“Congratulations! You have a new Bible study lead.”
These can be exciting words to read, but if you aren’t sure how to approach a new lead (or if you’ve had a rough experience in the past with a “bad lead”) you might feel a little uneasy when getting this message.
In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel dives head first into how to start the relationship-building process with your Bible study leads with special guest, Lavinia Collins.
Lavinia is the Bible Instructor & Leads Program Coordinator at Georgia-Cumberland Conference. She has trained volunteers from hundreds of churches all over the south, and over the years she has learned what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to building and maintaining momentum with Bible study leads. Now she will share with you key principles for connecting with leads that your team can start implementing today.
Here are excerpts from this conversation:
Larry: Alright Lavinia, let’s dive in. The first question: tell us about yourself and what you do there at the Georgia Cumberland Conference.
Lavinia: Sure, I’m a Bible instructor. I have been in ministry for about 20 years, primarily as a Bible worker or Bible instructor coordinator basically. So at the Georgia Cumberland Conference, I’m the Bible Instructor Coordinator and as of a couple of years ago, we also developed the Conference’s “Reach Your Neighbor Leads Program”, so I am the program coordinator for that as well. We have a team of ten regional Bible instructors that we try our best to cover as many churches in the conference and equip members to be doing the Bible studies.
Larry: Tell me more about the Bible work program and how your Lead program works.
Lavinia: The Bible instructors primarily train people how to give Bible studies, how to do personal evangelism, and how to do friendship evangelism. Basically, how to minister to the people that God has placed in their life. And as people have been getting trained naturally they’re wondering “Who do I give Bible studies to, where do I start?” So the natural thing obviously is to reach out to their friends and their family members, which works out beautifully. All you have to do sometimes is just ask somebody, “Would you let me practice on you?” But outside of that, there’s always the need to be able to reach out to those we haven’t met. God did say “go”, so the Leads program was born and our focus is to find the people that are interested in Bible studies and connect them to the people in our churches that are willing to meet them and give Bible studies. A simple way to define the Reach Your Neighbor Leads program is basically to connect the local church member with searching souls in the community in order for them to start Bible studies and build relationships.
Larry: Nice. Can you tell us a couple of stories about the experiences that members have had working in this program?
Lavinia: There are always stories, we get so many coming in now. I’ve actually picked a couple of them that are more typical as opposed to these super “wow” stories, where people are like “oh wow, that happens only once in whatever”, but people could recognize how it could happen or have experienced something like that. One happened in North Georgia, where one of the Bible study leads had been receiving Bible studies through the mail from a church member that was sending them to her with personal notes and was faithfully sending her the lessons. The church member was not sure to what extent this lady, Gayla, was actually doing the lessons—receiving them, enjoying, and attributing them in her life—and apparently, Gayla had been getting all the way past the Sabbath study, did the other ones too, and had become increasingly convicted that she wanted to find a Sabbath-keeping church. So she actually did a search and found the only church in her area to which she bravely showed up on a Sabbath morning to a church not knowing what to expect.
When she was in the church lobby, a very friendly greeter came up to her and greeted her. When she said her name, her Bible study person (the member that had been sending her Bible studies) yells across the lobby. She hears Gayla’s name and she yells across the room, “That’s MY person!” and quickly approaches her, to which obviously Gayla was in shock. Like, okay, I don’t know you. What do you mean I’m “your person?” And they proceed to understand their connection. “I’m the one that’s been praying for you for months now. I’ve been sending you these lessons in the mail. I can’t believe you’re here today. That’s so awesome!” It was so neat to see that, even though she didn’t know to what extent these people were going through, it was during the pandemic, so there wasn’t a lot of in-person visitation. This lady was guided by God as a result of the things she was learning from the Bible studies, and she found an instant friend that had been deeply committed to her, without ever having met her in her life and praying for her. So fast forward, Gayla has been baptized already. She’s joined the church! Gayla feels like she has found the family she’s always been looking for. And the part that’s neat now is now Gayla follows up on leads, and starting to give Bible studies because she’s so excited that she can do that for someone else.
So that’s the power of that program, and I love that story, but that’s not the only one. It keeps happening to the people that are coming in and getting baptized. Then they become part of the group. We move their name from the “interest” part of InterestTracker to “users.” That’s the full cycle where they themselves reach out to other leads or to their friends and start giving Bible studies.
