Evangelism has gotten a bad name over the past twenty years or so. Part of it has been justified as some have taken “Good news” and turned it into a guilt ridden bad news approach. Reactive to that approach, many Christians have typically given up on evangelism as something the paid ministers should do. It is time to reclaim the Good News of the Gospel for all Christians, and Sunday School can help reclaim it!
Taking a cue from Mike Breen & Steve Cockram in Building a Discipling Culture, we need to return to Jesus’ teachings on sharing Good News. In John 4:34-38 Jesus tells the disciples before he sends them out that there are certain times and places that the harvest is ripe. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit leading us to find “persons of peace.” These are individuals who are open to us, who will listen and who are supportive. We build a deeper relationship with them. As the Spirit beckons, that the person is open to the Gospel. It is at that time that we share the Gospel as a journey in following Christ.
In the meantime, we look for opportunities to cultivate relationships with non-Christians. As I mentioned as a motto about teaching Sunday School, the same is true of evangelism- Evangelism is as much about cultivating & nourishing the soil as it is about planting the seeds. What relationships are you cultivating with non-Christians? It is building a relationship of trust and modeling the Christian life for them.
Let me share some practical examples on how you can get your class more involved (in non-threatening ways) to do evangelism. First, as individuals, we need to model for them a desire to seek lost persons and build relationships. In today’s culture when most of us spend the majority of our time with Christians, we need to look for opportunities to build relationships outside the church in everything we do. For instance, go to the same cashier at the grocery store each time. Go to the same restaurant on a regular basis. One of the things I try to do is get to know the waiter or waitress and then ask each time, “I usually have a prayer before I eat. Is there anything I can be praying with you about?” I have been surprised to see that no one has ever said “No’ to me. God can use that moment to begin building a relationship. (Keep in mind, you need to ask them about that prayer concern when you see them the next time!)
Second, set up a dinner for eight in your class. The idea is getting three family units together for dinner once a month for three times in a four month period. Each time a different family hosts the dinner. Whoever hosts the dinner is to invite a co-worker, neighbor …essentially a “person of peace”. It is not a place to talk about church; it is a place for the other two families to build a relationship with them and see Christ in their lives.
Third, plan a gathering of ten to fifteen people on a regular basis to go out to eat, to a sporting event, shopping, or a cookout with the idea that every family will bring one “person of peace” with them. Again we are building relationships with the persons and not sharing the Gospel until the Spirit moves to do so. Evangelism is not a paid minister’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of every believer. Help your class discover ways to bring Good News and see how God can transform your class.