Assembly Summary: Foreshadowing the Future

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Mr. Mario Hernandez opened his recent lecture by commenting on why he thinks so many people are getting sick.

He believes that God might be foreshadowing what is to come. He spoke about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, reminding the students of what each horseman symbolizes and the order in which they appear. He stressed the importance of knowing and understanding these things, since these horses will begin galloping in the future. We are to take the illnesses occurring around us as a warning, especially considering that the first horseman, symbolizing deceptive religion, has not yet intensified his ride.

He strongly urged us that we need to take the opportunities that are provided at Living Education seriously, because God will require more from us than He will from those who have not had these opportunities. We cannot allow the distractions of the world to keep us from doing what God wants us to do. We must have zeal to do the work of God. He mentioned that we live in a world filled with perversion, and that these sins are spreading like wildfire. He stated that God is being provoked by humans and that He will bring punishments once the children are completely corrupted.

Developing Integrity and Character

Mr. Hernandez encouraged the students by stating, “Your future is bright.” If we are able to resist the temptation around us, we will be protected from what is coming. He mentioned that no society has been exposed to so much evil, in such concentrated amounts, and in such a short period of time, as our society today. We must have integrity and character, which are defined by what we do when no one is looking at us. 

Mr. Hernandez pointed to Ezekiel 14:12–23 to show that God will punish the nations for their perversions and sins. In the days of Noah, God preserved him along with his wife, sons, and sons’ wives. Yet, in our generation, a father will not be able to save his son by his righteousness, but only himself. But, as Mr. Hernandez also noted, God does offer protection.

Overcoming the Dragon

Mr. Hernandez read 1 John 2:12–14, reminding the students of the importance of overcoming Satan, the dragon. He stated that even in many stories written for younger audiences, the dragon is slain with a sword, and this case is no different—we need our sword, the word of God, in order to overcome the adversary. Mr. Hernandez stressed the importance of “putting oil in our lamps” daily: “Do you know who the foolish virgin is? The one who does not read his or her Bible every day.” He urged the students that if we do not read our Bibles daily, our lights will be so dim that they will not be useful to us.

We must offer our spiritual incense daily as well, by praying to God. Aaron physically offered incense to God in ancient Israel, and we are given the same duties as the priesthood on a spiritual level. He also encouraged the students to quickly go to the Scriptures whenever we enter temptation. He closed his lecture with this inspiring sentence: “The key to enjoying life is to obey God.”

Course Spotlight: Ancient Corinth

Corinth was a flourishing city in the 1st century CE, and an important administrative and trade center. Learn more about Ancient Corinth to broaden your understanding of what it was like in Paul’s day!

COURSE SPOTLIGHT FROM ACTS OF THE APOSTLES: (UNIT 3) PAUL’S IMPRISONMENT

Digging Deeper: Aquila and Priscilla

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 6 min. 43 sec.

Did you know that a husband and a wife risked their lives for Paul and that they upgraded the theology of a gifted orator in the New Testament church?

This couple proved influential in the early church due to their dedication to the gospel and their generosity to local brethren. This Digging Deeper explores what the New Testament reveals about them and why they were so influential in the ministry of the apostle Paul.

Our focus verses are: “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:1-3 KJV throughout). This chapter details some of Paul’s second evangelistic journey when he established a Church of God in Corinth, located in the southern province of Achaia. This is the first reference to this couple in the New Testament, and it was here that Paul first met them. They may have become Christians through Paul’s evangelism while he lived and worked with them.

Origins for a love story

Likely, Aquila had been born to Jewish parents. His birthplace was Pontus, a Roman province. The Jamiesson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary notes that Pontus was: “…the most easterly province of Asia Minor, stretching along the southern shore of the Black Sea. From this province there were Jews at Jerusalem on the great Pentecostal day (Acts 2:9), and the Christians of it are included among ‘the strangers of the dispersion,’ to whom Peter addressed his First Epistle (1 Peter 1:1)” (e-Sword 13.0.0). As a youth, Aquila learned the trade of tentmaking and later married a woman named Priscilla (Prisca).

