When our Neighborhood Bible Study celebrated its 20th year last month, I remembered our tenuous beginnings. I shared with our nearly 50 members how I was challenged to begin an NBS in the neighborhood, but really had no desire to step out. One of our members said to me later, “Jan, what if you had said ‘No!’ Think about all we would have missed!”
Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives
I love to have neighbors in my living room, talking about God's Word together. With that desire, I've repeatedly sent out fliers, knocked on doors, hosted a "tea party" and sent out emails inviting people to join me in a Neighborhood Bible Study. On my first attempt, I was so excited! I prayed and planned and prayed some more. I had all the food ready, and I waited to see who God would bring.
I waited, but no one came.
Looking out the window, I couldn't hold back the tears. The Lord had prepared me for that moment with the Scripture, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord whom you serve." (Col.3:23-24) It was comforting but still disappointing.
Through the years, I tried again. Sometimes, I only had a couple of people come. I'm fine with small numbers because it promotes greater intimacy, but often it seemed that I was reminding them of the importance of doing homework or working around scheduling conflicts. It felt like I wanted it more than they did! Although I've made great friends, and I truly believe many have been helped, I often found myself frustrated.
After my 94-year-old mother-in-law died, God made it very clear that He wanted me to teach others the way to Heaven. When I asked Him, "Who, Lord?" I "just happened" to be driving by a senior home not far from my neighborhood.
He asked me, "Who do you know who is on the brink of eternity?"
Just as I was about to answer that I didn't know anyone, I glanced at the senior living home. Then I knew that was where He wanted me to spread the Good News!
I've been teaching at the home for more than two years now. We started with five to 10 people in attendance. Later, when God answered my prayers for helpers, we began to get pretty tight in our little library room. I asked my husband to pray and ask if we should move out of that room. I was hesitant because I didn't want to lose the intimacy, and their attention spans were already difficult to capture!
My husband told me the Lord had given him one word: Spillover.
Later that morning, when I arrived at the senior home, the library was blocked off. Workers were cleaning up the mess from a water line that had burst and "spilled over" into that room! I moved our meetings into the community room, where we now have 20-35 people attending regularly.
Enjoy our guest post today from Abingdon Women
The lotion bottle was sitting nearly empty among the crayons, paint, and other supplies. I had slipped into the supply room to grab some markers and paper for my prayer time on the retreat I was attending. At first glance, it went unnoticed. Then I looked more closely and discovered the cherry almond “original scent” words on the side of the bottle. My breath shortened and my heart skipped a beat. Could it be? I quickly dropped my markers and began to squeeze some of the forgotten lotion as the bottle gasped for air as I had just done myself. And true to it’s claim, the “original scent” of my grandmother’s silky smooth hands took me back to my childhood.
My grandmother’s hands are special not because of her lotion but because they have made a difference in this world. Her hands have prayed for me and my family devoutly over the years. Her hands cared for my own mother. Her hands helped the less fortunate. Her hands baked chicken casserole when we visited and nearly always burned the rolls each holiday (at least I get my cooking skills honestly). The lotion scent on my own hands brought so many welcome memories to mind about my grandmother’s caring hands. It was indeed a scent of my childhood and one woman who has had great impact on my faith and family. And then a bit of sadness swept over me.
Sadness came after the joy and those happy memories because it hit me that I don’t really have a scent (unless you count my deodorant). Surely that doesn’t mean I don’t leave a mark on this world as my grandmother has done. Will I leave my mark on this world even if I keep switching lotions to the one on sale or with the latest ingredients? Maybe I don’t have a scent because there are only 10,000 (give or take a few) choices in the lotion aisle these days and it seems I never return home twice with the same brand let alone an original scent. Part of the time, I just find something in my pantry. Maybe my scent is actually coconut oil. Anyway, I think a world of choice is wonderful, I do. Choices are a privilege and honor. I have to wonder though if in a way we can be losing ourselves constantly by all the changing scents and too many choices (can you tell I'm feeling overwhelmed just in the processing of this)? We are too often distracted and we can not even look to the lotion aisle for anything original. All these thoughts raced into my mind as I continued to smell the lotion on my hands and they brought me to one conclusion. My maker is truly what has made my grandmother an original...and me and you as well.
