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SESSION 6

ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER

The Point Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.

The Passage Acts 11:19-26

The Bible Meets Life Until recently, not many people were familiar with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig’s disease—an incurable, progressive, muscle-weakening disease that ultimately ends in death. Then the ice-bucket challenge emerged in the summer of 2014. People were challenged to pour a bucket of ice and water on their heads to raise awareness for ALS and encourage donations for research. Whoever did this challenge could then challenge others. Thanks to videos being posted on social media, the idea went viral. People all over the country and around the world jumped on the bandwagon and took the challenge. By the end of 2014, few did not know about this fatal disease. More importantly, over $100 million was raised, allowing research efforts to be tripled. The early Christians didn’t need an ice-bucket challenge to motivate them to share Christ. They had the message of life, and they were eager to spread the good news. In the Book of Acts, we meet a man named Barnabas who took the challenge to follow Christ and then spent his life encouraging others to do the same.

The Setting Following the stoning of Stephen, the believers in Jerusalem faced increased persecution. Many scattered to various parts of the world. Some ended up in Antioch, the administrative center for the Roman province of Syria, 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Antioch was a busy port city, a center for luxury and culture, and home to a wide assortment of people. Its cosmopolitan population presented the scattered church an exciting opportunity to spread the gospel.

© 2017 LifeWay

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What does the Bible say?

Acts 11:19-26 Greeks (v. 20)—Literally “Hellenists.” Describes the people who identified themselves with Greek culture, customs, and language. The term sometimes would have referred to Grecian Jews, but here it means Gentiles.

Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.

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But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 20

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 21

News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch.

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When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord. 23

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Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul,

and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

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© 2017 LifeWay

THE POINT

Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.

GET INTO THE STUDY DISCUSS: Question #1 on page 53

5 minutes

Notes

of the PSG: “When have you seen something go viral?” Note: Answers do not have to reference technology. Group members could mention a viral disease that hit your community, for example, or a fashion trend that exploded in popularity. ACTIVITY (OPTIONAL): Supplement Question #1 by playing a few viral videos that have been popular in recent months. Be sure to choose videos that became popular because of their humor and good cheer, rather than for humiliation or bad taste. Note: If you don’t have access to a video screen, you could encourage group members to share about one or more viral videos they have enjoyed seeing in recent months. GUIDE: Direct group members to “The Bible Meets Life” on page 54 of the PSG. Introduce the story of Barnabas by reading or summarizing the text—or by encouraging group members to read on their own. GUIDE: Call attention to “The Point” on page 54 of the PSG: “Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.” PRAY: Transition into the discussion by acknowledging that the spreading of the gospel throughout history has been a tremendous display of God’s power and authority. Pray that you will have what it takes to continue that good work—and to encourage others in doing the same.

© 2017 LifeWay

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 11:19-21

Notes

Now those who had been scattered as a result of the persecution that started because of Stephen made their way as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. 19

READ: Acts 11:19-21 on page 55 of the PSG. Read the text out loud or ask a volunteer to do so. LEADER PACK: Use Pack Item 6, “Map of Acts 11,” to help group members see where Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch were located in the ancient world. The map also includes additional information for those interested in learning more. RECAP: Read the first paragraph on page 55 of the PSG to help group members understand the context of this story from Acts 11: Two characteristics stood out about the church in its earliest days: it was a movement among Jews, and it was largely confined to Jerusalem. All of that changed when Stephen was killed (see Acts 7:58–8:1). Stephen was the first martyr in the church, and his death sparked a wave of persecution against Christians in Jerusalem. As a result, believers scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Thankfully, “Those who were scattered went on their way preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). ALTERNATE QUESTION: What about these verses do you find encouraging?

DISCUSS: Question #2 on page 55 of the PSG: “Why do we sometimes shy away from certain groups of people when sharing the gospel?” Note: This is a question about Christians generally, not your group members specifically. Why do God’s people sometimes resist the command to share the gospel with certain groups of people? TRANSITION: As we continue with Acts 11:22-24, we’ll see how the church at Jerusalem responded to the new of Gentiles responding to the gospel.

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© 2017 LifeWay

THE POINT

Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.

