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Call to missions can begin in Sunday School, leader says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The Great Commission mandate requires all Christians to be missionaries, and a Sunday School class is a good tool for putting that into action, an outreach director said.

Sunday School classes should have an outward dimension, said Lewis Miller, director of member assimilation and outreach at the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock.

“But most of the time, the focus of our Sunday School classes are inward,” he told a group attending his seminar, “Planning effective missions work through adult Sunday School,” during a Sunday School and open groups conference at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, July 11-14 in North Carolina.

“There are lost people all around us, yet we aren’t looking out. I really think it would be beneficial if all our church members could understand themselves to be missionaries.”

Missions involvement gives “feet and hands” to the study and knowledge of Scripture learned in Sunday School, Lewis said. “Missions involvement means we understand the call to follow Christ is a call to serve.”

To reach people outside the church, he said Sunday School members should: 1) pray that God will give them a burden for those who don’t know Christ; 2) invest self, time, talents and money to reaching them; and 3) get involved in doing missions at the local, state, national or international level.

A new or growing Christian is anxious to get involved in the world around them, Lewis said. “They desire to get involved in Kingdom work. My soul, rather than pour cold water on them, let’s light their fires.”

The missions involvement of a Sunday School class, he said, should mirror the mission and purpose of the church.

Sunday School members who choose to become involved in missions should understand the goal of the Great Commission, organize to accomplish the goal and implement a strategy.

“The Great Commission is our marching order,” he said. “People are far more likely to participate in something if they understand the purpose.”

Organizing to accomplish the mandate includes focusing on outreach, Lewis said.

“The number one priority of a Sunday School class has to be outreach. Bible study is a close second, but if you’re not reaching people, you’re not going to have anybody to teach the Bible to.”

If all Christians thought of themselves as missionaries, Lewis said they would try to reach their neighbors for Christ. “We don’t have to go halfway around the world before we’re called missionaries. God appointed you to go to your town, your subdivision, your street.”

Lewis said class members could divide up into missionary teams. At First Baptist, Woodstock, he divides a class into four teams – the Jerusalem team, the Judea team, the Samaria team and the remotest parts of the earth (RPT) team.

The Jerusalem team is responsible for keeping the class aware and informed about mission opportunities at the local level. Typically the largest group in the class, the Jerusalem team can organize free car washes, for example, plan and implement laundromat outreach, provide free bottled water at local races, or rake leaves for seniors or the physically challenged.

“The local associational office can offer suggestions of needed local ministries,” he said.

The Judea team keeps the class aware of missions opportunities on a state level. Examples include participating in an evangelistic emphasis before state convention meetings, training and involvement in state disaster relief ministries, assisting with state medical teams, planning an outreach event for the poor or other hard-to-reach groups.

The Samaria team informs the class of missions opportunities at a national level. The church’s missions director can contact the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to find out where ministry is needed on a national level, he said.

“National missions opportunities differ somewhat from the others and might require a different approach. Some projects could involve the entire class with proper planning and coordination,” he said.

Other projects might involve a team of representatives from the class. Examples include adopting a NAMB missionary couple or helping a church member participate in volunteer summer missions.

The RPE team keeps the class informed of opportunities at an international level. The International Mission Board website, www.imb.org, offers information about “what God is doing around the world,” Lewis said.

“The best way for you to get involved is to develop a relationship with an international church or a missionary family,” he suggested. Class members can communicate with missionaries by e-mail, begin a prayer ministry for them or send a group to an international mission field, he said.

“The value of building relationships with other people groups reminds your class that this is not just a project, but a lifelong commitment to do the Great Commission and obey Christ’s mandate,” Lewis said.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey