Due to illness, Arlean Kelley will not be serving as our Small Group and Local Evangelism Editor. We are still interested in your stories of small groups and local evangelism. For the time being, please contact us directly and 517-625-7480, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fairfax, Virginia — A new independent group was formed in the Washington, DC area, meeting at the Pohick Regional Library Meeting Room (off of Old Keen Mill Road in Fairfax County, Virginia). The group first met November 18 and plans to meet every third Saturday, then possibly every other week. Planing to govern by simple democratic voting, the group will have no direct links to any other existing organization, but there is interest in other Churches of God.
Most members are currently visiting with other groups and it is hoped the flexible schedule will allow them to continue to do so. The first meeting went well with all members acting like parts of the body with and were with one accord. We had a talk on the legitimacy of the book of Daniel as opposed to liberal theologians criticisms of it and a study of Judges 13. Contact John Carter (the initial organizer of the group), 3911 Egan Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. Telephone: 703-591-3592.
— Rod Koozmin, Reston VA
Milwaukee, Wisconsin — this fellowship group celebrated their first anniversary in November 2000, being formed by former members of the UCG. Attendance varies from 30 to 50, with a lot of young adults.
Hal Geiger, the spokesman who talked to Servants’ News, told us the group has multiple elders as seems to be outlined in the New Testament. Although Hal himself was ordained an elder in the WCG in 1979, he pointed out that the group has no formal elder ranking system and operates more like a brotherly fellowship.
The service has many innovations from the traditional COG one of a sermonette followed by a one-hour sermon. The Berean Fellowship opens with prayer, has one or two songs, then a 15 to 20-minute presentation. This is followed by another song, or special music. Then there is ten minutes or so of interactive discussion about the earlier presentation, including questions to the speaker. This is then followed by intercessory prayer, in which the whole congregation participates. Then another song, followed by a second 15 to 20-minute presentation. This one is likewise followed by ten minutes of interactive discussion and questions. The service is then closed with a song and prayer.
Hal said the group has noticed several advantages to their service format. First, any male member, even older teens, can give a presentation. Nearly all of those eligible have given presentations. What seems remarkable to Hal is that most of them had never spoken in services before, yet they are becoming quite proficient in doing so now. Hal pointed out that the interactive service with its discussions and questions has created an electric, mutually beneficial environment. He added that the interactive part is not an argumentative one, but more of a diagnosis of the material presented, a taking apart and looking at the pieces so that all may learn more of the subject presented. It seems to be a very effective way of iron sharpening iron. It is felt this approach is also extremely beneficial in retaining the information learned about the subject and seems to work far better than the tradition in many COGs of one person lecturing while the others merely take notes. The consensus seems to be that members have been better nourished this past year than any previous year they can remember.
Hal was especially enthusiastic about the intercessory prayer portion. This is conducted by the Prayer Leader for that week. The session is not to just ask for something, but includes thanksgiving items—members telling about their answered prayers or special occurrences the past week for which they were especially thankful. The Prayer Leader starts the prayer. Quite often, however, the person requesting prayer or offering thanksgiving will then voice their own portion of the general prayer. Even children can do this. In accordance with Matt 5:44, even “enemies” or those who have spitefully used a member may be included in the general prayer. The intercessory prayer session has turned out to be a powerful and moving part of their service. It is felt the group has experienced what appear to be actual divine intervention or miracles, results that evidently occurred at the very time of the general prayer.
Another innovation of this group is their use of electronic helps. For example, they use a computer and overhead projector during the entire service. The words of that day’s songs are thus provided to the congregation on a big screen. More importantly, the scriptures used by the presenters are also placed on the screen. The software program used for the scriptures includes extensive and quite often very helpful footnotes. Related scriptures, even different translations, can also be quickly found and projected on the screen. Many of the group bring their own laptops, and sometimes one member, for example, will be looking up the Greek while another the Hebrew. Quite often a Presenter will use Power Point software to better explain his presentation, and that information is then displayed on the big screen. Or, a Presenter may use a white board and write certain information on it.
The Berean Fellowship also has guest speakers, probably one every six weeks or so. These guests have included Norm Edwards, Dave Havir, Mark Kaplan, Gary Pifer, and others. Steven M. Collins, the author of the book, “The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel— Found” is scheduled to speak in January.
The group recently started cybercasting their live services on the internet. The information on how to access this innovation can be found at the group’s website at www.geocities.com/berean_fellowship. An interesting thing about the cybercast is that it also is interactive. With the proper equipment, listeners can actually participate in the service with their own live comments or questions.