Acts 11:19-21 Commentary Encourage anyone and everyone to follow Christ. [Verse 19] Luke traced the backstory of the Spirit’s movement in Antioch to the stoning of Stephen when the persecution of believers intensified. Believers scattered, settling in faraway cities in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch—all in predominantly Gentile lands. Phoenicia mainly encompassed the seacoast area of Syria. Cyprus, an island situated off the coast of Asia Minor, had a large Jewish colony. Some of the believers from Jerusalem came to Antioch, a major city in the GrecoRoman world. Everywhere they went, they began speaking the word. These Christian refugees initially shared the gospel message with no one except Jews. This is understandable, since most of the early Christians viewed their faith as a natural extension of their Jewish heritage. This wasn’t an attempt to exclude the Gentiles; rather, it was what they had always done. [Verse 20] Those refugees who journeyed farthest north arrived in Antioch. There, some of them took the bold step of proclaiming the good news to Gentiles. Luke offered no clues as to the identity of these itinerant witnesses beyond calling them men from Cyprus and Cyrene. Later he would identify five prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, including “Lucius of Cyrene” (see 13:1), perhaps one of those who brought the gospel to Gentiles in Antioch. The recent experiences in Jerusalem would have suggested a more cautious approach, yet they cast aside all restraint to preach the gospel to everyone who would listen. Finally the gospel broke the shackles of religious tradition and became good news for all people. We should also note that they shared the gospel with Gentiles in a culturally relevant way. They preached about the Lord Jesus rather than “Jesus Christ.” To present Jesus as the Messiah to Gentiles who knew nothing of the hope of Israel would not have been an effective appeal. Instead, they used the Greek term for “Lord” that the people would have more readily understood due to its use in the Hellenistic world. [Verse 21] Because of the believers’ bold proclamation, the gospel exploded in Antioch. The Lord’s hand referred to God’s power as He enabled Gentiles to believe in a large number as they turned to the Lord. The verbs believed and turned summarized the response of faith, because faith demands turning to the Lord Jesus. God sovereignly overruled the Jerusalem persecution by scattering believers to distant places. Despite being displaced, God worked in their lives and gave them grace to endure hardship as they proclaimed the good news of Jesus. We must not overlook the significance that God picked a cosmopolitan, morally corrupt city like Antioch to become the missionary center of the gospel movement. In this secular, pagan environment, common Christians told the simple gospel message of Jesus and forgiveness as God’s free gift. They took this gospel, the power of salvation for the Jews, and shared it with pagan Gentiles who also experienced the power of God for salvation.

© 2017 LifeWay

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 11:22-24

Notes

News about them reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to travel as far as Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged all of them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And large numbers of people were added to the Lord. 22

DO: Direct group members to complete the activity “Give It a Try” on page 57 of the PSG. If time permits, encourage volunteers to share their responses. Choose one of the following scenarios and record how you would offer encouragement to the person described. Be specific in the approach you would take and the words you would say. 1. Your friend has been out of work for several months and recently missed out on another job opportunity. 2. Your brother’s last child just moved out of the house, and he’s trying to adjust to living as an empty-nester. 3. A young couple that recently moved into your community has started attending your church and your Bible study group. Why is encouraging others a necessary part of following Jesus? READ: Acts 11:22-24 on page 56 of the PSG. GUIDE: Encourage group members to read the first two paragraphs on page 58 of the PSG in order to learn more about Barnabas as a person. ALTERNATE QUESTION: What are some practical ways we can help each other grow in our walk with Christ?

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ACTIVITY (OPTIONAL): Encourage group members to identify songs on their phones or other devices that help them feel cheerful or encouraged. Ask volunteers to play about 30 seconds of one of their songs for the rest of the group. DISCUSS: Question #3 on page 58 of the PSG: “Why is encouraging others a necessary part of following Jesus?”

© 2017 LifeWay

THE POINT

Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.

Acts 11:22-24 Commentary Encourage others to grow in their walk with Christ. [Verse 22] The news of large numbers of Hellenists coming to Christ reached the “mother church” in Jerusalem. As the church of the apostles and with their direct link to Jesus, the Jerusalem church naturally would have shown interest in the happenings in Antioch. The early believers had not fully foreseen the implications of the Holy Spirit’s activity among Gentiles. They almost exclusively directed their efforts to reaching Jews. The news about what was happening in Antioch created a considerable stir and prompted church leaders to dispatch someone to investigate. They sent out Barnabas. As a Levite and a native of the island of Cyprus, Barnabas’s sympathies would have likely been broader than those of Judeanborn Jewish believers. Barnabas had previously shown “bridge-building” characteristics (see 9:27). He had proven his ability to see both sides of an issue and to find middle ground for the two sides. [Verse 23] Upon arrival in Antioch, Barnabas rejoiced as he witnessed the grace of God in action. He encouraged all who had come to faith in Christ, both Jewish and Gentile believers. The word encouraged included a wide range of assurances that would inspire and strengthen, including admonishing, advising, warning, and comforting. Barnabas urged them to remain true to the Lord with devoted hearts. He did not tell them they needed something more because they had received from God all they needed. He urged them to remain faithful to the Lord and to do so intelligently and with purpose of heart. The Greek here means, “according to a set plan.” They should not come simply to enjoy the fellowship, the great worship services, and the excitement of knowing the Lord. They needed to learn purposefully more about the Lord, to seek the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ through the Word of God. [Verse 24] In describing Barnabas, Luke painted the spiritual profile of the kind of Christ-follower everyone would do well to emulate. He emphasized three characteristics. First, Luke called Barnabas a good man, a term he used only one other time in his description of Joseph of Arimathea (see Luke 23:50). “Good man” meant his character was righteous and above reproach. Second, Luke said that Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit, meaning the fruit of the Spirit was evident in his life. Third, Luke described Barnabas was as a man full of faith, meaning he acted upon what God said. Barnabas took God at His word and trusted the Lord unquestioningly. Because of his sterling example of character and faith as a man full of the Holy Spirit, the believers in Antioch had all the stimulus they needed to continue to reach even more followers for Christ as evidenced by the large numbers of converts increasing rapidly. When he came to Antioch, Barnabas fully expected God to lead him. Barnabas made a difference in that city because he came ready to serve as a man full of the Spirit and full of faith. He encouraged people to grow in their faith.