Aquila and Priscilla are their Latin names; their Jewish names are not given. It was common then for diaspora Jews (Jews living outside the Holy Land) to adopt a second name that was Gentile. They are always named together in the New Testament. However, a few times Priscilla is named before Aquila (Acts 18:18; Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19). The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible offers a couple of potential reasons: “Priscilla’s name is usually listed first, an unusual practice in Greco-Roman society, indicating her higher social status or greater prominence in the Christian community (or both)” (Tecarta Bible App). Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible further explains: “Her name matches a wealthy Roman family name (gens Prisca). She is never said to be a Jew. What a great love story it would be if she were a wealthy Roman lady who fell in love with an itinerant Jewish tentmaker or leather worker!” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Expelled from Rome

This couple had been living in Italy until Emperor Claudius issued an edict expelling Jews from Rome. The Holman KJV Study Bible provides historical background: “It appears that in a.d. 41 emperor Claudius prohibited Jews from gathering together in Rome. Then in a.d. 49 he expelled them altogether, probably because the earlier measures did not work. Presumably Aquila and Priscilla were expelled at this time” (Tecarta Bible App). They may have been living in Rome or they may have lived elsewhere in Italy but decided it was best to leave regardless.

The Biblical Theology Study Bible offers an intriguing reason the Jews were expelled: “Corroborated by the Roman historian Suetonius (Life of Claudius 25.4), who says that the expulsions resulted from riots instigated by a certain ‘Chrestus.’ Suetonius probably misunderstood conflicts between Jews and Christians over ‘the Christ’ as a conflict involving an individual named Chrestus (a common slave name)” (Tecarta Bible App). Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah may have been verbally and physically assaulted by unbelieving Jews. The emperor may then have decided to expel them all.

Tents and Leather

Acts 18:3 states that Paul decided to stay with Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth because they shared the same trade, as explained by the Holman KJV Study Bible: “Tentmakers refers to people who worked in leather, possibly related to working in the goat hair cloth that was made in Cilicia, Paul’s home region. Later rabbinic tradition confirmed the importance of teachers having a trade to help support themselves” (Tecarta Bible App). M.R. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament adds: “It was a Rabbinical principle that whoever does not teach his son a trade is as if he brought him up to be a robber” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

The NIV Cultural Background Study Bible explains why Paul and this couple joined forces: “People of the same trade often lived and ran shops in the same neighborhood with one another, but most Jewish people lived in Jewish enclaves distinct from wider trade connections. Tarsus [Paul’s home city] was known for its textile industry, but many scholars think that the term translated ‘tentmaker’ more often referred generally to leather workers. Certainly tools for leatherworking would have been easier for Paul to carry from one city to the next” (Tecarta Bible App).

Faithful workers for God’s people

When Paul departed from Corinth for Ephesus eighteen months later, he took Aquila and Priscilla with him and left them there as he continued to Syrian Antioch (Acts 18:11, 18-19). While there, Aquila and Priscilla met a scholar mighty in the scriptures and a gifted orator from Alexandria, Egypt named Apollos who only knew of the baptism of John the Baptist. They took him aside to upgrade his theology so that Apollos could continue preaching with greater truth (Acts 18:24-26). Having learned from Paul, this couple was competent to instruct Apollos about all that Jesus had accomplished and taught. The spouses worked as a team for Apollo’s spiritual education. On his third evangelistic journey, Paul finds Aquila and Pricilla still in Ephesus where they had opened their home to the brethren for worship services (1 Corinthians 16:19). It is from here that Paul writes his first epistle to the Corinthians.

A brief time later, we find this husband and wife back in Rome. Perhaps Paul sent them there, before he left Ephesus, to help organize Rome’s young church. In his epistle to the Romans, written before he visits the capitol city, Paul declares that they had risked their lives for him (Romans 16:3-4). Returning to Rome may have put their lives at risk from the Roman government that had expelled Jews earlier. Paul and all the churches of the Gentiles thanked them for their sacrifice.

