In recent years, a word has begun to emerge with more frequency. The word is “repurpose” and means to take something that you already have available and use it to accomplish something more. A quick web search reveals insight on how to re-purpose everything from T-shirts to tennis balls. Rather than looking for something new and different, using something you already have is a better use of time and resources.
When it comes to evangelism, the answer may not be to create something brand new. Since most churches already have Sunday School in place, consider the following ideas to use this existing time in a more intentionally evangelistic way.
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. In their book, Telling God’s Story, Preben Vang and Terry Carter describe seeing students arrive at Ouachita Baptist University, having grown up in good Bible-teaching churches, and yet who were unable to connect individual stories from the Bible into the larger story of the Bible.1 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 evangelistic message of the gospel at the center of their class experience each week.
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.
A person’s “testimony” is often understood to have three main components: life before coming to know Jesus, the circumstances surrounding the decision to trust in Jesus, and the changes present in life since coming to know and follow Jesus. Every person’s testimony is unique and important enough to be shared. Indeed, the sharing of one’s personal experience with Christ is a biblical evangelistic model capable of bringing about significant results (John 4:39).
Whether every week or once a month, enlisting members to share their salvation stories with the group will have a positive impact on the evangelistic focus of the class. Members will likely discover some incredible stories of God’s transformational grace present right in their own groups.
3. Connect Evangelistic Prospects to Your Sunday School
One of the common reasons given for a lack of evangelistic effort in Sunday School is often that there are very few lost people present in the classes. As a result, many classes have become resigned to adopt an approach to Sunday School that is more focused on discipleship and “deeper” Bible study. However, one cannot study the Bible without discovering that the core message of the Scripture is the gospel and that the ultimate evidence that we are disciples is found in our burden to see someone else come to faith in Jesus.
If it is true that no evangelistic prospects are present in your Sunday School class, consider how to connect with someone who might visit your group. Intentionally connecting worship service guests to groups, contacting prospects gleaned from ministries such as VBS and Upward Sports, or compiling a list of suggested contacts from members of your class are just a few ways to develop a group of people that you can begin to reach out to and invite to your Sunday School groups.
4. Pray Specifically for Revival and Spiritual Awakening in Sunday School
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 God to bring about a movement of revival and salvation among the members of the class and throughout the church. As you identify evangelistic prospects for your groups, do not neglect to pray for God’s work and will to be done in their lives. Classes that take the time to pray for God’s movement in this way will again keep evangelism in focus as a driving purpose of the group.
5. 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. Such attention will encourage others to imitation.
Sunday School can still be an evangelistic tool if intentional efforts are made to see it for this purpose.
1 Preben Vang and Terry Carter. Telling God’s Story: The Biblical Narrative from Beginning to End (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006).