© 2017 LifeWay

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15 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE Acts 11:25-26

Notes

Then he went to Tarsus to search for Saul, 26 and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught large numbers. The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

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READ: Acts 11:25-26 on page 58 of the PSG. DISCUSS: Question #4 on page 58 of the PSG: “When have you been challenged to leave your comfort zone as a disciple of Jesus?” RECAP: Encourage group members to review the bulleted list on page 59 of the PSG. We can use the same method as Barnabas when we encourage others to step up and serve the cause of Christ:

>> “Let the person watch. When you’re teaching and mentoring, start by modeling what to do. For example, let the person observe you sharing your faith.”

>> “Serve together. Let the person participate and lead right alongside you.” >> “Hand off. Let the person do the task or ministry on his or her own. You’ve

mentored, trained, and guided. Now let the person run with it, but always be there with encouragement and praise.”

ALTERNATE QUESTION: What opportunities exist in our church for serving and encouraging others?

DISCUSS: Question #5 on page 59 of the PSG: “What are some advantages in doing God’s work together?” Note: Encourage group members to think practically when answering this question. What are the real-life advantages Christians can gain by working together to advance God’s kingdom? What are the benefits for those who serve together and those who are served? GUIDE: Refer back to “The Point” for this session: “Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.” As time permits, encourage volunteers to share any final thoughts and questions.

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THE POINT

Encourage people in their relationships with Christ and one another.

Acts 11:25-26 Commentary Encourage others to serve Christ. [Verse 25] Barnabas quickly realized he needed help to ground the great number of new believers in Antioch in doctrine and practice. He knew exactly who he needed for the job, so he went to Tarsus to fetch Saul. Choosing the former persecutor of the church was radical, but Barnabas knew Saul’s background and leadership were exactly what was needed. Barnabas had a significant influence on Saul’s early life as a believer (see Acts 9:26-30). However, as many as 10 years had passed since that time, and Saul had returned to Tarsus to preach the gospel. Barnabas was convinced this former persecutor turned preacher was right for the task ahead in Antioch. [Verse 26] When the Holy Spirit had Saul prepared for the assignment in Antioch, He sent Barnabas to Tarsus to find Saul. When he found him, Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch, ready for a lifelong ministry that changed the course of human history. Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught large numbers of people. They taught the believers in Antioch intentionally and systematically for a whole year. Surely they taught them the foundational truths about God, the uniqueness of Jesus, what it meant to follow Jesus, and about the character of God and the sinfulness of man. They must have pointed to the sufficiency of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross, the necessity to believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, and about the urgency of eternity because all people will either spend forever in heaven or forever in hell. Furthermore, they equipped the believers in Antioch to scatter the gospel across cultures. In a cosmopolitan city like Antioch, they would have had the opportunity to influence the world with the gospel. We would do well to contemplate the last sentence in verse 26: The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. Apparently, the Antioch believers enjoyed talking about Christ all the time, wherever they went, to anyone who would listen. The pagans in Antioch knew all about these people. These believers would not keep quiet about their faith, and they proclaimed it wherever they went. It would not be hard to imagine how this “Christian” moniker may have originated because the believers apparently talked about Jesus Christ all the time—while shopping at the market, while watching athletic events, as they washed their clothes at the river, while working in shops and in the fields. Christ was the focus of their lives. He was the One who forgave them and who was the Source of their lives. “Who are these people?” one Antiochian would ask another as two or three unofficial missionaries talked about Jesus wherever they went. The answer would be, “Oh, those are the people who are always talking about Christ. They are the Christ-followers—the Christians.”

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5 minutes

LIVE IT OUT GUIDE: Direct group members to page 60 of the PSG. Encourage them to consider the following

Notes

suggestions for encouraging others this week:

>> A note of thanks. Identify one person

who has encouraged you. Write a note to him or her and express your gratitude for that help and encouragement.