God’s love is our origin. Let’s use it to find our own originality and purpose in this life. Let’s find our calling and our identity in Him. The gift of understanding that God made each of us unique, original, and also in His image is our hope. Connecting with our creator that we each discover our originality and then share it with others is the mark we are to leave on this world through our own hands.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for creating me as an original in your image. Thank you for the unique gifts, talents and strengths you have given me in this life. Allow me to be who you made me to be through the ever changing roles I serve in this ever changing world.
God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. - Genesis 1:27 CEB
Whitney is a seeker, writer, teacher, retreat leader, and spiritual director. She truly believes that "the journey awakens the soul." Her journey currently includes being a mom and wife, offering spiritual care services, and writing for the Abingdon Women blog.
As a survivor of multiple health crises including melanoma skin cancer, stroke and brain surgery (by the age of 31), Whitney has learned to depend greatly on God as her strength and peace and to more fully embrace life's journey. She helps others explore peace in their own lives using ancient and modern tools and seeks to share the balance and benefits of a contemplative life among the realities of a fast-paced digital world. Whitney received Professional Certification in Spiritual Formation and is a certified lay minister and certified yoga instructor. She and her husband,Troy, and their son, Drew, live in a rural area east of Nashville, Tennessee. You can find out more about Whitney at her personal blog, www.exploringpeace.com.
|To listen to the interview, click the 1 minute segment, or the full 2 minutes.|
*STRUGGLES* MP3 1-MIN 2-MIN
Debbie McGoldrick knows how her experiences can help point people to Christ. She tells how on today’s Lighthouse Report.
Like any good southern girl, I hang Boston ferns out on my porch every year in late May. It just makes the whole, sweet-tea-fanning-yourself-watching-the-neighbors-go-by-summertime atmosphere. Within a week, we typically have birds’ nests built in two or three of the ferns. This year, we were treated to three nests! It’s pure fun to watch the little blue eggs appear, to try to time when they’ll crack open and to witness the teeny birds grow and change. Then one day, while you’re at the grocery store or out on a walk, they fly away, and you’re left with a dehydrated, lonely fern, wondering where the time went!
As I go about my business during the summer days, I can hear the babies cheep-cheeping as their mama brings them food every half hour or so. All day long, I hear them. This morning, as I spent time with the Lord, the mama bird fed her babies, and I heard their cries. I thought to myself, that mama is so faithful! She never abandons them. She prepared a safe home for them, she kept them warm, ushered them into life, and now she feeds them all day long. They don’t want for a thing.
I felt an affinity with those little baby birds, as I considered how God feeds me. Faithfully, He nourishes me with His Word and protects me in my utter helplessness and dependence. He never abandons me. Even when He’s not in my sight, I know that He is nearby, and He will return to meet my needs. All I have to do is receive what He is offering.
How does the Lord nourish you? Have you seen Him meet your needs in a fresh, new way today?
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Erica Rountree is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc. She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea. She punctually procrastinates about updating her blog at www.1hotmom.blogspot.com
"Love your neighbor as yourself.". Yes, but how?
What comes to mind when you read this verse? (Mark 12:31) What does it look like to accomplish this! What stirs within you when you hear Christ say this is the second greatest command?
I often feel inadequate. Don't you? Sometimes certain "neighbors" come to mind that I have a hard time loving. I think of circumstances where I have been misunderstood and have a strained relationship with a "neighbor." Or a "neighbor" has said something or done something that has left me drained or wounded. These are all valid situations. I am sure you have a list too!
But what I would rather draw attention to with this verse is actually initiating love to all my neighbors. How about focusing on trusting God to reach them with His message. Love is active. Love strives towards someone. Love would rather be guilty of moving towards someone rather than being passive. Yes! Amen! But how do we do this?
Start with prayer. Ask the Lord to give you a heart for your neighbors. Pray for them by name when you know it. Pray for their children. Pray for their work. Pray for God's protection and blessing in their lives. Pray the Gospel would be heard in their houses.
