“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”(Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
I have noticed lots of discussion lately about different ways of reaching the unchurched for Bible study/Sunday School. Though some classes may reach one or two with the former ways (traditional) Bible study, I would suggest we need to consider how the Spirit is leading in new ways to reach people for Christ through Bible study/Sunday School. Here are some thoughts as you prayerfully consider options:
Go where the people are. The days of lots of unchurched people showing up on a Sunday morning are in the past. We need to go where the people are. Where do you see the unchurched gathered…a local store, apartment complex, community swimming pool, movie theatre…etc.? We need to take the message into the community rather than waiting for them to show up. (See the blogs “Being Missional in Sunday School” and “Sunday School: Missional or Discipleship” for more ideas.)
Belonging must come before believing! The unchurched cares more about community and friendship than doctrine. We must begin with offering God’s love and believe God will work to transform them. We must trust God for transformation as we offer grace and share God’s Word in unique ways. We cannot judge a person’s appearance or lifestyle as we begin a relationship. The Holy Spirit will speak to them as we model God’s Word and share. Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” As we develop deeper relationships with the unchurched, great things will happen, but not overnight. My mother prayed and modeled Jesus for 25 years before my dad gave his life to Christ. When he did he became a great witness for God and many unchurched became Christians because of his witness. Remember, Sunday School/Bible study is like gardening. Cultivating and nurturing the soil is as important as planting the seeds (of God’s Word.) You need to show you care about them and not just a decision they need to make.
Learning model, not teaching model. (See the blog, “Teaching: More of an Experience Than a Lesson.”) We must move from lecture to helping people discover God’s truth for themselves. The unchurched do not want easy answers given to them. They do not want religious language but real life language as they discover God. They want to hear how your story has changed as you discovered THE STORY. Perhaps it would be good to return to Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” The unchurched will wrestle with truth and discover it for themselves. We need to ask good questions as they read a passage and see what God is saying to them. (See also the blog, “Sunday School and the Power of Coaching”)
As we seek to reach the unchurched, I pray we will all see what the Spirit of God is asking us to do. The unchurched is yearning for spirituality, but not the former ways of doing it. May we be faithful to see the new thing God is doing!