Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Humble Hero (Desire of Ages)
Chapter 18 - He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease
John the Baptist could have become jealous when his disciples began following Jesus. But he chose to take joy in Jesus’ success. He realized his role was to prepare the way.
As a result of this lesson, we hope that students will be open to the idea that God has a big tent approach to reaching people. Because of that, we might want to have a similar approach instead of being jealous of other people’s gospel efforts.
Supplies needed: 3-5 pieces of paper per person (ideally use two different colors of paper and give an equal number of students each of the colors), a boundary (use chairs or, if you’re feeling ambitious, use some tape), trash can
Have students make balls out of their pieces of paper and divide them into two teams (divided by the color of paper they have).
Round 1: Have students sit down cross-legged, and let them know that once they sit they cannot move. Teams will then try to get as many pieces of their color on the other side as possible all while trying to remove the other team’s paper from their side. Give the students a time limit of 60-90 seconds.
Round 2: Reset the paper so each team has their own color again. Set up the same way with students sitting down. This time they are to hand collect as many of the other team’s papers as possible. One rule is that if you have a paper, you must throw it to the other side. Give teams 60 seconds again.
Round 3: Get a trash can. Have both teams line up 2-3 feet from the trash can. Give students 30 seconds to get all of the paper balls into the trash can. Both teams use the same trash can. (Leader, the goal is for the students to work together and also clean up their mess.)
(Zoom Option: Use the whiteboard function on Zoom and have students use colored letters, i.e. Team A could write the letter A in red, and Team B could write the letter B in blue. Teams would then try to erase the other team’s letters while still writing their own on the whiteboard.)
I’m a huge sports fan. I have coached sports and/or played on sports teams my whole life. Competition sometimes bring out the best in us, but sometimes it also has some negative consequences.
Some of you who have played basketball have shouted out the term “same team.” This happens when two players are going for the rebound from the same team. Usually one or both players is so intent on getting the rebound for their team they don’t realize that they are actually fighting for the ball with their own teammate. Sometimes in the scrum for the ball they inadvertently knock the ball out of bounds and give the other team the ball back. That competitive spirit, when misplaced, can cost your team the possession.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
There are several stories in Scripture of Jesus’ disciples being competitive. This story is actually about a different group of disciples. Please open your Bibles to John 3. We are going to look at a passage that follows one of the most famous passages of the Bible, John 3:16.
After Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus He headed back to the Jordan river, and Jesus’ disciples started baptizing people just down the river from John the Baptist. It created some tension. I hope by the end of this lesson we can see the value of playing on one team.
Read John 3:22-23.
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized.
Read John 3:24-27.
24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.
This is similar to the issue Paul deals with in Corinth. It seems that some people liked other people’s preaching better than Paul’s. Look at how Paul addresses this.
Read 1 Cor 3:4-9.
4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?
5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
Read John 3:30.
30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
I like to call this Servant Leadership. I can’t imagine what it was like for John the Baptist to have crowds of people coming to hear him. He was influential. Powerful people came and saw God in a new way through him. He seemed to be making a difference! Then all the momentum shifted to Jesus. For many leaders this would be very hard, which makes John’s statement here in verse 30 all the more impressive.
I don’t know all of the answers that were given; I think John spent his whole life preparing himself for Jesus to take over. Are you ready for that in your life? Are you ready to decrease so Jesus can increase? Are you ready to give up your influence and change it to His influence and power? How might this happen? What would it look like?
Think of another church/youth group in your area. Maybe even at a non-Adventist church! Write them a thank you note for all they are doing to build the Kingdom of God in your city/community. No strings or agenda attached.
Find a ministry to partner with such as ADRA, Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child, International Justice Mission, etc. Talk about perhaps using your youth Sabbath School offering each month to sponsor one of these ministries for a year!
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
We have already seen that one aim of the writer of the fourth gospel is to ensure that John the Baptist received his proper place as the forerunner of Jesus, but no higher place than that. Some people were still ready to call John master and lord; the writer of the fourth gospel wishes to show that John had a high place, but that the highest place was reserved for Jesus alone. He also wishes to show that John himself always knew that Jesus was supreme. To that end he shows how the two ministries overlap so that by contrast the supremacy of Jesus may be clearly seen.
One thing is certain—this passage shows us the humility of John the Baptist. It was clear that people were leaving John for Jesus. John’s disciples were worried. They did not like to see their master take second place. They did not like to see him abandoned while the crowds flocked to hear and see this new teacher.