And then what? _____________________________. You fill in the blank. As you are praying, my guess is that God will give you ideas to communicate His love to them. He will whisper to you to write a note to someone. He will purposefully have you run into another who needs encouragement. He will want you to take cookies to a young family. How about starting a neighborhood Bible study? I still remember the peanut butter pie that we received 9 years ago when we moved in....and who brought it?....my godly, loving neighbor who reached out to us with Christ's love. And she is my co-leader in my neighborhood Bible study!
Love takes action. How will you "love" your neighbor today? How have you loved your neighbor?
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Blessing bags are a great service project to prepare together within your NBS. One blessing bag is kept by each person. In the future, whenever an NBS member sees someone in need during day-to-day commutes or in travels, they may bless the individual (or family) with the bag. This is a neat answer to those we see holding signs, asking for money or help.
The goal is for each of member to leave with at least one bag. Following is a list of supplies. Divide the chosen items amongst your members. Have each person bring the appropriate number of items. For example, 10 bars of soap if there are 10 members in the study. Many of these items can be purchased at a dollar or discount store. With each person remitting their items, then assemble the bags so that every bag contains one of each item on the list. Simple!
Gallon size Ziplock bags
Items to go in the bags, such as:
- Chap Stick
- Packages of tissues
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Pack of gum
- Band aids
- Coins (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
- Hand wipes
- You could also put in a warm pair of socks, and maybe a Starbucks gift card
- Small Bible
- Bible verses on paper or cards
“From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people." Psalm 3:8 NIV
So you want to start something, but don't know how, or where to begin, right? Well... let's start right here!
Praying for Yourself
- Pray that God will give you His vision, His plan for your neighbors, and that you will see people and their needs as He sees them.
- Pray that God will grow your heart for those who don’t know Christ and give you a desire to reach them through an NBS.
- Pray that you will be intentional about your own spiritual growth, allowing God to work in and through you.
- Pray for God’s guidance, equipping, and empowerment to move forward in what He is calling you to do.
As important as prayer is to the foundation and beginning of your NBS, your personal spiritual growth is just as important to sustaining your NBS.
In his acclaimed book on communication, Dallas Seminary Professor Dr. Howard Hendricks says it best: “The effective teacher always teaches from the overflow of a full life. If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow.” Mother Theresa reflects the same message: “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil into it.”
Our spiritual growth as leaders and facilitators of our NBS allows God to use us to model and encourage our members to pursue a relationship with Christ more intentionally. To be effective in encouraging our women to grow, we must be challenging ourselves by practicing spiritual disciplines beyond studying our NBS material – spiritual disciplines such as daily Bible and devotional reading and spending time with God in prayer and listening.
“You see, effective teaching comes only through a changed person,” says Hendricks. “The more you change, the more you become an instrument of change in the lives of others.”
To read more about getting started, click HERE....
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Amy von Borstel
I could've never dreamed of the blessings that would come from my involvement in a neighborhood Bible study. I hadn't planned to be a part of a Bible study group. I got involved in a roundabout way.
It all started when my boss approached me at my job, saying, "Amy, would you be interested in being the babysitter for the neighborhood Bible study where I attend?"
I worked at a children's gymnastics facility and loved children. So I excitedly wrote down the name and telephone number of the leader of the study, and got in touch with her within a few days.
I'll never forget the first conversation I had with the leader, Laurie. When we talked I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice. She began telling me how they had prayed for God to send a new children's caregiver to the study.
With excitement, Laurie said, "Our previous babysitter was named Amy. She was a compassionate and caring lady. We've been praying for God to send us another "Amy" and He literally sent us another Amy!" We chuckled together as she said, "God has a sense of humor, doesn't He?"
When we walk close with God, there are no coincidences. He divinely plans each detail in our lives. I knew in that moment that God had orchestrated for me to be a part of this Bible study group. But I had no way of foreseeing all the incredible ways God would lavish His love on me through this group of women. They became the community that I needed to be a part of while I was going through some very challenging trials in my life.