Another story is about a lady who was willing to take the lessons from the mail, but there was no response back. So earlier this year when we decided to just visit everybody, the church member decided to go out and visit all the people she’s mailed to and one of the people that she visited got really excited and said, “I would love to sit down and go over these studies with you.” So the church member obviously offered to be a personal coach. So they set the time for the Bible studies. She showed up the first time and the lady wasn’t home. And you would think that at this point the church member could easily feel like her lead wasn’t that interested and just give up, which sometimes we do. But after waiting for half an hour, and not being able to get a hold of her by phone, the church member was faithful enough to go again three different times until she found her home again and say, “All right, when can we schedule this?”
And they have been faithfully studying in spite of that first delay. She no longer misses the lessons. The church member says she writes her notes faithfully and she meets up with her. They have just covered the Sabbath studies, so that’s now going to hopefully transition and give an opportunity to introduce her to more of the people at the church when that time comes. But I love how this shows again that many times we think of giving up too soon and make assumptions that people are not interested, whereas there is a balance between pursuing and not pursuing too hard. We need to realize there’s a lot more to do on our part than we think initially.
There are so many other stories, I can’t go through them all. But, just a quick mention, there was a lady that was watching Hope Channel in the background when somebody showed up. Imagine the excitement this person was having because all this stuff is already in her heart. Or people that are attending community events that are not just doing Bible studies, but they’re attending community events. And we have a church that has a goal, and it’s almost close to it, of having 100 Bible studies in one year. And they’re getting there, slowly but surely. There are hundreds of church members giving hundreds of Bible studies all over our conference, and we’re hearing so many powerful stories of people getting to know God and getting to know us, his children, as a result.
Larry: That’s awesome! Let’s talk about some principles for interacting with interests. When you get a lead, what are some principles covering how you interact with people?
Lavinia: Yes, it’s very important. The main principle I always go to at the beginning is for us to realize the importance that God stresses on the fact that we need to “go” and we need to “seek.” There’s a verse in Romans 10:14-15, and we all know it when He basically says, “how can they call on Him that they have not believed? How can they believe if they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher? And then He says, how beautiful are the feet of those that go, that bring glad tidings.” So these feet don’t just stay at church, in the church lobby, or at home, and expect to see people come to them. Right? We’re bringing glad tidings. We’re “going” because how can they hear unless there’s a preacher, and a preacher gets sent? So it is very important for us to remember that although we can have a beautiful church program and a great greeting system out in the lobby, we need to “go and seek”, we need to be available to them.
There is another quote, Desire of Ages, on page 142. It says that “God could have reached His object of saving sinners without our aid.” He could have done it without our aid, He could have used the angels. And many times I wonder, why wouldn’t He? They could do a way better job than I can. No matter how many training seminars I go to there’s no way I could do it. God uses people, He doesn’t use the angels. He says, in order for us to develop a character like Christ, we must share in His work. So if we have this mindset and if we realize these principles of the Divine method, the Divine recipe, then everything else lines up well. Because if I know that God must use me, then I just know that all I have to do is depend on Him. It’s His method. He’s the one that came up with it, so I just have to trust it. These people are just needing someone to be sent, and He has sent me for it.
Which leads to the second principle. And that is many times we are thinking that if I just attend enough seminars, get enough training, could go to this school, if I was just a pastor, if I had a master’s in evangelism, then I could do it. And it’s not like that. That’s not what we should rely on. We’re supposed to rely on prayer because we’re only relying on God. Look at the Quote in Christ’s Object Lessons, page 146. It is so interesting. It says, “It is not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have.”
Whatever your fill in the blank, “If I get to this point of knowledge, then I can start giving Bible studies.” You will never have enough for what this work requires you. It’s not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have, that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you and through you. And the one that comes right after that in Christ’s Object Lessons on page 333. It says, “As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent.” It just blows your mind, if we just could claim this and whatever is to be done at His command, may be accomplished in His strength, all His bidding and enabling.
If you get nothing else out of this webinar and you pause here, that’s sufficient. I keep saying, “If God can use a donkey, He can use me.” And may we be more like the donkey, so that He can actually get the glory.
And I’ve seen people that have had very little training, very faithfully trust in God, and get result after result after result. It blows my mind because of the methods they use sometimes, I wouldn’t use it, but they are trusting in God for it, and they are getting their strength from Him and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is blessing their efforts.
