Sabbath School Lesson for December 15-21, 2018


Concepts that pertain to church organization are…

  • Christ as the head of the church (Sunday)
  • servant leadership (Monday)
  • how organization preserves church unity (Tuesday)
  • what is the purpose of church discipline (Wednesday)
  • how can organization aid the mission of the church (Thursday)


The early Adventist pioneers of the 1800’s struggled with how much church organization was necessary, or if it was even necessary at all. But they soon discovered that in order to complete their mission of spreading the gospel, they would have to embrace some kind of structure for their ever-widening efforts to evangelize the world.

As we consider the importance of unity among the followers of God today, we must take into account the impact organization and leadership has had upon the rank and file membership of the church. The way church organization is implemented has much to do with its success in promoting and preserving unity in the Christian church.

This week, we examined some of the key components of good leadership and organization that would maintain the unity that Jesus desired so much for His disciples.

Memory Text: ” ‘Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.’ “ Matthew 20:26, 27 NKJV

Jesus gently tried to guide His sparring disciples away from the proud attitudes they harbored, when it came to their place in the Father’s Kingdom. They fervently desired the prize of the highest ranking among each other, causing many arguments and harsh feelings that needlessly marred their happiness of being with the Messiah.

Their disputes continued right up to the Last Supper in the upper room (Luke 22:24). How disheartening it must have been for the Messiah to hear their prideful comments so close to His sacrificial death for them.

His example of washing their feet that night was meant to crush these feelings of rivalry. And for some of them, they were beginning to see the value of His concept of servant leadership. We, too, must learn all we can about how effective church organization, which includes servant leadership, equips the church to serve and fulfill its mission.

Sunday: Christ, the Head of the Church

Every organization flow chart of God’s church must embody Christ as the focus, the central operating officer, of its structure. In New Testament language He is referred to as the Head of the church. Recognizing His rightful leadership position enables our church leaders to fully appreciate their place in the church’s structure.

In the body metaphor that Paul used to illustrate the church, we can see most clearly the highly valued position that Christ must occupy in His beloved church. There is no life in the body, without the head. But the head, likewise, needs the body to sustain life and movement within its being.

This reciprocal relationship ideally brings us, as a church, closer together in unity. As we all move toward the same goal of knowing Jesus, our Head, we will find ourselves closer to each other and more able to build lasting, personal relationships with the spiritual fruits He bestows on us through our association with Him.

Discussion Questions:

Read Ephesians 1:21-23 and Romans 12:4, 5. What authority has been given to Jesus, and why?

Read Colossians 1:13-18. In what way is Christ the “firstborn” among the living, and the dead?

Read Ephesians 5:22-28, 21 Why are both husband and wife called to acts of submission and love for each other, even though each are also given specific directions in this passage? How does this mystifying marriage relationship resemble Christ’s relationship with His church?

Monday: Servant Leadership

Servant leadership style, endorsed by Jesus so many years ago, is now being revisited by secular organizations and businesses in our modern world. Previously, a strictly hierarchical model was recognized as the most effective way to operate and conduct business.

But, now, many are utilizing a team model approach, with even leaders at the top serving those under them, much as Jesus described to His disciples in Matthew 20:25-28. Although not meant to dismantle all authority structures, Jesus’ approach was emphatic about how authority was used in serving those under its influence.

One of the most memorable times that Jesus presented this new leadership concept, besides His foot-washing example, was when He brought a child before them and explained what it really meant to be first.

We must become as a child, He advised. A child is humble, trusting, and anxious to please and imitate worthy adults in his/her life. Leaders in God’s church must also demonstrate these qualities toward God in their interactions with those they serve. We are all God’s children, and must think and act like them, if we are to successfully preach the gospel to others.

Discussion Questions:

Read Mark 9:33, 34, Luke 22:20-24. What’s the difference in being all you can be, a worthy thing to strive for, and being all God wants you to be? How might these achievements have different results for our lives, both here on earth and for eternity?

Read Matthew 20:25-28. How did Jesus demonstrate this principle in His life among the disciples? What are some of the ways they would have seen it in their day-to-day interactions with Him?

Read John 13:3-5, 13-17. How important is the ordinance of foot-washing, still practiced in some denominations, such as the Seventh-day Adventists, which does it quarterly (four times a year)? How does it prepare us for the communion that follows? And how does it ideally safeguard our unity in the weeks between communion services?

Tuesday: Preserving Church Unity

As a faithful church member and disciple of Christ, we are all given the task of not only living the gospel, but to teach it to others. Church leaders, especially, must guide others in ministering on both these levels.

