One core value of our church's Sunday School ministry is reaching lost people. Sometimes Sunday School teachers and classes can lose sight of this foundational principle. It is easier to focus on member care, fellowship and teaching, and neglect reaching new people. Some have said, “You worry about how deep your ministry is and God will take care of its breadth.” That might get a few “amens” at a conference, but it really isn’t biblical or practical. We cannot do the Great Commission without trying to reach new people. In fact, we really aren’t loving our neighbor, if we neglect to invite them to receive Christ and become part of His kingdom. Here are four fundamental reasons to keep outreach as a top priority of our Sunday School.
1. God commands it in His Word. That should be enough motivation for any Christian. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus' final command before He left earth included reaching people with the Gospel message. These "marching orders" are repeated in the other three gospels and in the book of Acts. The New Testament Church took the Great Commission very seriously and thus, evangelism became the priority mission of the church.
2. People cannot be discipled until they are first reached. Discipleship is a function of Sunday School, but it must not become the mission of the Sunday School. Christians need to grow deeper in the Lord, but have you ever asked yourself why? What is the purpose of discipleship if it is not, at least in part, to equip believers to obey the Great Commission? If a Christian is growing "deeper," yet with no real concern about the eternal destiny of the unreached people of the community and the world, is he or she really any closer to Jesus? The closer we are to Him, the more obvious is our love for the lost.
3. It creates a healthy church focus. When a local church begins to put too much focus on politics, or music style, or the building, or social reform, reaching people becomes a very casual activity. Besides that, who wants to bring a lost neighbor to class, only to have the teacher blast anyone with a different political view or another viewpoint on gun control? Certainly, Christians are to be "salt and light" and we need to be involved as patriots and engaged in public reform that aligns itself with Scripture. Yet, to make any of these things the primary focus of the church will create an unhealthy environment with very limited evangelistic potential. People need the Lord no matter their political stripes. We see the Apostle Paul with an incredible burden for lost people in Romans 9:1-3. Where is the Bible verse that shows the early church involved in excluding people because they are of another political party? I’m pretty sure it isn’t there.
4. It is fulfilling for God's people. Any church worth the bricks it is built with rejoices to see lost people come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The salvation of souls is something only God can do, and when a church family sees people coming to Christ, it is evidence of God's work in their midst. The Christians in such a congregation are encouraged and thrilled as new believers are added to the church. Folks can’t wait to attend a church where people are being saved routinely.
I’d like to challenge each Sunday School leader to develop a prayer list of lost people that can be reached through the ministry of your class. Maybe you could have a wall covered with post-it notes that have the first names of people the class is seeking to reach. Let’s make it a true priority to contact these people, giving an invitation to attend your class and know your Savior.
Dave Frasure is CABA's Disciple-making Catalyst and pastors First Baptist So. Lebanon, Oh.