Share the Gospel: Why most people don’t!

37 “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38 (HCSB)

I prefer the statement, sharing the Gospel with the lost rather than soul winning. The former is an objective that can be measured. The latter assumes that I am the one who wins souls; only God can do that. In the simplest of terms, God has commanded me, as a believer, to make disciples. The starting point for all disciples is a relationship with Christ. But how can those who are lost know the Savior unless someone tells them?

Fear, apathy, selfishness, anger, bitterness, lack of confidence are some of the reasons people give as to why they don’t share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Research shows us that the majority of Christians have not shared the gospel with anyone. Of those precious few who have, thank God.

I have a simple answer to those who have not shared; Just do it. If you don’t know how, ask someone to show you how. If you lack confidence, ask someone to go with you. If you don’t know anyone, ask someone else who they know. Just go. Just share.

Sharing the gospel is hard work. It requires two things as indicated in Matthew 9:37-38; Pray and Go. It really isn’t complicated. I know, I know, you want to know what happens if you don’t do it right. I admit, there is some truth to that but remember that salvation is the work of God not us.

Commit to these 4 things. If it helps you to remember, this is the 3151 commitment.

  • Pray for at least 3 lost people every day, by name.
  • Learn at least 1 gospel presentation.
  • Invite at least 5 people to your Sunday School or Small Group.
  • Share the gospel with at least 1 person.

For more tools and resources for the 3151 commitment, go to www.louisianabaptists.org/connect1/.

5 Minutes with the Sunday School Teacher!

People are busy. I know that. There is a lot you want to do and a whole lot more you are expected to do. What I would like do is to take 5 minutes of your time to talk about one thing that I know God expects of you.

Go and Make Disciples – This command from Matthew 28:19 is the clarion call to all lay leaders to equip the saints, to make disciples who will make disciples. There are tons of voices out there telling you all the ways to make disciples. Lots of experts who have developed tools, resources, strategies and workshops that will help you make disciples. Many of them have great ideas and insights that work great—for them. Unfortunately, you are not them and your church is certainly not like theirs.

I want to make this simple. There are principles that many of these experts are teaching, but how do you apply that to your situation. First of all, let me restate your purpose as the leader of your class. Your job is to make disciples who will make disciples. The churches best strategy to make disciples is through small groups.

With all of that being said, most of you already have a structure that can already accomplish this purpose. In many churches it is called Sunday School. The problem is that most of our existing groups have lost their purpose. It is your job as leader to lead them and equip them to make disciples. I know you are doing the best you can to accomplish the purpose you believe you are suppose to accomplish. Along the way, maybe you have lost sight of the purpose of your small group. It is your job to remind them. At the same time, let’s be honest, some people will never understand the purpose of their small group. Let’s focus on those that do. Our model is the Great Shepherd.

He led by loving them – Change is not easy to most people. Don’t announce changes, encourage change. Don’t make demands of them, equip them. People respond to your heart and your actions, not from your words.

He led by showing them – Exemplify change. Be willing to go the extra mile. If you are willing to commit, follow through and live the life you want them to; they will follow.

He led by equipping them – Show them what’s most important. If everything you do is important, those who follow will not know what’s most important. Tell them, show them, equip them and lead them to know what’s MOST important.

He led by caring for them – Those you lead need to know that you care about them and those in your community. I know you care, but do they know that?

Leader, you are the one God chose to be in your role. He can and will use you to make disciples that make disciples.

5 Minutes with the Pastor!

Pastors are busy. I know that. There is a lot you want to do and a whole lot more you are expected to do. What I would like to take 5 minutes of your time to talk about is one thing that I know God expects of you.

Go and Make Disciples – This command from Matthew 28:19 is the clarion call to all pastors to equip the saints to make disciples who will make disciples. There are tons of voices out there telling you all the ways to make disciples. Lots of experts who have developed tools, resources, strategies and workshops that will help you make disciples. Many of them have great ideas and insights that work great—for them. Unfortunately, you are not them and your church is certainly not like theirs.

I want to make this simple. There are principles that many of these experts are teaching, but how do you apply that to your situation? First of all, let me restate your purpose as the pastor of your church. Your job is to make disciples who will make disciples. The churches’ best strategy to make disciples is through small groups.

