn to this Temple?

Which temple does your church most resemble?
What kind of people does it attract?
Are you putting your fingers in your ears?

Next week we explore the rest of Zechariah and meet Heaven’s best Gift! 

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...