Now, there is a place for training, don’t get me wrong. God says, “an army of youth, rightly trained.” So I’m not saying there isn’t a need for training, but our dependence is not on our training. Our dependence is on God and on prayer.
One principle, you’ll hear me mention it again later, is that we team everybody up with prayer partners. Everybody gets a prayer partner. And the people that they’re going to visit are being prayed for by them and their prayer partners. The “foot soldier”, as I would call it, is the one that goes in the field, their hands are being held up by the prayer partner when they go out. That’s not an option or a nice addition, that is imperative. Without that, it doesn’t work. Just like Joshua with the battle, when Moses’ hands were being held up, if Moses’ hands were not held up, no matter how good of a soldier Joshua was, the battle would not be won. There is no other way around it. It’s the only way it works. So that’s why I’m emphasizing these two at the beginning because they are the only ones that really are the foundation of everything.
I have three more principles. Think of it in the life of a plant: sow, cultivate, and reap. A lot of times we are looking to get to reap where we have not sown. It’s important for us to be able to sow, cultivate, and reap a harvest. There’s a story of the berry picking that comes from Ellen White. She talks about many times people tried to pull on green fruit and how the green fruit was not supposed to be pulled. We’re only supposed to be pulling on ripe berries. Understand the concept of what it means to come across a ripe berry. Understand that it takes time for something to grow. If it grows super fast, it may be on stony ground. There are so many principles in seed sowing, and in that Ellen White’s vision from berry picking. Many people would go to these bushes and would tell her, “We found nothing. How are you finding a bush of royal berries?” And she says, “They’re not all together. I pick one from here and one from there. They’re in places you don’t expect and they’re not on the outside. You have to dig through the leaves and find them one by one.”
There’s a lot in that parable that also goes into the principle of being organized. She goes to the wagon afterward with her bushel full of berries, ready to put them in some kind of container and go back and pick more. And she found out the wagon had absolutely no preparations for holding anything that was picked and brought back. And I think that’s because the process hadn’t been thought through. Many times we don’t think through the process of all the steps that it takes either. What if we get a lead and we don’t even have the supplies yet? Were the Bible studies ordered ahead of time so you are ready for when a lead comes? Maybe think through the steps of when they eventually come to church. Is there a Sabbath school class that’s friendly for them? Whatever the steps may be, we need to be prepared and go through all this process with them.
Another principle that I’m very convicted by, and this can be discouraging at times, is for us to persevere and to expect tears at times. And I know that sounds like a strange principle, but I have a verse I’m basing it on, it’s Psalm 126:5. It says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Does it say, those who sow in joy? You’re at the beginning with most of these people on their journey of learning about God and the Bible. If you’re sowing in the lives of these leads and there are no tears, then you’re not experiencing this verse. It may sound like a strange way to look at it, but at some point, there is going to be some kind of wrestling with God. You’ll probably experience heartbreak as you wrestle for their souls in prayer with God. Many times we forget this verse exists and we are shocked by the tears that come with evangelism and with sowing.
There is a Christian service quote on page 101. It’s one of my favorites. It says, “If you fail 99 times in 100, but succeed in saving the one soul from ruin, you have done a noble deed for the Master’s cause.” (If you fail 99 times in 100, God says, “Good job!”) Look at it from His perspective and realize it’s a little bit different than we tend to think, but this is the way that He views success. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good. For in due season we will weep if we do not lose heart.” So if you find yourself growing weary, you’re not the only one. I grow weary all the time. I think we all do. And then I go back on my knees and I ask God to fulfill this worst in my life and to help me not grow weary while doing good. The promise is in due season, we will reap if we don’t lose heart and persevere.
And just one last principle that I want to throw in here, just in case it’s not common knowledge: use normal social interaction principles. I’m assuming I’m talking to people who are Adventists, but it just seems that a lot of times in Adventism (or maybe it’s just true in Evangelism) we almost forget that “normal human interaction principles” are the way that we’re supposed to do it. How would you walk up to somebody and tell them about an exciting book you’ve been reading? How would you walk up and tell them about a new restaurant you found? How would you expect that interaction to be with a brand new person you met? Put yourself in their shoes, and try to think of things from their perspective. They filled out a Facebook ad, and you showed up at their door. Is that something that you think they might be excited about, or maybe they’re surprised? Assume that if you were in this situation, you would be surprised too. You can gauge your behavior accordingly just by trying to put yourself in their shoes.