As Paul faced death during his second Roman imprisonment, he wrote to young Timothy in Ephesus, who likely was serving there as pastor, and asks Timothy to fondly greet Prisca and Aquila who had returned to Ephesus and were probably assisting Timothy serve the brethren (2 Timothy 4:19). Notice that here she is referred to as Prisca. The diminutive form of Prisca was Priscilla. Just before his execution, Paul made sure to again greet and thank the couple who had supported him so loyally and who had served his small congregations with sacrificial love. Their dedication to God’s work and hospitality for the brethren became an outstanding model of service in the New Testament. Through the centuries, many other dedicated couples have sacrificed their pleasures for the good of God’s work and His people.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: A Look into the Role of Pastoring

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

The Living Education students recently got to hear from Mr. Jonathan Bueno, a former Living University student and a pastor in God’s Church.

To help the students better relate to their local ministers, Mr. Bueno gave them insight into the ordination process and the responsibilities of an area pastor.

The Ordination of a Pastor

The office of a pastor comes directly from God the Father and Jesus Christ. This role is established only by appointment. Mr. Bueno was approached in Charlotte about whether he would be willing to serve in the ministry. He agreed, and after some training and nine months in Kansas City as a ministerial trainee, he was ordained on Pentecost in 2016. When one is ordained, they are presented before the congregation and have hands laid on them by a senior minister or group of ministers. They are recognized before the congregation as having an office backed up and empowered by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. When hands are laid upon an individual to ordain him, ministers ask for an extra measure of the Holy Spirit to help him perform the functions of a pastor.

So, What Are the Functions of a Pastor?

John 21:15-17 shows that one of the responsibilities Christ gave to Peter as leader of His Church was to feed God’s people—to tend His sheep. These responsibilities fall on pastors as well, and Mr. Bueno believes these they are accomplished in three primary ways:

1. Teaching

When Christ told Peter to feed the flock, He was essentially saying to make sure God’s people are given spiritual food that promotes growth. A pastor must provide a balanced spiritual diet. He is to expound the word of God, which can be done through sermons and Bible studies, but also through informal occasions, such as Church activities and personal visits with the brethren. However, the pastor is not to promote his ideas, but to teach what he has been taught in his training.

2. Counseling

Counseling can look like teaching in many ways, but the basic difference is that teaching covers broad topics and is addressed to many people, while counseling is more specific to the individual and situation. It can be as simple as a member seeking advice, or more formal such as baptism and marriage counseling. The goal of counseling is not for a pastor to solve the problem, but to equip the counseled individual to handle the situation and help them to go to God’s word and seek out what it says on the matter. Something Mr. Bueno wanted the students to understand is that ministers are available to counsel whenever you need them. Mr. Bueno pointed to Exodus 18 as an example of leadership helping the congregation of Israel in applying God’s law to the various aspects of day-to-day life.

3. Administration

The responsibility of leading and organizing a congregation ultimately falls on its area pastor, who is directed by his regional pastor, who is directed by Headquarters—God’s Church is organized. And as the first-century Church was to imitate their headquarters in Judea, so too is a pastor to ensure that his congregation imitates Headquarters in Charlotte. This involves organizing the congregation and filing paperwork for Headquarters to review. This way, everyone can be on the same page.

There are many aspects of a pastor’s role, but Mr. Bueno believes they can be effectively broken down into teaching, counseling, and administration. He hopes this helped the students to better understand their local pastor and their relationship with him.


Sermonette Outline: “Why Parables?”


Title: 

“Why Parables”

Key Scripture:

Mark 4:33-34

SPS:

To explain what is meant by this passage.

Supporting Scriptures:

Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35

Introduction:

Mar 4:33-34 NKJV – “And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear [it]. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.”

Why did Christ speak in parables?

Body

  1. Passages where He answered the question:
    1. Mat 13:34-35 NKJV – “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
    2. Mat 13:10-13, 15-17 NKJV– “And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. … For the hearts of this people have grown dull. [Their] ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with [their] eyes and hear with [their] ears, Lest they should understand with [their] hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ “But blessed [are] your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; “for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous [men] desired to see what you see, and did not see [it], and to hear what you hear, and did not hear [it].”
  2. Explanation
    1. God’s plan, from the rebellion of Adam and Eve, is to allow mankind to go his own way, and to experience firsthand the result of his foolishness and pride.  This was not the time for the healing of the people of the earth as a whole. 
    2. As a witness, it was not Christ’s intent to challenge the masses with specific details”, forcing them into making a decision to believe or disbelieve.  For the masses, he was giving them a WITNESS of who and what He was.  We see a difference when He worked personally with individuals.  (Luke 9:57)

Conclusion

God has a purpose and a plan for mankind, with every human having the opportunity to understand and submit to His way. Speaking in parables served His purpose that this time.