In addition to their interactive church service, the group’s twice-a-month bible studies are also fully interactive. These are done in a casual way, with members sitting around a large table. Both sexes may contribute something, including the older teens.
Still another innovation of this group was done for the first time during this year’s Feast of Unleavened Bread. They held the traditional services on both High Days, but added evening Bible studies and a meal at different member’s homes during the other days of the Feast. This came about in an interesting way. The Spirit working on many people at the same time appeared to result in a consensus that starting this program would be a good thing to do. The Berean Fellowship was joined in their weeklong observance by others from distant areas. This included visitors that came from Alabama, Boston, and the Ozarks. Hal added that for his family, this had been their richest Feast of Unleavened Bread ever.
[Note: A weeklong observance during the Feast of Unleavened Bread has some tradition within the COGs. The WCG had services every day during this annual feast until about 1966.]
Future planning includes the possibility of trying a once-a-month Sabbath service on Friday evening. This would free up the whole Sabbath for visiting other groups, or perhaps doing community service such as serving in a soup kitchen, visiting a nursing home, or doing other things to serve others.
The Berean Fellowship was a co-sponsor of this year’s Wisconsin Dells feast site along with the COG Minneapolis and the COG Big Sandy.
Hal and Scarlet Geiger continued for the sixth year their tradition of hosting a Barn Party at their home the second Saturday after the Feast. The food featured an assortment of homemade chili potlucks as main dishes together with pie and cookie baking contests. A big bonfire and hayrides were part of the festivities together with a talent show and much dancing. Tent camping and RV sites were available on the grounds. Of special interest was the barn itself, which is over a hundred years old, having been built in 1887.
The Barn Party was attended by 175 people from several states. Ninety or more attended earlier Sabbath services in the barn facility.
Although they are more interested in learning than in producing big numbers, the Fellowship is planning a sign to be displayed outside during their services. They are also looking at doing some community public-service work. This may include a lot of musical efforts, as the group seems to be unusually blessed with musical talent.
The main interest of the Fellowship is to follow Acts 17:11 in proving all things so as to come to a better understanding of the scriptures and of God’s will. They also want to develop a more gracious attitude respecting differences, looking more at the fruits of those with differences instead of focusing on the differences themselves.
The Berean Fellowship meets every Sabbath at 1:00 p.m. in the Dousman Municipal Building, Dousman, Wisconsin. The building is easy to find. Dousman is essentially a one-street town and the Municipal Building is right on Main Street. The mailing address is: Box 215, Dousman, Wisconsin, 53118. Their toll free telephone number is 877-444-4252. Hal’s home telephone is 262-593-5637. Or, another contact person would be Jeff Hagan at 262-594-2063.
— “One-third Century in-COGs”
Livonia, Michigan — I’m not sure that I have words to inspire someone else, but I did want to share some of my experiences.
I’ve spent the majority of my life in God’s church. I grew up in WCG and my parents left in the 1970s when I was a young teen. I spent the next 8-10 years recapturing what I thought was something I had missed as a child. During my years at WCG, there was not any children’s activities, or sports. We were to “come out of the world”, yet it was replaced with nothing. Later they changed that, but for me, I was an orphan in my world (or so it seemed).
Anyway, it was not until more than 10 years later, when I was marrying a Baptist man, that I gave my beliefs any real thought. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the Bible, or any of the lessons of my youth until I sat in services on Sunday morning a week or so before Easter. This was a small church in my hometown, and one that was open to discussions “during” services. At a moment when I thought I had enough time to ask, I said to the minister, “How do you justify Good Friday and Easter Sunday when there are not 3 days and 3 nights there?” His reply to me was, “What difference does it make as long as you believe?” I spent the rest of that service, looking around at where I was, and on what day it was, wondering if it really mattered what day, and if 3 days and 3 nights really mattered. I went on a mission from that day—studying, reading, praying and fasting—and I heard my God in those studies! I came to a realization that a second generation Christian (understanding the Sabbath, Holy Days and other truths) was just like every other child in any of the other religions. They spend their religious life following “traditions”, not “convictions”. In all the years I had been in the church, I never proved anything to myself—I had no need to do it. I went to church with my family because—that’s what we did!
Mistakenly, I married that man, and we’re now divorced. From that marriage I was given 2 beautiful children, who live with me, and follow God’s commandments and Holy Days. Their father is familiar with what we do, although keeps none of it since the divorce.