Larry: That’s really good stuff. I love these five principles. Let’s talk about some tactics. Tell us some specific communication tactics that you use to coach your Bible study volunteers.
When it comes to communication, a lot of times the simple and obvious things need to be stated. So I’m going to go through some of the obvious ones. The first one is if possible, you need to reach your new leads within a few days to a couple of weeks. Especially if it’s a Facebook ad. They were probably in the middle of a Facebook page or looking at a friend’s account, then they saw the ad which they can fill out so fast (sometimes they may even do auto-fill) they click submit, and then they’re back to looking at another friend’s pictures. If it’s too many weeks past that, the memory of filling out the form has been lost. It wasn’t like they sat down and filled out a postcard, put a stamp on it, and walked it down to the mailbox. It happened so fast that it slips their mind, and we have to hit the iron when it’s hot. We cannot be waiting on these things. I recommend the church does not turn on the campaign until they’re ready to act right away so that when they actually come through, we jump on them quickly. And it just shows respect for this person’s request. Somebody requested something and they should get it when they expect it.
Another one is in-person is best. There is a huge, huge difference in the number of reactions we get from people when it happens in person, rather than trying to text, email, or do a phone call. I know it’s less convenient, but it’s harder. I know it’s a long drive sometimes to go to their home and you risk them not being there, but it makes such a big difference. And I know that when you get there, they’re not expecting you in person. So all of those shocks and all of those things keep members sometimes from actually going in person, and then they get the kind of results that happen by only text, which seems to be like only 1 out of 50 people that respond or something disappointing like that sometimes. It just seems to be so hard just by text. If you have no choice and no way of getting out to them in person and you only have that, then try that multiple times and make it very personalized.
We recommend people go in person with a gift bag. Why a gift bag? Because it causes a paradigm shift in the person that goes up to the door. It’s just as much for the church member as it is for the lead. Sometimes we feel like we’re selling them something or we think we’re asking them for a favor, and our body language starts reflecting that kind of thinking. When you show up with a gift, then everyone is excited. And your body language and smile relax them because they’ve never met you, but they see a gift bag. (It’s actually quite fun!) And in the gift bag we put the Bible study lessons one and two (not the whole set because we want to keep coming back) and a nice quality gift book like Steps to Christ. A book that looks valuable. You don’t have to pay a lot of money for some of these because we have them in nice quality in bulk at Adventist Book Center. And then put a letter in there. It should have your contact information and explain it to them in case you have to leave it on the doorstep. And then sometimes just one other little thing like a bookmark, so that it feels like you have a gift bag with several things.
We have scripts on our website that we use for in-person visits too. We cover tips and scripts for how to handle questions or shock when you first show up at the door, with easy ways of explaining to them.
For example, you can say, “Yes, we know. Everybody says they expect to get it through the mail, but there’s a lot of stuff in here, and the post office has been losing so many things, especially since COVID. I’m a local representative in your area and I just wanted to make sure you got this and that it didn’t get lost. Plus this way you can also have my contact information since I am your prayer partner, I’ve been assigned to pray for you.”
And then that’s when you can lead into, “Are there any specific things can I pray for you? I’ve been praying for you anyway. Can I pray for something more specific?” And you are in person and you are friendly, it’s just different than trying to do that by phone.
There are two goals that I also wanted to share here in your interactions. One goal is to try to get them into Bible studies, it can be either personal or correspondence. So it doesn’t have to be personal studies. Don’t allow yourself to add that kind of pressure. Work with where they’re at. Think of Jesus’s methods. He met everybody where they were and then moved them a little further on that line, so to speak. One is to get them to have Bible studies, but the second is to form lifetime relationships with them or church members. Those are the two goals, not just at the first time, but throughout your interactions with them. You want to look for opportunities for them to continue communication with you and contact points with you and with other church members besides just Bible studies. And if you try to aim at these goals, then it makes it easy for you to know what to do and what to say. How do I get them to engage in Bible studies? How do I get them to interact on a consistent basis with me and my friends?
