Every person was born with a desire to belong, to be involved in a group. This is why we think hermits are so strange, because deep down inside we have this need to belong. When God looked upon Adam, he recognized Adam’s need for human companionship and voila: a nap and one rib later we have Eve! In fact, God wants us to be involved in a community, a biblically supportive community committed to His cause.
Sunday School is supposed to be that kind of community. Don’t think that your Sunday School class is a place or a time; your class is a group of people.. a community. A true biblical community is beyond location and time. This kind of biblical community is happening whenever people in the group are praying for each other, helping each other, and supporting one another. This kind of community happens not just on Sunday morning, but when two or three gather at the coffeeshop ,or rally to help another person in their group. To be honest, when most people think about “community”, this is what they are thinking.
But community goes much deeper than this aspect. The best, and I believe this absolutely, the best way to bring a person who has yet to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior is through a biblical community. Think about it. Imagine that a person apart from God, maybe a friend of yours, visits a Sunday School class or small group. An incredible experience is about to happen right before their eyes. First, they are going to see God’s people take prayer requests and then pray for each other. For many unbelievers, this may be their first experience with real, corporate prayer.
Next, they listen as we organize how we are going to take care of a family where the breadwinner has just lost his job. They hear the class plan a baby shower for an expectant mom. They watch as this group of Christ-followers organize themselves to take care of each others’ needs, and they take care of each other with joy and a serving spirit.
Then the Bible study begins. This big book that has been a mystery to them for years suddenly comes alive and the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of their heart so they can understand God’s Word. Even better, they ask questions and get responses! In his book, The Sunday School Growth Spiral, author Andy Anderson states that 1 out of 3 lost people enrolled in Sunday School will make a profession of faith in one year. I know of education ministers who have stated that for their church, it is one out of two! There is a practical reason for this: we are engaging lost people with the truths of Scripture and doing so through relationships.
The principle of community is more robust than we realize. We often mistakenly think that community is for the member’s benefit. It is, to a degree. But when we stop community with just the believers, what we have is one, or at best two dimensional community. When a group reaches out to their friends and neighbors and offers community to them as well, we have community in 3D, a much broader and impactful experience. The community we enjoy is a great “evangelism incubator” for those who do not know Christ as Savior. In community, unbelievers have a safe environment to explore the truths of Scripture, ask questions of God and Bible, and have a group of people help them grow in their understanding.
This is why as Bible study leaders, we must be inviting lost people to our Sunday School classes every week. Sunday School is still one of the most incredible evangelism strategies our churches have… when we understand its mission and become intentional about extending community to those who are apart from Christ.
Have you ever had a group whose community was so strong that it pulled other people into the group? What did you discover as it happened?