Yesterday, I responded to a blogpost by my friend Rick Howerton. (You can view my post here.) Today, I want to delve deeper into an even more important issue that is relevant to both the Sunday School and small group movements.
Which is more important? The mission or the method?
Let’s face it, leaders of both Sunday School and small groups share many of the same issues. There is the gulf between idealism and realism. Idealistically, we want the people in all of our groups to…
- start new groups;
- share the Gospel with their neighbor;
- be loving and friendly to guests;
- make disciples;
- develop new leaders for new groups and ministries;
- look at our neighborhoods as mission fields for the Gospel;
- study God’s Word systematically and have every group member be thoroughly in love with the Bible;
- be godly stewards of their resources.
Realistically – they aren’t! All of us have scores of war stories of the class that “refused to be moved” or the group that just did not want to do anything except spiritual navel gazing.
So what keeps us going? Why, in the face of such frustration do we keep at it? Why do we keep our hope and zeal that this new group is going to be different; that this group is going to make disciples in depth and number like we’ve never seen before. That this new Sunday School teacher is not going to be on the next episode of “Hoarders”.
- Because it is our mission! Look gang, not just anybody can lead a bunch of volunteers to do things that they don’t want to do. Did I mention we lead volunteers. You better have a steel spine and a healthy dose of forbearance to be a leader in either of these two movements. We do this because of the biblical mandate to make disciples. It wasn’t easy for Jesus; it won’t be any easier for us.
- We do this because of the biblical mandate to equip the church body for service, rather than sitting in pews cheering for a paid professional to do what everyone should be doing (Ephesians 4:11-16).
- Because every once in a while we see results. That group does emerge that actually works the way we drew it up on the whiteboard! A class actually does send a member to the mission field we call junior high boys Sunday School. A class does emerge that cares enough about its neighborhood to start a new group and fill it with lost friends instead of Presbyterians!
Ultimately, we do what we do because we love to see people come to life as they learn what Jesus has done for them. Repentance is beautiful! We love to see people, from the unaware unbeliever to the crusty class curmudgeon, become a human incarnation of the Gospel. Our mission is compelling.
We believe that community is biblical and we have hope and faith in the power of the Gospel to change lives of people who participate in Sunday School classes and home groups who have a missional purpose.
Ed Stetzer states, “I’m not worried about the container as much as I am the church being contained.” I believe that leading our groups and/or classes to focus on the mission is one of the most vital things that we can do as leaders in our respective movements. Let’s learn from each other so that we can all be effective missionaries in our cultural context.
For the past six months, I have loved watching over 2,000 Oklahoma Sunday School classes and small groups respond to mission! We are asking every class (note class, not church) in our state adopt one of the 6,426 unreached people groups. I receive notes and emails from classes who are praying, and also interacting with their adopted group. It is exciting to me to see these groups, many of whom had never prayed for an unreached people group much less a lost person, get on mission with God.