And then number four I already kind of mentioned, which is becoming their prayer partner. You have already been putting their name on a card in your Bible, ideally, so you have it at your morning devotions. It’s their name. And the other five or ten names, however many names have been assigned, they’re in your card, and you’re praying for them daily. And then when you’re meeting them in person, you want to know what prayer request you can add under those names. And then you also would give those prayer requests to your prayer partner that has been praying for them along with you. And that becomes very important to let them know, I am praying for you, and I want to know how specifically to pray for you. And then it’s possible to pray with them really briefly before you leave that day when you’re at their door. Sometimes that can take a person from stone cold to even tears or warming up to you when they hear your caring prayer on their behalf specifically for what they said.
All right, so just a few more here, make sure you have their contact information. It is very important that you give them your contact information. Obviously, you’ve got some of theirs, so maybe you’re missing a phone number or an email or something that you want to confirm, but give them your contact information. And if you want to just put neutral contact information from the church, we recommend people to have a hotline so that they’re not calling and hearing you’ve reached ____ Seventh-day Adventist Church. That way when they’re calling they hear, “Hello! You’ve reached My FREE Bible Study. If you have questions or prayer requests, please leave a message. Someone will get back to you.” It’s nice to be able to have that and for a church to see themselves as a community center in which you have a community voicemail and a community hotline. And a lot of times, sometimes people ask, “Why can’t I just put my church’s Seventh-day Adventist contact info?” And my reasoning for that is the same reason why Jesus did not say, “I am the Messiah” to every single person He met. In fact, very few people did He ever reveal that to. And those who knew it He would tell them not to speak it because not everybody was ready to hear “I am the Messiah.” It was about a time and a place, and these people don’t know us yet. They need to know more about us. They need to know more about God. They need to see the bridges of so many things that we have in common prior to bringing in new information like that. The Holy Spirit can be completely different from that, so follow the Holy Spirit. But it’s nice to have something more neutral as you first meet them, because of the negative connotation sometimes a community can have with the name Seventh-day Adventist. And it depends if it’s a city or rural area. In rural areas there’s a lot more prejudice, so you have to be even more careful with that.
One more principle is to basically be respectful, and allow them to engage. Don’t pursue too hard, be available to guide them without being pushy. Keep in mind when you’re out the door, if they’re very stand-off-ish, if their stuff is on the stove, if a child is crying, any of those things, just make it short. Skip the prayer, give her the bag, and get out of there. Like, what is the most respectful thing? What communicates the most love? But at the same time realize that you have something greater to give them that they may not be aware of and make sure that you pursue them because they are not fully aware of what you’re giving them. So don’t be too passive. Balance those two together.
Another communication tactic is to start the Bible studies gradually. Sometimes people are ready to sit down and study the Bible with you and sometimes they are not. They may just be okay with reviewing a lesson for five to ten minutes on the phone after they completed it, and that’s it. Over time, that can increase to 15 or 20-minute calls, and eventually a full sit-down in-person study. So keep in mind that you can start gradually and then increase as the Holy Spirit leads it. And then like I mentioned earlier, keep looking for ways to connect them not just with you, but also with church members. And not necessarily at church because they may not be ready for a Sabbath until they learn about the Sabbath. One of our churches did a kayak trip in which they invited their Bible study leads to go kayaking with them. And they had quite a big group that went and they had a blast together. The Bible study students met each other and they met the other church members.
So keep finding ways for these connections to happen. Again, it’s Bible studies and relationships, so try to build both in a natural way.
Larry: You guys are using InterestTracker to distribute the leads there in Georgia Cumberland, as well as for recording follow-up notes, to-do tasks, and that type of thing. Let’s talk about the mechanics of how the Bible study lead information flows. Can you go through that for us?
Yes, for sure. InterestTracker has been a lifesaver for our conference! If we did not have InterestTracker we would be stuck right now. We have looked for other software to do what we want it to do, and they just don’t work like InterestTracker. So thank you! What you guys are developing makes it so easy. The part that I love about it is that it does the basics of what we need and it doesn’t have too many bells and whistles that just confuse the church members.
When the campaign gets turned on the leads come straight into the church’s InterestTracker account. But, I just want to make sure before the campaign gets turned on, churches need to make sure they have all their supplies ready. Sometimes it’s easy to forget. Make sure you have your gift bags with your Bible studies, books, and your labels to put your number inside of the books. Make sure that you have everything you need so your team is ready. Your team should each have their own copies of the Bible studies that they’re going to be teaching. They should have their prayer partner, and they should have reviewed the scripts of what to say at the door. And last, they should have those gift bags ready in their trunk. This last Saturday at church people just came in, they assembled them, and they put them in the trunk. What we love is when a lead comes into InterestTracker we get an email notification to the account admin letting them know that they have a new lead and that account’s church admin can log in and review it. (This person could be the leads leader, the head secretary of some churches, or a pastor.) They log in and assign them to one of their team members. We try to make sure that, if possible, choose a church member that is geographically close to the lead, so you aren’t sending a member on the other side of town.
