“What you are talking about is not a Sunday School program; it is just Christian living.”
I was flattered and encouraged by this comment at a recent conference. I have really been leaning into this perspective as I have done seminars ever sense. I don’t talk about a Sunday School program; I just talk about how to live the Christian life.
Not that I talk about all of the Christian life. I had someone say to me once, “You talked for three hours and you never said anything about prayer.” True. And, there are some more things I didn’t say too much about. I didn’t say too much about how you ought to be saved, though I certainly believe it is true. I believe you ought to be in the habit of starting your day with the Bible on your lap, but I didn’t say too much about that. I believe you ought to forgive everyone you have to forgive. There are a whole lot of things we could talk about but are not. But what we do talk about will not be a Sunday School program. It will simply be how to live the Christian life.
I believe if you live the Christian life the way the Bible talks about here, you will double your class in two years or less. If your group is not doubling every two years or less, there is a good chance you are not living the Christian life as we describe here. It just comes down to Christian living.
Again, there is a good part of Christian living we are not going to talk about–being saved, living a Spirit-filled life, starting the day with the Bible on our lap, and so forth. Some important things we will assume.
“Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner.” Romans 12.13 (TLB)
Let me draw your attention to a number of things about this verse through the use of a few questions.
First, what is the nature of the language of this verse? Is this a proverb, prophecy, parable or command?
It is a command, right? As surely as God has commanded us to pray or give, or serve, or do anything else, God has commanded us to get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner.
Notice it is a habit. The word habit is actually not in the Greek. Kenneth Taylor put it in there to emphasize that this is a present tense verb, which, in the Greek, emphasized a linear action. It is not something we do one time and we are done. We do it over and again. It is a lifestyle. It is a habit. It is the way the Christian life is lived.
Christian living is not done all alone. It is not done sitting in straight rows watching the same events happen on the same stage. We grow as we are joined together Ephesians 2.21, 4.16. The Christian life is a very connected life. It is in my home and in your home and in my business and in yours.
I draw your attention to the word invite. What can you expect to happen when you invite guests home for dinner?
Well, if you have not done this, you might think they will come. And, some will. But, they won’t all come. In my experience you will have to invite three or four people for every person that shows up. You can’t do anything about whether they come. All you are responsible for is inviting.
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)
Again, what is the nature of the language of this verse?
It is a command. Our holy, sovereign, Lord, Boss and God has commanded us to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
We are commanded to offer. You can’t control whether or not the come. Offer, offer, offer.
Next question: how are we to offer hospitality?
Do you have any idea why Peter might have added, “Without grumbling”?
I can think of at least two reasons:
- All good ideas degenerate into work. When we have people over, as we will Friday night, my wife likes to have the house clean. Somebody has to make the dessert, vacuum the floor, clean the bathroom and so forth. If you have not done this, you have no idea how much trouble it is to have fun.
- Some people are kind of hard to love. Some times we will invite them and they will come and it will be fun and all is well. But, sometimes we will invite them and they will be boring. Sometimes they will be obnoxious. Sometimes they will be irritating. Sometimes they will be late. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth. 3 John 1:8 (NIV)
We ought to show hospitality. It is not exactly an imperative, but it is something we ought to do. This is not just mentioned once, but is a theme of the New Testament. New Testament living is all about hospitality
I draw your attention to the words, “work together.” Ten years of working with group leaders has taught me that often times our teachers are not much into this. They are into teaching. they are into reading and studying. Teachers do not tend to be the funnest people in the room. They tend to be a bit bookish. They tend to be a bit cerebral.
Work together implies we want to get a whole team of people helping with this. We want to get
- Inreach leaders to invite every member
- Outreach leaders to invite every prospect
- Fellowship leaders to plan the party
- A class leader who will serve as over all organizer and see that everything happens as it should
The goal is not for you as teacher to do the work of ten men; it is to get ten men (or women) in the work.
When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don’t invite only your friends, Luke 14:12 (GW)
This one is the real kicker. I wonder. Have you ever had a lunch or dinner and invited only your friends? I think all of us have. Jesus told us to live different lives. He told us to live inviting lives. He wants us to form a habit that each time we have a lunch or dinner we think about inviting and including someone who is not a part of the group.
I have reduced it to a formula: invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. Don’t just invite your friends. Invite people who are far from God. Invite some prospects. Invite some recent visitors to your church. Invite some absentees from you class. Invite. Invite. Invite. Keeping inviting them to the party. Invite them to the dinner. Invite, invite, invite, and you can double your class in two years or less.
But, the formula is not a Sunday School program; it is just Christian living.