Jesus sent us into our world to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Discipling Outcomes from Sunday School, Part 1, I listed fourteen discipling outcomes which have potential to result from Sunday School. In this series thus far, these are the posts with the Sunday School discipling issues addressed:
- Part 2 (biblical knowledge and understanding); Part 3(Christian worldview); Part 4 (spiritual disciplines); Part 5(obedience); Part 6 (life and behavior practices); Part 7(spiritual gifts and church body practices); Part 8 (love of God, neighbor, and self); Part 9 (connection, community, fellowship); Part 10 (leadership training); Part 11 (service)
In Part 12, I will focus on ways a Sunday School class (or small group) can impact discipling through mission and ministry. Paul is clear in Ephesians 4:11-13 that our Lord gave church leaders, including pastors and teachers, “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” The purpose of teaching and training of the saints is “the work of ministry.” Christians in our classes need outlets for practicing what they are learning.
In the same way in which unused fruit rots and muscles atrophy, so does unimplemented, unpracticed learning. Sunday School is a great opportunity to teach, practice what was learned, be sent out to do (obey) what was learned, and to return and debrief what happened. The learning experience on Sunday morning should train disciples to minister.
Now, the focus of Part 12 is how a class or small group can impact discipling through mission and ministry. So what are mission and ministry? And how are they connected to discipling our attenders? The root of the word, ministry means service. In the original language, the word is diakonias, which is the word for deacon meaning servant. Thus, ministry is about serving each other (members) as well as our community and world. Mission is simply a reminder that the opportunity for ministry is larger than members in the class or church. We are to serve and meet the needs of Christians as well as others to show and share the love of Christ. Jesus stated it this way (John 13:34-35, HCSB):
I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Whatever the teaching from God’s Word, there can be practical expression in daily living. Sunday School class can focus on helping members grow as disciples by identifying ways the lesson’s truth intersects daily walk. As a result of lessons, attenders have opportunity to be more loving, more righteous (living rightly), and on mission. Each week, learners should be led to ask themselves, “What does God want me to do as a result of encountering Him in His Word today?” And then the next week, learners should be led to ask, “What did you do this week to obey and live out the truth of last week’s lesson?”
Such teaching may naturally lead to mission and ministry projects as a whole class, as a subgroup within the class, or as individuals. Doing projects together is a great way of ensuring positive accountability for obedience. Mission and ministry efforts help disciples take steps of spiritual progress. It may also help to place someone in the class in charge of mission and ministry projects. How can you encourage mission and ministry expression as a result of what happens in your class or small group? Apply the truth. Challenge attenders to live it. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!