When that church member gets a lead assigned to them, they get an email notification letting them know and they log into their InterestTracker account to review the lead’s information. Hopefully, by this point in your preparation process (prior to this being turned on) each one of your team members has watched the short training videos on interesttracker.org. Those training videos show them what to do so your team members are not calling you to figure out how to log in or where to go once they are in. They should already have gone through that so you can help them and fine-tune your process, but you’re not starting from scratch. And then so they log in, they get their lead, they put them on their prayer card in their Bible. Then they call their prayer partner and they give them the same name to pray for (or ideally many names, right?) because each person should be able to handle 5 to 10 names probably. And then after they pray for them, they deliver the offer. They bring them that gift bag with the Bible studies that they already built out.
And then, depending on that interaction, you would add notes to your InterestTracker account. You should also update your prayer partner as to what their new prayer requests are or whatever the case may be. And this is the next part that sometimes can also get dropped. It’s important that after you’ve made that initial interaction, you get in the habit of connecting with this person every week or every other week at the most. Either for giving them the next set of studies, praying with them, reviewing the study with them, or maybe inviting them to a community event so you’re always connecting. In this way, you are keeping a rhythm of connecting.
You can create this as a follow-up task in InterestTracker or you can put it in your calendar to remind you to keep staying in rhythm with these people regardless of their contact. Because as you guys remember from the testimonies at the beginning, things are happening, the Lord is working in their life. You just have to continue making yourself available through that and then you can bring them to these community events. As time goes on, it’s important to make sure that you also write notes in InterestTracker so that the leads leader can see them too because sometimes they need to connect with their church members, and their teammates.
Your team is going to get in a habit of getting together with the leads leader once a month at least, maybe a couple of times a month, for encouragement, support, and for questions. Notes become important both externally and internally because things happen in our lives and that’s why it’s nice to work with a whole team at church with InterestTracker. So that’s what we do with that and what we recommend that happens with the flow. And like I said before, I mean, I just love the fact that InterstTracker allows for all of that to happen. Including texting straight through the software if you’re wanting to send a reminder to your person and keep things organized well.
Larry: Well, interest tracker has been something that we put a lot of effort in just listening to Bible workers like yourself and pastors and church leaders. It’s something that we’re really glad to be able to offer. I’m glad to hear that it’s something that’s been a blessing for you guys there in Georgia Cumberland.
Lavinia: Yes, we appreciate it. What is it you guys call yourself? Geeks for Christ. We definitely need it.
Larry: We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing.
Lavinia: Nerds for marketing. That’s it. I love it.
Larry: Let’s talk about the expectations of your volunteers. You mentioned earlier that not every lead turns into a Bible study. So what do you do to set expectations, to then prepare them to have less discouragement as they’re going through the process?
When Bible workers are at this for a while, we kind of know what to expect and when to get excited. I had to come up with a percentage for sharing with our team. It seems to be about 10-40% of the leads turn into conversations or Bible studies—when you’re being consistent. And people are shocked when they see that. And they just started. They’re like, “What do you mean? I got ten people that have requested Bible studies! Like, they actually filled out a form that has their name, phone number, email, and their address. I mean, that’s a lot of commitment to give that much information to a stranger online, you know what I mean, in today’s generation. So if I have 10 of these, what do you mean only 10-40% of those will turn into conversational Bible studies?” It’s just how it works. We have to go through the process. Some people have experienced 50% or more. It just depends sometimes on the area, the approach, and the experience of your church members, but it is on average 10%-40%, and that has helped set expectations. People realize after being consistent and continuing to check in with them, and still only getting 3 out of 10 engaging, that it is completely normal and actually very exciting.
