By Allan Taylor
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has initiated “Who’s Your One,” a major emphasis to get believers back to personal soul-winning.
This movement has caused me to think again about how Sunday School or any small group Bible study can be utilized in this much-needed evangelistic emphasis. Church history shows Sunday School is an effective means to reach people. But what about today?
I suggest three reasons to once again incorporate Sunday School as an evangelistic strategy.
1. Sunday School is the church organized for evangelism.
Sunday School is generally age-graded. That is, people are placed in a group of people with similar ages or lifestyles. This is easily done with preschool and school age children.
But it should also be done with adults. Allow me to share three principles in this regard.
First, we age grade so the teaching/learning experience will be more effective. Sunday School is the place to go to learn the Bible, and this is more easily done in age-specific groups.
Secondly, we age grade to better apply Scripture to daily living. To not apply biblical truth to daily living is to produce a room full of hearers only. The application of Scripture will vary depending on life stage.
Most get the previous two principles, but few have given consideration to this third principle of age grading: We are more successful in reaching people.
We more naturally reach those who are within our own life stage. So many churches today are struggling for answers in their quest to reach millennials. Question: Who best can reach millennials? Well, millennials are.
This is true across the age spectrum. Baby boomers can reach lost and unchurched baby boomers better than anyone else in the church. Gen X-ers can reach their generation more efficiently than others.
Jesus has given the church the mandate to reach people, so shouldn’t we organize ourselves to do that? And there’s no better place to do that than through Sunday School and small groups.
Every Bible study group should be on mission. Each group is a collection of people gathered to do the will and work of God. We organize mission teams to go overseas to share the gospel so shouldn’t we organize teams to do the same in our own communities?
The mission is everything! Therefore, everything should move toward the mission—including the way we organize our groups.
2. Sunday School is the church mobilized for evangelism.
Churches have other groups besides open group Sunday School classes. However, most aren’t organized like Sunday School for effective evangelism.
Is the discipleship ministry mandated to reach lost and unchurched persons? They’re mostly for the purpose of maturing those already in the faith.
Is the choir mandated to reach lost and unchurched persons? No. They are to lead those in Christ to worship and exalt Him.
Are committees purposed with the mission to reach those outside the faith? No. We’re not really sure what they are supposed to do (just kidding). Sunday School and small groups is the church mobilized to fulfill the Great Commission like no other ministry in the church.
3. Sunday School is the church individualized.
In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded every born-again believer to be a witness.
The church is to mobilize all Christians to be involved in evangelism and the best way for the church to do that is through Bible study groups. A small group can break down the Great Commission one person at a time.
A Realistic Look at Our Current Strategies
Most church leaders have led their congregations to develop a vision or mission statement to reach the lost. They champion their methods and techniques, their creative design, and out-of-the-box thinking.
Yet when challenged to explain how such a grand vision is actually lived out in the church and the lives of their people, they often can only offer vague plans or fantasies they only wished were true.
Let’s have some honest talk. Most vision formations are a delusional exercise where church leaders treat brainstorming, group think tanks, and logos as substitutes for actually stirring the baptismal waters.
Now, I’m grateful the church has leaders who will get away and dream big dreams, but too many “mission statements” are nothing more than a Peanut Butter Manifesto: We spread a thin layer of vision across everything we do and focus on nothing in particular. This is a sure-fire strategy for failure (and the proof is in the pudding).
We must move from a thin layer of general application to a heavily applied dose of execution. As Winston Churchill once said, “No matter how grand the vision, one must occasionally look at the results!”
Don’t leave your mission statement as a declaration of aspirational edicts that proclaim a future without specifics to sustain the ideas. Vision without strategy generates unfounded hope. Any vision not rooted in reality creates more cynicism than confidence.
Hearing rhetoric but seeing no action creates contempt. Strategy turns our aspirations into action. All this to simply say: Sunday School is the strategy that makes the vision executable!
ALLAN TAYLOR(@allantaylor54) is the former director of Sunday School and Church Education Ministry at Lifeway Christian Resources.