Along with living a life that glorifies God and promotes His lifestyle, Christians must perfect their skills for communicating the truths found in the Bible in a way that draws others to His loving arms and prepares them for the Second Coming.

When others see Jesus in our example of caring ministry, then hear the words of Scripture patiently being taught, they will grow more and more like the Jesus we are trying to imitate. This process guarantees, not only church growth, but its unified voice in proclaiming the gospel.

Discussion Questions:

Read 2 Timothy 2:15 and Titus 1:7-9. Why is our living the gospel as important as preaching it? And why is our preaching the gospel as important as our living it? How can every church member contribute to both these activities, and how does it unify us as a church when it happens?

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4. Not only are we to preach the word, but how are we to do it, according to these verses? Why do our methods matter, if the Holy Spirit is the one who blesses our efforts?

Read 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. What part does God play in preaching the gospel? And what part do we play? What does this tell us about our oneness with God?

Wednesday: Church Discipline

Criminal justice in our world focuses on providing various degrees of punishment and/or rehabilitation for the offender.

When it comes to church discipline, however, which also involves an offender, we must take punishment off the table and consider only the redemptive aspects of our actions. God alone is the one to dictate punishment. We should never consider vengeance or punishing as part of our role in dealing with misbehaving members of God’s church.

Two goals only should guide our decisions when it comes to church discipline…

  1. preserving and upholding the doctrinal truths that our church stands for
  2. protecting and guarding the reputation of the church

Our actions taken must, therefore, be designed to safeguard the purity of the Scriptures and the purity of the church. This can’t be achieved without God’s grace, recognizing that we are all sinners.

Only when we feel our own unworthiness will we be immersed in the humility it takes to redeem (or win back) someone who sharply hinders our church’s ability to achieve its mission.

Discussion Questions:

Read Romans 15:4-6. How can we use the Scriptures when making decisions to discipline those in the church? How can we be sure we don’t abuse our use of God’s word, in attempting to win back a church member?

Read Matthew 7:1-5. Explain why Jesus first told them not to judge, then told them how to do it. Why is humility so important when applying church discipline to anyone, no matter what their offense?

Read Matthew 16:19. Why do we, as church members, hold the keys to the kingdom of God, and how does this impact our church discipline?

Thursday: Organizing for Mission

As a faithful CEO, Jesus gave His disciples a strategic plan for building the church that would be most able to carry out God’s mission, following His ascension. Several actions must be taken on their part. They were to…

  1. go (They must not stay in one place, but go wherever the Spirit guided them– like Abraham when he was told to go find a promised land.)
  2. make disciples of all the nations (Their work of discipleship would only survive when they fostered in others the same love and devotion they had toward God–like the children of Israel were instructed to do upon their arrival in Canaan.)
  3. baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (They must continue to be transformed by God’s Spirit and baptized into God’s family through this highly symbolic ceremony. John the Baptist was significant in promoting confession and baptism, which helped prepare people for Jesus’ First Coming to earth.)
  4. teach people everything God had commanded of them (They must be diligent in following God through His word. Moses certainly fulfilled this role as he led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt and delivered God’s commandments from Mount Sinai.)

We see these activities in the organized work of the church today. We have…

  1. evangelists (who “go”)
  2. lay members (who “make disciples”)
  3. pastors (who “baptize”)
  4. teachers (who “teach”)

So long as the church stays connected to Jesus, the mission will not be in jeopardy. When these roles and actions are in place, church growth and survival is guaranteed.

Discussion Questions:

Read Matthew 28:18 and Daniel 7:14. How does this statement by Jesus confirm who is the real Head of the church? What kind of authority is He talking about? What does this say about man’s authority?

Read Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, and Luke 24:47. How do the other gospels inform us on what and where they are to preach, along with their baptizing?

Read Matthew 28:20 and Revelation 14:12. What two things does Jesus assure us will be with us till the end?


If full unity–oneness with God and our fellowman–is ever to be achieved in a way that promotes the mission of the church, there must be an organization of dedicated leaders guiding us to that goal.

God has shown us the value of organization in so many ways…from the organization and beauty in the natural world to His choice of prophets and disciples we read about in the Scriptures.

These leaders, with Christ as the Head, promote unity by…

  • upholding Biblical truth
  • serving humbly
  • exercising redemptive discipline
  • fulfilling the gospel commission

All church members have a responsibility to create an atmosphere of unity that uniquely draws others to the heavenly Kingdom of God. We must see that all these goals are in place, and that all authority comes from Christ Himself. His Spirit alone makes this possible.

Next Week’s Lesson: Final Restoration of Unity

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