People have a spiritual interest. God is working in their life, you just need to find out how you can minister to them. It may be that you’re their prayer partner. It may be that you become their friend, that you become their correspondence Bible teacher, their actual sitdown Bible teacher and coach. Or just someone that occasionally invites them to events or helps them unload the groceries because they were unloading their trunk when you got there for the first visit. So you just have to find out where you can minister in their life and be happy with your part. Because our duty is not for that end result, whatever, we imagine that to be, our duty is very clear. It’s supposed to be consistently planning, praying, and being available to God and to them.
Be patient with the process. It can be a long journey, let God do the increase. There are a couple of quotes that I use for this on a regular basis to keep my expectations balanced. It is one from the Duke of Wellington, in Gospel Workers. It says the Duke of Wellington was present once at a party of Christians where men were discussing the possibility of success in a missionary effort among the heathen. They appealed to the Duke to see whether his judgment in such efforts was likely to prove successful. And the Duke answers, “Gentlemen, what are your marching orders? Success is not the question for you to discuss. If I read your orders right, they run thus: ‘Go. Go, ye in all the world, preach the gospel to every creature.’ Gentlemen, obey your marching orders.” I love the simplicity of this quote and of this man’s thinking. He is saying do not worry yourself about “the success.” You’re supposed to be faithful to your marching orders. You’re a soldier in the army of Christ. Don’t worry about how, and what works in what order. Trust that God will give the result.
And then Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “In the morning, so your seed. In the evening do not withhold your hand, for you don’t know what will prosper. Either this or that or what are both alike will be good.” That’s our faithfulness. So in the morning send out your text messages, in the evening do your in-person visitation, and pray for them every day in your devotional time. You don’t know what will prosper, just be faithful, and don’t worry about it.
I’ve got a friend in the conference, she’s a Bible instructor, and she too, just like all of us, experience frustration and discouragement from something not happening the way or at the speed that we would like. And I love how God answered her prayer. She asked God to, show her that what she was doing is working. She’s sowing her seeds in the morning, she’s sowing her seed in the evening, and she’s being faithful. She has been sending these messages and these Bible studies to this gentleman in South Georgia, far away from her, so she had no ability to visit him. (It’s one of the “orphans” as we call them.) They’re in our mission areas basically, and she had no idea if anything was happening. But she still faithfully sent these lessons. And then that very next day, her mom calls her up and says, “You won’t believe what just happened at church today.” Now, her mom was her prayer partner who would pray for the leads that she would be following up with. And her mom lives a couple of hours away in Tennessee, and this person was from South Georgia. Her mom said, “so and so just walked into our church this morning.” (He has a unique name, I don’t remember what it is.) And she said, he walked in and I was a greeter at church on that Sabbath. She says, “I’m pretty sure he’s the guy on your list. You have got to go and look, I think it’s him”! My friend thinks, what are the odds? What would he be doing in an Adventist church? Her mom says, “He told me it was the first time he was ever in an Adventist church.” She goes, okay, let me go look in the database and she just prays, “Lord, if this is from You, I pray that you would help him to continue the lessons.” He randomly texts that evening for the first time in response to the numerous texts she had sent before.
“Please don’t give up on me. I’m in the process of moving. I have been very slow in responding to these Bible studies, but I depend on them. I’ve been enjoying them so much. Here’s my new address. Please continue to send them to me.”
So my friend, Karen, is just shocked. She can’t believe this. And then she tells him, “By the way, this might sound weird, but I think you met my mother this morning. Did you go to an Adventist church in the Collegedale area this morning?” (Obviously, I’m sure he’s shocked.) And he’s like, “Yes I did.” And she goes, “Well, you met my mother. She was the greeter. And by the way, she and I have been praying for you together.”
The amazing thing is that God showed her this one story in answer to her prayer for her to see that her faithfulness was paying off. God doesn’t always show us the results because he can’t always trust us with it. So many times we need to just be faithful, follow our marching orders, do our work faithfully, and trust that God is the one that’s in control. And it’s up to Him what happens with those results, not us. And just stay consistent because apparently, it’s working even if we don’t see it. And sometimes He may give us a glimpse like this story of what He’s really doing behind the scenes. I just thought that was phenomenal.
On the webinar recording, Lavinia mentions resources for your team.
Those resources can be found on the Georgia Cumberland website, which includes downloadable files such as checklists, scripts, letter templates, stickers, and more. She also answered audience questions about connecting with leads, which Bible studies they like to use, and how to keep your church’s volunteer team engaged and motivated. Watch the full webinar here to see her replies.
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