With all of that being said, most of you already have a structure that can already accomplish this purpose. In many churches it is called Sunday School. The problem is that most of our existing groups have lost their purpose. It is your job as pastor to lead them and equip them to make disciples. Most Sunday School classes are doing the best they can to accomplish the purpose THEY believe they are suppose to accomplish. Along the way, they have lost sight of the purpose of their small group. It is your job to remind them. At the same time, let’s be honest, some people will never understand the purpose of their small group. Let’s focus on those that do. Our model is the Great Shepherd.

He led by loving them – Change is not easy to most people. Don’t announce changes, encourage change. Don’t make demands of them, equip them. People respond to your heart and your actions, not from your words.

He led by showing them – Exemplify change. Be willing to go the extra mile. If you are willing to commit, follow through and live the life you want them to; they will follow.

He led by equipping them – Show them what’s most important. If everything you do is important, those who follow will not know what’s most important. Tell them, show them, equip them and lead them to know what’s MOST important.

He led by caring for them – Those you lead need to know that you care about them and those in your community. I know you care, but do they know that?

Pastor, you are the one God chose to be in your role. He can and will use you to make disciples that make disciples.

Make Disciples

Go and make disciples.

Simple, direct and to the point.

You would think that Christians would know Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Why is it then that many of our actions as a class or small group do not reflect this purpose?

I believe that the church’s best strategy to make disciples is through small groups (special note to my friend Brian Haynes, Senior Pastor at Bay Area Church in South Houston, who says, “the best discipleship strategy is in the home”).

For those of us who are the church, we are to make disciples everywhere we go. It just makes sense that we would provide the environment where that can happen best (i.e. the small group).

I believe that every effective, disciple-making small group needs four priorities. Some of those we will be better at than others, but our attention and our focus must always return to these four things.

  • Share the gospel with the lost.
  • Develop biblical community.
  • Help people to grow spiritually.
  • Equip people to live missionally.

The ReGroup strategy is built off of this one purpose and four priorities. You can help your class or group to “ReGroup” around this core message and these objectives.

For more information about the ReGroup strategy and events and resources, go to LouisianaBaptists.org/ReGroup.

In The Beginning…

History is one of those things that we are destined to repeat if we don’t learn from it. Sunday School is and has always been about God’s people connecting with one another, engaging in God’s Word and making a difference in the community.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” John 13:34 (HCSB)

God commands us to love one another. You don’t have to like each other but you do have to love one another.

I have experienced Sunday School classes and churches who don’t love each other very much.

Think about this, do you “feel” loved by the people in your Sunday School Class or Small Group? There are lots of variables that contribute to how we “feel” about each other, but use these words to help measure that love.

  • Do you trust them?
  • Are they genuinely interested in your well-being?
  • Do you feel like you “fit” into the group?
  • Do you “feel” comfortable enough to share personal issues or concerns with your group?

Love is best illustrated by unselfish desires and actions.

On the other hand, how do others in your class or small group “feel”? Do they “feel” loved by others and by you? Face it, you don’t control the actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes of others; but you do control yours. Are your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes loving towards others?

The core element to “making disciples” in your small group or Sunday School class is loving relationships.

Sometimes it is easier to teach through loving others in your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes than it is to just tell them that you love them. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt for them to hear it from you every once in a while too.

Tell the people in your class or group that you love them today. Send a text, write an email, call them, send them a card, or talk to them when you see them at church or around town. Let them know you love them. Better than that, show them. Be an example of loving others just as Jesus has commanded.

What a history lesson it will be if you and your class or group were known for how much you loved one another.

Three Ways to Create a Better Biblical Community for Your Group

In your opinion, how many times a month does a person have to attend to stay connected to your group? What happens when they attend less often? Is it possible to attend regularly and still not be connected?

Great questions, huh! Listen, you don’t control the behavior, opinions, attitudes or actions of others. But you do control what you do and how you lead your group to stay connected to God and one another.

People are fickle. I think you would be a better steward of your ministry as the leader of your small group or Sunday School class, if you focused more on what God expects from you and less on what others expect from you.

Here are three things you can do to create a better biblical community for your group.