In response to their complaints, it would have been very easy for John to feel neglected and forgotten. Sometimes a friend’s sympathy can be the worst possible thing for us. It can make us feel sorry for ourselves and encourage us to think that we have not had a fair deal. But John had a mind above that.
He told them that he had never expected anything else. He assured them that his was not the leading place, but that he was merely sent as the herald, the forerunner, and the preparer for the greater one to come.
John comforted his followers by sharing that no person could receive more than God gave them. If the new teacher was winning more followers it was not because he was stealing them from John, but because God was giving them to Him.
Finally, John shared a vivid picture which every Jew would recognize, because it was part of their heritage. He called Jesus the bridegroom and himself the friend of the bridegroom. One of the great pictures of the Old Testament depicts Israel as the bride of Christ and Jesus as the bridegroom of Israel. The union between God and Israel was so close that it could only be compared to a wedding.
The friend of the bridegroom, the shoshben, had a unique place at a Jewish wedding. He acted as the liaison between the bride and the bridegroom, arranged the wedding, took out the invitations, and presided at the wedding feast. He brought the bride and the bridegroom together. And he had one special duty: guarding the bridal chamber and to let no false lover in. He would open the door only when in the dark he heard the bridegroom’s voice and recognized it. When he heard the bridegroom’s voice, he let him in and went away rejoicing, for his task was completed and the lovers were together. He did not grudge the bridegroom the bride. He knew that his only task had been to bring bride and bridegroom together. And when that task was done he willingly and gladly faded out of the center of the picture.
Don’t Hate! Celebrate!
Share a story about a time when you celebrated the success of a friend.
Read John 3:22-36.
22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
1. What were Jesus and John doing in Judea before John’s imprisonment?
2. What were John’s followers complaining about?
3. What was John’s answer?
4. What was the meaning of John’s bride and bridegroom response?
5. Why did John say, “He must increase, and I must decrease”?
6. Why was John frustrated that people would not receive Jesus’ testimony?
7. What makes it easy to celebrate others, and what makes it hard?
8. If Jesus reviews your life now, will He say that you have life or death? Why or why not?
John was grieved that so few accepted Jesus’ message; but when a person does accept it, they show they believe that the word of God is true. In the ancient world, if a man wished to give his full approval to a document, such as a will or an agreement, he affixed his seal at the bottom. The seal was the sign that he agreed with this and regarded it as binding and true.
When a person accepts Jesus’ message, they affirm and attest that they believe God’s word is true. So, if we want information about God, we will get it only from the Son of God; and if we want information about heaven and eternal life, we will get it only from Him who comes from heaven. Because Jesus alone knows God, He alone can give us the facts about God, and these facts were recorded by John and the other gospel writers.
What matters is our reaction to Christ. If that reaction is love and longing, we will know life. If it is indifference or hostility, we will know death. God doesn’t send His wrath; people bring it upon themselves.
Have you ever had issues with an inflated ego? Have you ever thought, I can surely do it better than the other person? How do you feel when others throw a pity party for you when they think you have been treated unfairly? Below, find some application activities to reinforce this lesson. Use these ideas as they are written, or use them as inspiration to create some of your own.
By Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin
The alarming reality of many churches today is that they have bare spots created by the youth and young adults missing from their congregation. Results from a Religious Landscape Study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 and 2014 show a marked decline in church attendance and those who self-identified as Christians.
Few religious leaders have taken the time or done the research to discover what churches are doing right. However, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, Brad Griffin and the research team at Fuller Youth Institute have put together a masterful, accessible work that documents how churches of all sizes, backgrounds, and denominations are effectively connecting with the next generation and have become bright spots.
In Growing Young the authors present their findings in ways that make it easy for church leaders to act. By identifying six fundamental commitments, strategic questions and ideas for action, this book provides a guide to help churches prevent common pitfalls and will result in a congregation that will Grow Young.
Love reading? Use your reading and acting skills to bring joy to children and seniors. Create a funding page, select a few books, go live on Instagram, Facebook, or broadcast on YouTube.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Express your appreciation and encourage people on the front lines. Use your imagination to create encouraging cards for essential workers.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help feed the hungry. Give your canned food drive a twist. Build and display structures with the cans to encourage people to give.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help children transition to a new home with dignity. Purchase and decorate duffle bags for children who are placed into foster care. Place items such as towels and personal hygiene items in the bags.
Cost: $25.00 – partner with a business to defray costs
5. Appreciation Gift Bags for Essential Workers & Teachers / Hero Candy Bars Say thanks in a fun way. Make appreciation bags with food or care items for teachers, essential workers, hospital staff, first responders, etc.
Cost: Less than $5.00