Digging Deeper: Pleasures for Evermore


Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank
| Faculty in Theology, Living Education


Estimated reading time: 7 min.

Did you know that King David declared that there are pleasures at God’s right hand to be enjoyed forever?

He often faced life-threatening dangers. Even as he fled from King Saul or some of his many enemies, including one of his sons, David trusted the Almighty not only to preserve his mortal life but also to grant him God’s eternal pleasures in a better world should he die at the hand of his persecutors. He expressed his faith in a psalm of trust. This Digging Deeper on David’s Psalm 16 explores his confidence to discover how this assurance also pertained to Jesus’ resurrection and to God’s people today. Our study of certain aspects of this psalm will give Christians great hope for facing the future – by life or even by death.

Over these past two troublesome years, we have witnessed the deaths of millions of people around the world due to Covid-19. No doubt, you know of people, including Christians, who have contracted it. You may even know some who have died from this dreaded disease. Covid-19 has made most of us consider our mortality more seriously. As we journey through life, we face many perils. Yet the Christian has trust in God who has delivered him/her repeatedly. Even in the face of our temporality, we can continue to trust Him not to leave us forever in the dust of the earth. Our God is One in whom we can completely trust to restore us to life eternal.

Death is an ever-present prospect for all of us. None of us likes to think about it; yet it is assured (Hebrews 9:27), unless we are alive when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Jesus Himself faced death. We will discover what gave Him such confidence in God’s promise of restored life as He faced crucifixion. One of the Messianic Psalms quoted in the New Testament is Psalm 16. In this Psalm, David writes, under inspiration, prophetically about Jesus’ trust in the Father to raise him again. Being the God of the Old Testament, Jesus knew the promises of this psalm since He was the one who inspired David to write it.

Our focus verse is: “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11 KJV throughout). Immediately, David declared his trust in Almighty God (v. 1). He avowed his love for God’s people and disdain of idol-worshipers (vv. 3-4). God was ever in David’s mind (vv. 8-9). It is important to note that verses 10 and 11 have a prophetic aspect that David inscribed about his greater descendant, Jesus Christ.

Die we must, but rise we shall

Peter’s Pentecost sermon made it plain that Psalm 16:9-10 did not apply to David in his lifetime for Peter declared that David was dead, buried, and his sepulcher was still in Jerusalem (Acts 2:29-32). Paul later cited this passage from Psalm 16 as well in which he explained that David did see corruption; therefore, David’s prophetic statements concerned his greater heir (Acts 13:33-37). As Peter and Paul both explained, Jesus did not see corruption because he was raised from the dead after three days and three nights. Because Jesus is alive, He assures His followers, who compose His spiritual body, that they too shall live eternally: “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). Jesus was the first to tread the path from death to life. He will not be the last, for He promised every believer: “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).

What an encouragement for all true believers this is: die we must but rise to eternal life we shall. The bodies of believers shall be delivered from corruption by virtue of their union with Christ. The victory of Jesus over death was both a victory for Himself and for his spiritual body, the church.

David seemed to know something about a future life (Psalm 16:9), even though this psalm’s prophetic aspect applied directly to Christ. David is yet in his grave, but Bible readers are assured that he will live again in the Kingdom of God when he reigns over the united tribes of Israel during the Millennium and beyond (Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25). Along with all the faithful saints of the Old Testament era, he shall reign with Christ in the eternal theocracy.

In this coming kingdom will be fullness of joy in God’s presence along with pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11). Christians are assured such pleasures because of their position in Christ as His spiritual body. Because God has shown Jesus the path of life, He also will show it to those united in Christ. Though their bodies go down to the grave, they will not be left there forever.