While the ladies were having their Bible study time, I was in another area caring for the children of the moms that were attending the meetings. I got to know the moms very well through sharing and talking each week. They encouraged me, prayed for me, and grew to be my cherished friends. I was a part of that group for seven years. The fruit of those years is still growing in my life today. Women's Bible study groups cultivate long-lasting, true friendships and help us grow strong in our faith.
God works in mysterious ways. He amazes me in the way He weaves things together in our lives. I would encourage any woman who's considering attending or hosting a Bible study to dive in wholeheartedly. I know from experience that you'll look back one day and be amazed at all the awesome blessings that came out of your commitment to begin studying the Bible with your neighbors.
Bio: Amy von Borstel is a wife, homeschooling mom, and Christian writer. She is living her dream of being home with her family. She loves to write the stories of God’s faithfulness in her life and has a passion for helping the orphans of the world.
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Blessed For my Faithfulness
You may be asking…so why would I continue to lead a study if only one or two women are coming? Isn’t that a waste of my time? Good question! After all, you are busy, right? You could be doing other things. You could be making a bigger impact somewhere else. Maybe your church could use you to teach a class or organize a mission. Maybe your pastor needs your advice on sermons or church discipline or what is going on in the children’s programs. Maybe … well, you get the point. So, why indeed would you continue to lead for only a few?
May I suggest that your faithfulness with a few, may lead to God’s biggest blessings for you? That is what happened to me…I began leading an evening study in my neighborhood. We met in our clubhouse, around a small table, just the three of us! Occasionally, there were four of us; once even five. But, most weeks it was just us three: Betsy, Mary, and me. And we studied and prayed together and loved each other through that season. But, that wasn’t the big blessing; that was just the byproduct of being in the Word together. The big blessing came later, when I could no longer meet in the evenings because of my children’s various sports schedules.
I did not want to leave Betsy and Mary without an evening study to plug into, so I began looking for one for them! (No, I didn’t tell them I was doing this.) I found one in a nearby neighborhood, and in doing so, I met a woman who would later introduce me to the Pastor of an orphanage that I have come to adopt! Yes, I have adopted an orphanage... Crazy, right? Well, not if you know our God. He had told me years earlier that that was what I was to do—adopt an orphanage—which is another story for another day. The point here is that if I had not continued to lead just the two, and had I not come to love them and feel obligated towards them, I would not have gone looking for another study in another neighborhood, and I would not have met this particular woman at this particular time, and I would not have found my orphanage. Of course, God could have hooked us up another way, but He chose to bless my faithfulness by leading me to them this way. And, in leading me to them this way, I can rest in the assurance that this is God’s call and purpose for me, and that is the biggest blessing in the world!
So, will He give you a whole orphanage full of children to love? Probably not. He has something else in store for you! Maybe something bigger! And, it may just be the Bible study group you have always dreamed about---one like mine, filled with wonderful, women who love the Lord and each other. Because if you are faithful with a few, He will put you in charge of many.
Feeling Inadequate? … Me too... Always have. Guess I always will. The truth is, I am inadequate. I am inadequate to teach others the Word of God. I am inadequate to lead a group of women in their walk with God. I am inadequate to represent Christ to my neighbors. I am inadequate to do anything good at all. I wasn’t’ raised in a Christian home. I haven’t attended Church all my life. I don’t have a lot of Scripture memorized. I still struggle with sin. I am broken and flawed. I don’t dress right; I don’t always act right; my car is a mess, and my boys are usually dirty! Really, I am the last person you would pick to lead a Bible study!
But I do. And I have for the past 7 or so years. Yes, it still surprises me sometimes! Yes, it is still terrifying sometimes. Yes, it is still beyond my abilities—all the time. But, week after week, God meets my lack with His grace, and together we get to touch hearts and spur on life change! It is wonderful. It is a privilege.
So, today, I want to encourage you. Just say YES. Just do it. If God has laid it on your heart to lead a neighborhood study, don’t let your inadequacies or fears stop you. God is faithful. He will meet you in your weakness. He will honor your obedience. He will show up for you. He will enable you. With Him and in Him and through Him, YOU CAN DO IT! I know…because I know our Lord.