The three tasks of Sunday School are: (1) reaching people, (2) teaching people, and (3) ministering to people. Of these three tasks, reaching people is the most important. Why? Because you can’t teach those you don’t reach and you can’t minister as well to those you don’t reach. Of the Six Core Values of Sunday School, reaching people has to be the most important one. Why? Because you don’t assimilate people you don’t reach; you don’t involve people you don’t reach; and you don’t build strong, healthy relationships with people you don’t reach. If you don’t reach people, you can’t even have Sunday School!
I once had the privilege and challenge of starting a “paper class.” A “paper class” means you take no seed members from other classes; you simply list a number of prospects on a sheet of paper and then go after them. It took much hard work, a lot of visiting and phoning; but we were able to see that class grow, and many new people were united with the church and saved. I learned a valuable lesson: If no one was reached, we couldn’t have Sunday School! Regardless of the hours I spent in study, if no one came, we could not teach. Regardless of the plans we made to assimilate people, involve them in ministry, build relationships with them, and put in place a great ministry, if no one came, if no one was reached, our plans would never become reality.
I read a story about a guy who woke up one morning in terrible pain. Every place he touched on his body enticed agony. He scratched his head, and it caused pain. He rubbed his shoulder, and the pain surfaced. He touched his knee, and pain shot throughout his body. He finally decided that something was terribly wrong with him, so he called the doctor’s office to get an appointment. Even as he dialed the phone, the pain was unbearable. After consulting with the man, the doctor did a complete and thorough exam. As the doctor walked into the room to report his findings to the aching man, he frantically jumped up and asked the doctor if he was going to die. The doctor said, “No, according to the X-rays, you have a broken index finger.”
A Sunday School devoid of evangelism is a broken index finger to the rest of the ministry of the church. It all starts with evangelism. No evangelism, no teaching, no discipleship, no involvement, no assimilation, no nothing! We must keep the main thing the main thing. As we plan and prioritize the work of the Sunday School, we must always keep evangelism on the front burner.
I am of the conviction that evangelism and outreach have to be promoted and emphasized more than any other of the Core Values because they do not take place on Sunday morning in the classroom. It easily falls into the syndrome of “out of sight, out of mind.” Church leaders must talk about it and exemplify it.
Every Bible preaching/teaching church knows what we are to do: evangelize the unbeliever and disciple the believer. Again, Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, has given us soldiers of the cross our marching orders: the Great Commission. So the question, “What are we to do?”, is easily answered. I have found that the issue in the church is not what but how. Howshould we go about doing the what? We must build a strategy that is practical and intentional in its effort to fulfill the what. Sunday School is such a strategy! Sunday School is the best way to practically and tangibly flesh out the command of Christ upon our lives. Vision casting is done best in small groups; mobilization is best done in small groups. Therefore, the small group ministry is the best way to get our arms around the Great Commission.
As I have had the privilege to lead Sunday School conferences, I often conduct an exercise where the conferees list the purposes of the Sunday School in the order of priority. Overwhelmingly, Bible study is listed as the number one purpose of Sunday School. Ministering to one another, fellowshipping with one another, and praying for one another are the other priorities given. No one could argue against these things. They are very important and should be a vital part of any Sunday School class. But we seem to always place the highest priority on what we do “with one another.” Again, let me reaffirm their necessity. I would not want to be a part of a Sunday School that did not cherish these things. However, I am compelled to ask this insightful question: If Jesus Christ was still incarnate and here on earth and was your Sunday School teacher, what would be His number one priority for His class? I believe we find our answer from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
- “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
- “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
- “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
- “…for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47b).
- “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them…” (Luke 9:54-56).
I think Scripture is clear. If Jesus Christ were your Sunday School teacher, He would lead the class to be evangelistically driven. I have often asked myself this question: “If Jesus Christ was the Minister of Education at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, what would He lead the Sunday School to do?” When I ask myself that question, I find my purpose for our Sunday School ministry. With these thoughts in mind, let me give you five reasons evangelism should be done through the Sunday School.
Allan Taylor is one of the speakers on the All Star Sunday School Training Team.