When Jesus appears the second time, all who have died in Him shall be raised up incorruptible and glorious: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:52-55 KJB:PCE).

The pleasure is in God’s presence

Editor J.R. Dummelow in A Commentary on the Holy Bible clarifies Psalm 16:11: “The contrast which the Ps. draws is not, perhaps, so much between life here and life hereafter, as between life without God and life with Him. In its very nature, however, the latter life is enduring, and hence the Psalmist’s words contain an anticipation (though it may be a dim and only semi-conscious one) of the immortality which Christ has brought to light” (e-Sword 13.0.0). God’s people will be at that time in the Almighty’s presence at His right hand, a position of honor since that is where Christ is now (Psalm 16:11).

The apostle Paul supported this prospect of pleasures for evermore in God’s presence when he wrote: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 KJV). Albert Barnes in his Notes on the Bible on Psalm 16:11 elaborates: “Happiness there, whatever may be its nature, will be eternal. Losses, disappointment, bereavement, sickness, can never occur there; nor can the anticipation of death, though at the most distant period, and after countless million of ages, ever mar our joys” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

David Guzik’s Enduring Word Commentary demonstrates how these promises fortified King David: “David had full confidence that his life with God – both now and forevermore – would be marked by the highest and best pleasures. This is life lived above shallow entertainments and excitements” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Based on God’s assurance recorded by David, Christians now experience benefits and prospects because Jesus Christ is alive. Even in the face of death, we have every reason to live joyously in hope. At God’s right hand, this place of honor, will be inconceivable pleasures for evermore.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Course Spotlight: Prayer Scriptures – Topical List

Looking to improve your prayer life? Did you know we have a great topical scripture list on prayer available for you to utilize? Delve into the topic of prayer straight from the pages of your Bible!

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

Forum Summary: Understanding Satan’s Culture of Lies

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

To be deceived is to believe in a lie.

For the forum this week, Mr. Phillip West described three lies Satan is using to deceive the whole world. Cautioning the Living Education students to beware of these lies and giving them the biblical truths to combat them, he encouraged the students to always be on guard—while the elect are distinguished by their knowledge of the truth, even they can be deceived.

Lie 1: “All Truth is Subjective”

Satan has been very successful in convincing the world that there is no objective truth. Mr. West referenced John 18:37, where Pilate asks Jesus what truth is, as a biblical example of this. Just like so many others today, Pilate was trying to justify his actions by reasoning that all truth is subjective. So many live their lives with the thought that “if I feel it, it must be true,” but subjective truth is affected and changed by emotions. 

To illustrate this, Mr. West used the example that if you asked everyone in a room their favorite dessert, you would likely get vastly different answers. The subjective truth is their dessert preference. However, objective truth is unchanging—it will forever remain the same. It is said in Malachi 3:6 that God does not change. The objective, provable truth of His word will never change, and it will soon be revealed to the world.

Lie 2: “Follow Your Heart”

Any fan of Disney films will likely be familiar with this concept. A theme of many stories is to follow your heart, but we find in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked….” In truth, this is the nature of mankind. It is because of this that Satan is able to deceive the whole world. He knows what he is doing when he encourages us to follow our hearts. Yet, as Mr. West brought out, God is not blind to the nature of man, and He is judging our hearts (v. 10). 

Lie 3: “A Good God Wouldn’t Judge”

“Don’t judge me!” is a phrase all too common today. The mentality behind it has even affected mainstream Christianity, leading to the idea that since God is good and merciful, He wouldn’t judge. Proponents of this lie consider themselves “progressive” Christians, proclaiming to have “a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the earth… [and] a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to ‘love one another’ (John 15:17) within the teachings of Jesus Christ.” 

Now, this all may sound very biblical at first; Jesus does want us to love one another. But Mr. West explained that progressive Christianity is rooted in a misunderstanding of love. Looking at John 7:24, we see that we are to “judge with righteous judgment.” We are to love the sinner, but not the sin, and we are to learn to judge between right and wrong. The reality is that condoning bad behavior is not love; love and judgment are not mutually exclusive. Scripture tells us that God is a righteous judge whose judgment is both just and loving.