  1. Encourage them to read their Bible daily. What does that have to do with creating biblical community? Simply put, the more a person loves God, the better they are able to love others. You can’t spend time alone with God and not fall deeply and intimately in love with Him. Love God, love others. It just happens.
  2. Spend time together outside of the weekly group meeting time. Once a month, once a quarter or as often as you can, plan a time of fellowship, bible study, or ministry together. Even if you can’t get everyone there, plan something – DO something.
    Relationships happen because you spend time together.
    If you enjoy a two-hour Bible study on your favorite topic – do that. If you enjoy just spending time together, eating food and letting the kids play – do that. If you would rather do a ministry project together like, habitat for humanity, yard care for an elderly person, food kitchen service, or thousands of other ideas for projects, just do it together.
  3. Stay in contact. Real needs are not discovered in your weekly bible study. They are discovered during those one-on-one or three/four people groups. Pray for one another. Laugh together (i.e. “Hey I heard this great joke the other day”). Invite them to join you with on a personal project. Call, email, text, visit, and so much more.

Community happens when we are intentional about making it happen. Be a catalyst.

3151 Challenge

Here’s an idea that actually worked! Recently I completed an interim pastor position at a church averaging about seventy-five in Sunday School. I presented to the church the 3151 Challenge. The challenge was for each member, during a one month period, to:

3> Pray for THREE lost friends;

1> Learn ONE Gospel presentation;

5> Invite FIVE people to your group;

1> Share the Gospel with ONE person.

Each Sunday School teacher was asked to help me promote the challenge during the month of February. I made the 3151 cards available to everyone (see resources below) and used the sermon time to preach/teach through the emphasis.

The THREE stands for three lost friends or relatives that you would pray for. There are seven biblical ways provided to pray for lost people: that God would convict them of their sin and lostness; for God to open their eyes and see Christ as Lord and Savior; to draw them to Christ through the Holy Spirit; tear down any strongholds that are keeping them from being saved; make their hearts receptive to the Gospel; move them to repentance and saving faith; and to help them be fruitful witnesses.

The first ONE was to learn a gospel presentation. The Roman Road is briefly described in the card resource. I also found using a tract like Billy Graham’s “Steps to Peace with God,” was helpful. I provided everyone present that morning in worship a copy of the tract and walked them through it, encouraging them with ways they can use it to sow the seeds of the gospel, as they go through their day.

The FIVE was to challenge every Sunday School member to invite five people to their class over the month of February. Teachers can prepare the class ahead of time that guests will be in their class over the next few weeks. Extra chairs, Sunday School books, etc. need to be made available.

The final ONE challenges class members to share the gospel with one person during the month. I helped the church know how to briefly share their testimony, one or two sentences for each of the following: what my life was like before I met Christ; how I came to know Christ; and what my life was like now that Christ is my Lord and Savior.

The resources below also have posters that can be printed for each class listing their goals for each challenge. Think about it, what if 75 Sunday School members in your church prayed for THREE lost friends? That would be 225 lost people being prayed for throughout the month! What might God do through your church if 75 people learn ONE gospel presentation! What if 75 Sunday School members each invited FIVE people to their class, that’s 375 people invited to your Sunday School! And, what if 75 people in your church shared the gospel with ONE person?

The 3151 Challenge helped this church (and their interim pastor) get excited about the Sunday School doing what the Sunday School already should be doing: reaching, teaching, and ministering to people in Jesus’ Name!

3151 Resources

 

Two Things Church Members Need from Their Leaders

Most people in your church, if asked, would say they want their church to fulfill the Great Commission. They want their church to grow. They want to reach the lost. They want to grow in their faith. Sometimes, however, we as leaders don’t give them what they need most to get to the next level personally, in their church and in their community.

Your people need HOPE. They need to know that there is something that God has for them that is better than what they have right now. They need to clearly see what we as leaders are leading them to become and to accomplish. If they can’t see it, how can you motivate them to do what is necessary to make that HOPE a reality? 18 Where there is no vision, the people perish,… Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) Our people need to have hope. Change can’t happen until they believe God has something ahead of them that is worth the effort to change. 7 Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You. Psalm 39:7 (HCSB)

Your people also need to TRUST you. Trust doesn’t happen instantly. Sometimes, it’s the little things you say or do. It is difficult to lead others when there is doubt about your character or integrity. Over time, people can learn to trust you. People realize that you are looking out for them and not just your own interests. You can’t control what people believe or perceive about you but you can continue every day to live a life that is worthy of their trust. As a leader, people need to know they can trust you to follow you. 14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, John 10:14 (HCSB)

You are a shepherd to the sheep that God has given you the privilege to lead. As the Pastor, you are the under-shepherd to Jesus who is the Great Shepherd. Even as Sunday School or Small Group leaders, we too have shepherding responsibilities. Do you know their name? Do they know yours? I am not just talking about their literal name, but the name that your reputation, your character and your integrity give you. Are you Trustworthy? If so, your people need to know where you are leading them and what they will find when we all get there.