>> A word of encouragement. Take time

this week to encourage someone in their walk with Christ. Make a call, write a note, or come alongside someone you know needs a word of support.

>> A relationship of encouragement. Develop an ongoing relationship with someone that includes regular meetings. Mentor this person in a particular area of life and encourage his or her growth in Christ.

Wrap It Up TRANSITION: Read or restate the Conclusion from page 60 of the PSG: Are you ready to see encouragement and support go viral in your church? In your community? If so, you can be the catalyst by choosing to encourage those around you to grow in Christ and grow together as the body of Christ. PRAY: Conclude by thanking God for the privilege of being in a group of fellow Christians who have the opportunity to support and encourage one another on a regular basis. Pray that each of you would take advantage of that opportunity in a way that honors God and advances His kingdom.

Free additional ideas for your group are available at BibleStudiesforLife.com/AdultExtra 78

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© 2017 LifeWay

“INFORMATION TRANSFER” IS HURTING YOUR GROUP BY KEN BRADDY

When I travel, I often drop in and visit Bible study groups in different churches around the country—and I’ve noticed an unfortunate trend in recent years. I see it when well-meaning teachers stand (or sit) in front of a large group of learners and “teach” a lesson. The goal in this kind of classroom is the transfer of information. The teacher studied throughout the week, and Sunday morning is the time for an “information dump” into the minds of the class members. The teacher learned lots of interesting facts and information, is considered the biblical expert, and group members should be expected to sit and soak in the teacher’s knowledge. Right? Wrong! This kind of “information transfer” has hurt group Bible studies all over the world. Mere information transfer isn’t helping groups reach new people or helping current members grow spiritually. In fact, information transfer may be hurting your efforts to do just that in your group.

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The Problem There are several ways that an information-transfer approach to Bible study has hurt groups. Here are some of the biggest: 1. N  ew groups are not being started. The information-transferring teacher often loves listening to the sound of his own voice. This kind of teacher is the star—the featured attraction—and he loves being at the center of his own small teaching universe. This kind of teacher releases people to start new groups very infrequently. In his mind, “bigger is better.” His goal is to have the largest class in the church, and to wield the most power. The larger the group, the greater the chance that group’s experience is based on the transfer of information.  pprentice teachers are not stepping up. New groups don’t start 2. A without new leaders. New leaders most often come from those who have apprenticed with a successful leaders. And apprentice leaders will not readily volunteer to co-teach a class that has an informationtransferring lead teacher. Why not? Because the apprentice, who often lacks the teaching experience of the veteran teacher, believes he cannot hold a candle to his mentor who seems to possess and freely distribute all kinds of facts about the Bible. The potential new teacher thinks, “I could never be like that,” and so he never tries. 3. Group members are bored. The teacher who exclusively lectures is not communicating with all of his group members in their preferred ways of learning. There are at least eight approaches to learning, and an “information transfer” lesson appeals to only a handful of learners in our Bible study groups—specifically those who are happy to sit and listen. Information transfer is much less helpful for people who learn visually, people who learn kinesthetically (hands-on), people who connect to music, people who prefer to learn by reading, and so on. To be clear, I’m not opposed to an occasional Bible study in which there is “information transfer.” Jesus used information transfer effectively during His Sermon on the Mount. At times, it is an appropriate way to teach. But Jesus’ preferred methods didn’t involve wholesale “information dumps.” Instead, He used a variety of teaching techniques to communicate His messages.

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The Solution Here are some options for moving away from an information-transfer approach to leading your group: 4. Let people talk. The key to discussion in a group setting is to ask well-crafted discussion questions. For example, take advantage of the five discussion questions featured each Personal Study Guide of Bible Studies for Life. Don’t settle for short answers. Probe. Encourage group members to discuss and engage with one another, not just give an answer to you. 5. Don’t set up the room in rows. If your group’s meeting space is set up with rows of chairs, people can only see the backs of people’s heads. This doesn’t help to generate conversation. Instead of rows, set up your room in two or three half-circles, curving the chairs to that people can see one another’s faces. Eye contact is a key element to any conversation. Therefore, seeing faces helps to generate discussion. 6. Change your mindset. Too many teachers equate teaching with telling and learning with listening. Don’t settle for a “sit and soak” philosophy. Your people deserve better. A group setting isn’t just another time for preaching to take place. Let your pastor deliver the sermon—you deliver an engaging Bible study in which people have the freedom to respond, question, disagree, and even teach and influence the group with their own wisdom and experiences. —Ken Braddy is the manager of Adult Ongoing Bible Studies at LifeWay. He blogs weekly with great ideas for becoming a better Bible study leader. Follow Ken’s blog at kenbraddy.com.

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