A recent Lifeway Research study revealed some sobering statistics concerning the evangelism practices of church-going American Protestants. The study revealed that though 80 percent of those who attend church at least once a month believe that they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, slightly more than 60% have not done so in the previous 6 months.Findings such as these should spur us on to consider some of the following ways that Sunday School may be used to intentionally train and encourage people to actively share their faith.
1. Teach the Bible as the Grand Gospel Story
More than a collection of individual books, the whole of Scripture tells the grand gospel story of how God created, redeemed, and promises to restore a people for Himself. While the individual stories present in Scripture certainly have “stand-alone” significance, understanding them in relation to how they contribute to the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration components of the gospel results in more accurate interpretation and greater application of the Bible text. Teachers who take this approach to their teaching will keep the gospel at the center of their class experience each week and hopefully impress upon class members this overwhelming desire of the heart of God.
2. Share Salvation Stories in Sunday School
In December 2008, Norm Miller was inspired by John 12:32 to “lift up Christ so that He might draw people to Himself.” He ran a series of billboards in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that highlighted a series of local celebrities who were willing to give personal testimony of how their lives had been changed by Jesus. A website was established to host these video testimonies and the ministry of “I Am Second” was born. The testimonies of athletes, actors, entertainers, and others have been viewed by more than 15 million people in over 200 hundred countries giving validation to the attractional power of a personal salvation story.
When someone shares their salvation story, they give personal testimony to the life-changing power of Jesus. Testimonies also may reveal circumstances, gospel presentations, personal experiences, church events, family/friend relationships, and other influences that contributed to their response to the Gospel. As class members hear testimonies from others, they will gain confidence in the power of Jesus to change lives. As they share their own testimony, they will practice doing so in a safe and encouraging environment so that they may be more comfortable and likely to share in a “real” witnessing encounter.
3. Pray Specifically for Those Who Need Jesus
Nearly all Sunday School classes maintain a prayer list. However, the evangelistic Sunday School should attempt to move their requests beyond “safety and surgery” to include prayer for the salvation of lost people identified by your group. In the Lifeway Research article cited above, Ed Stetzer reports, regarding personal discipleship, that “praying more frequently for the status of people who are not professing Christians is the best indicator of more spiritual maturity in the entire Sharing Christ factor”. This tells us that praying for those who need Jesus does a work both in the lives of those for whom we pray AND in our lives as well.
4. Celebrate Evangelistic Efforts Made by Group Members
Encourage group members to identify (even if not by name) those with whom they are attempting to share Christ. Periodically ask for updates regarding the progress that is being made to build relationships with those who need to hear a testimony and gospel witness. Celebrate and affirm each effort that is made leading up to the moment that someone responds to Jesus. Develop the understanding among people in your group that the goal is to share the gospel and trust God for the response. These practices may serve to develop confidence, provide accountability, and encourage evangelistic activity.
Sunday School can be a training ground for soul winners!
“Church-Goers Believe in Sharing Faith, Most Never Do”, available at http://www.lifeway.com/Article/research-survey-sharing-christ-2012