Three Mistakes Most Sunday School Teachers or Small Group Leaders Make

Most leaders don’t intentionally ignore inactive members of our group/class, lack focus on people who are not a part of our group or don’t pay attention to the life needs of the regular members of our class – but sometimes we do.

Inactive Members

Some people join our group or class and fail for whatever reason to connect with the rest of the members. Some people might even get mad at someone in the group and just quit coming. Others might simply miss a few weeks and just decide it’s easier to stay home than take the time to go to Sunday School or small group. Regardless of the reason, God has still placed these people in our ministry field and thus in our sphere of influence.

Non-members

You do realize that there are people in your church and outside of your church that are potential future members, right? We don’t mean to forget about them but sometimes we get so busy doing other things that we “get out of the habit” of paying attention to those who aren’t part of us yet. After a while, we just get comfortable and stop worrying about it all together. Besides, they know where our church is. If they want to be a part, they can just show up.

Regular Members

These are the people that show up. Most of the time, these are the people who participate in Bible study, activities, fellowships, ministry projects, etc. But what if there were some serious issues in their lives like a marriage falling apart, addictions, depression, anger, a job loss or more. Often times, in the midst of our business we miss the subtle clues that something is not quite right at home.

All of these situations have one thing in common— it’s people. God has called us as leaders to lead a ministry with, through and to PEOPLE. We need to stop focusing so much on what has to be done and start focusing more on those people. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Inactive Members – Chances are that an inactive member will most likely not come back to your class. Instead, focus on ministering to them through prayer and regular contact just to let them know you still care. Who knows, maybe they might come back.
  2. Non-members – Most Sunday School classes and small groups don’t have a prospect list. Why not start one? Every week just ask, “who do you know that might be a potential member of our class?” Put their name on your list and pray for them every week. Who knows, they might just come if you invite them.
  3. Regular Members – Take time to get to know each other. Don’t worry about finishing every bible study lesson. Take the time to share with one another in groups of 2 or 3 people. Plan fellowships that allow time for people to share personal prayer needs in really small groups so they don’t have to share such personal needs in front of the whole group. Who knows, you might just prevent a divorce, help a person through addiction, depression or anger or help someone find a new job.

Sunday School and small groups are about people. Let’s make them our primary focus.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Every year, I receive an Annual Church Profile Statistical Information Booklet. This little booklet illustrates the results of the work of our churches throughout Louisiana. The numbers I am drawn to relate to Sunday School and Discipleship Attendance and Enrollment. These numbers are not a “complete” picture of what is going on in our churches throughout the state, but they do show us some trends.

Enrollment is Down

There are fewer people enrolled in Sunday School or small groups now than there were 10 years ago. Actually, the trend is much longer than that. Enrollment can best be illustrated as our “ministry field”. Every week, our class or group has the opportunity to minister to a specific number of people; some of those actually show up each week. Every year, with some exceptions noted, our trend is that there are fewer and fewer people in our “ministry field”. At a time when our population grows, we are having an impact on fewer people’s lives.

Attendance is Down

With a shrinking “ministry field” comes fewer people attending each week. In case you haven’t noticed, classes/groups will average between 40-60% of its enrollment. It is increasingly harder and harder to get church members to not only join a small group or Sunday School class; it is also harder to get them to attend regularly.

The Good News

On the flip side of those numbers is the fact that more and more people value biblical community and want to learn and grow spiritually. People want to “belong.” Connecting new people and lost people to a small group or Sunday School class is one of the most difficult challenges our churches face today. And yet, there are lots and lots of people who wish to experience that on a regular basis.

What do I do?

Start small. The first thing you should decide is to focus more on people than your role or your responsibilities. The object of our ministry is to connect people with God and His people. We all want and need family. Being a part of a family takes a lot of time and hard work. Focus on things that matter the most – prioritize.

PRAY and OBEY

The most important thing you can do right now is to stop and pray that God would reveal to you as a leader how you can reach more people, love more people and disciple more people. He is waiting to lead you in the right direction. BUT, He is waiting on you to actually do what He asks you to do.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (HCSB)

Numbers don’t lie. When we are faithful to plant, water and tend to all the things God asks us to do; then, when He is ready—He will give the increase.

Want to see your ministry field expand? Want to see more people regularly engaged in bible study and ministry? Pray! Obey! And SEE God do great and mighty things.