Mr. West ended his forum by commending the students for engaging in the Living Education program and encouraging them to have an open, teachable mind to the knowledge they’ll receive this semester. Yet he also warned them to beware of and close their minds to Satan’s tricks, staying in the path of righteousness and not turning to the path of deception.

Assembly Summary: The Body and its Functions

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22


Estimated Reading Time: 2 min.

Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden opened his lecture to the students with the following questions: What comes to mind when you think about the Church? What do we do as a Church? How does that relate to those of us at Headquarters or in the local congregations?

Mr. Ruddlesden defines the Church as a body of believers from all from different walks of life who have a specific job to do. Matthew 28:18–20 describes the commission that the Church is given by Jesus Christ: We are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all nations. We all have different functions that are needed in the Church, as illustrated in 1 Corinthians 12:1–23. 

Behind the Scenes

Mr. Ruddlesden went on to describe some of the ways in which the Church accomplishes this mission. One example would be locating and negotiating with facilities at which to keep weekly services, Feast of Tabernacles services, or even Living Youth Programs. The Church has a financial audit that is done yearly, which shows the number of programs and facilities that it sponsors. For all of this to happen, the Church must have a number of people behind the scenes who come together to help the Work continue to move forward.

Another example would be putting the telecast together. A telecast presenter will write his script and have the Editorial Department review it. Afterward, the Media Department will review it and begin to think about corresponding graphics. The media team must get ready for shooting, which involves putting makeup on the presenters, setting up the cameras and sound system, and a lot more. The Church will also need to buy a slot on a TV station in order to air that telecast.

Every member counts

Mr. Ruddlesden made the point that even though the Church is one body, there are many different parts of that body. Some parts of the human body do not get mentioned too often, but that does not diminish their roles. The same is true for the Church of God—there are many people performing functions behind the scenes in order to get the Gospel preached to the world. Of course, we also acknowledge the faithful members who pay their tithes and offerings consistently. Without them, it would be very difficult to get the Work done. Christ has given us big things to do, and through His spirit and power, the Work will continue until He returns.

A Powerful SPS

If you want your SPS to get attention, use these guidelines…

1. Always use ACTION VERBS in your SPS

  • Vague and general verb phrases result in a weak or non-existent SPS, while action verbs guide and define a strong SPS.
    • “About” is the most commonly abused passive verb phrase in speaking, leaving the audience (and sometimes the speaker) with no specific idea where the message is going.
    • For example: “Today, I’m going to talk about how to study the Bible.”
    • Exactly what do you mean?
    • While “How to Study the Bible” may be a topic, it is not an SPS.
  • Here are some examples of action verbs that establish a clear, strong SPS.
    • convince
      • My purpose is to convince my audience that we need to focus our minds on God’s Word more consistently.”
    • persuade
      • My purpose is to persuade the congregation to pray every morning.
    • inspire
      • My purpose is to inspire my audience to be more courageous in living God’s way.
    • explain
      • “My purpose is to explain meaning of the phrase “without form and void” in Genesis 1:2″
    • challenge
      • “My purpose is the challenge the audience to consider Matthew 7:3 and the ‘log in their eye'”
    • prepare
      • “My purpose is to prepare the congregation for challenges to their faith, by recounting the story of Abraham and God’s command to sacrifice his son.”
    • rehearse
      • “My purpose is to rehearse Christ’s lesson about the laborers in the vineyard from Matthew 20.”

2. Create strong, connected support pillars

Ask yourself…

  • “Do each of my points clearly tie to my SPS?”
  • If they had to stand alone, would they clearly do so?

A three-fold cord is not easily broken, and three support points are hard to beat.  But every point should be able to be tied into the SPS in your own mind.

If you don’t have the connection clearly in mind, don’t expect the audience to do any better.

3. Remember that a QUESTION is NOT an SPS. 

  • A question can serve as a title.
  • A question can serve as a means to present the SPS.
  • A question can help the speaker to develop an SPS.

However, remember that an SPS is a Specific Purpose Statement.  What is the point that you are trying to get across to your audience?  What “statement” are you trying to prove, support, or explain to your audience?

A question is not an SPS!

Speak well!