About 8 years ago, I met a young man at work. He was the son of my boss at the time. His name is Jim and he would ask me why I kept the Sabbath on Saturday and never worked overtime then. (Our job paid well—even better at “time and a half” for overtime. Most couldn’t understand how I could pass up that kind of money.) I would give him comments here or there, but nothing really too deep and I’d walk away. Little did I know that he hung on to every word I said and would go study to see if what I said was true. Soon, we had many studies together. It became quite difficult once he decided to actually act out and live the things he was learning, primarily, because his dad was my boss. My boss did not give me any grief for missed days, but certainly never understood how I could deny my children Christmas pleasures and other such things. Now, his own son began denying himself and his grandchildren of this “blessed holiday”. We all still work in the same room, but now, I am a boss, and that young man works for me now. We feast together and spend holy days together and, about 5 years ago, Jim was baptized. His wife started to come to my home as well, reading with us and studying the word of God. A year later, she was baptized.
I am now remarried to a man with two young daughters ages 6 and 9. My children have probably taught them more about what is in the Bible than they have learned in their own Sunday school. My new husband no longer keeps Christmas or Easter and attended his first Feast with me this year down in St. Augustine, Florida. Christmas this year will be a very difficult time for him and his children as they try to understand what their dad is doing.
I have found that politics and human nature will pop up whether you are established as an organized corporate church, or whether you are a small living room church of God.
For about seven years now, I have held a Bible Study in my home on the Sabbath. Sometimes, its just family, other times we’ve had as many as 20 in attendance.
A situation arose in my home several years ago where one older gentleman and his wife started attending regularly, and then for the most part, led the studies. Other than these older folks and myself, the others attending were truly babes in Christ. When they couldn’t attend on one Sabbath afternoon, they called to say I needed to cancel the study because they wouldn’t be there. I told them to enjoy their trip out of town, and that we would be studying here without them. That seemed to create a problem for him. I didn’t give it much thought until the next time they came to my home. When we discussed the Bible lesson from the previous week, he found out that I had typed it up and passed it out for a study reference. He accused me of wanting to “take over” the Bible studies, and then announced that it was against God’s will that a woman teach or usurp authority over a man. It was then that the people in the Bible study stood up against him. The wife of the young man spoke the loudest. She told this older gentleman, that if it weren’t for God using me as a vessel to teach her husband, he wouldn’t be where he was today. She then told him that if it weren’t for me teaching her the milk of the Word to understand the foundation of His Word, she wouldn’t be where she is today either. It seemed as though some ultimatum was being spoken but without any words. It is difficult to explain. This wasn’t the first time my presence in affairs had caused this man grief. It was this older gentleman that had baptized the young man. Even that was a problem because the young man wanted me in the water with him. He said that if God had used me as a vessel, then he wanted me to be part of his baptism. This was met with resistance to the point the young man was told that if I came in the water, he would not baptize him. I did not want this to be a stumbling block for anyone, so I assured the young man that I would be right there in “spirit” with him.
Since that meeting in my home about preaching to these people was addressed, the older couple no longer attends with us. I have no hard feelings and we still speak and e-mail one another, but we do not see eye to eye on the exact nature of my role.
I do not think that I have any authority over anyone; I just read the words from the Bible. The calling and desire to study was not my own work, but the work of God.
I spend a lot of time “in the Bible” showing my children the words of the Lord. We have studies where “they” give the lesson from the Bible, letting them get familiar with the scriptures and the books of the Bible. I don’t want my kids to do things because of “tradition”; I want them to do it because they know it is the word of God.
I have an awesome testimony about my daughter who is soon to be 11 in January. This past Atonement, she wanted to fast with me. Her conviction to do this led to her little brother (7) wanting to try. We went to that young man’s home this day and we studied and sang songs all afternoon. I did not think my ex-husband was taking the kids this evening, so we were making Bible lesson art projects when he came. It was the first time that my daughter didn’t seem to want to go with him. I had already made some verbal plans for breaking our fast together. Before leaving with her dad, she turned to me to ask when the Sabbath would be over, and I told her. She went with her dad and he took her to her grandmothers for dinner. When she arrived, the grandmother had dinner waiting on the table. My daughter wouldn’t eat. She told them that the Sabbath wouldn’t be over for two more hours and she would eat then. Her dad and grandmother and little brother sat and ate, while she waiting patiently for the Sabbath to end. This story makes my heart swell with pride and my eyes fill with joyful tears. You never know the will of your child when they are away from you, and to show that willpower, knowing that she was hungry, and they were all eating while she stood strong for her God makes me tremble with joy and humbled at the blessing of the daughter He has given me.
— Kim Snyder, email@example.com