Juan Carlos Ortiz once said, “Most people who are opposed to the gospel are not opposed to ice cream.” He knew that relationships with nonbelievers are important, and they often become bridges to people who have not yet asked Christ to be their Savior and Lord. Don MacGavran, considered by some to be the father of the church growth movement said, “Most of the barriers to the gospel are not theological, they are social.”
Church growth experts say that each of us knows at least 5 people who don’t attend church…people whom we could invite to worship, Sunday School, or a class social. You do the math: if your Sunday School class has 12 members, the class collectively knows 60 people who aren’t involved in a church. The great news is that these 60 people already have some level of relationship with someone in your Sunday School class.
Maybe it’s time to change your mindset about reaching new people through your Sunday School class. Don’t think of adding people to your class role, think about including people in your class activities…and be ready to share Christ with them. Adopt a new approach that says people can belong before they believe, and they can believe before they behave. Make sure that every time your class has a fellowship, non-believers are present because you were intentional in inviting them to the party. Look for ways to involve non-believers in your daily routine, too! You don’t have to wait for your Sunday School class to have a fellowship to involve a non-church friend or family member in your own life.
Dick Murray, in Strengthening the Adult Sunday School Class, says that “It is a myth that most adults attend Sunday School primarily to learn. People attend for fellowship, for friends, for the life.” That’s a hard truth for me to swallow since I want people to attend Sunday School to study the Bible. The reality is that God created us with a need for relationships, and that’s a powerful motivator. It’s true that people don’t attend a church just because it’s friendly; they attend a church where they can make friends.
Everyone likes an invitation. Everyone likes a party. Everyone likes an invitation to a party. So make sure that you are reaching out with intentionality to those 5 people you know who don’t attend church. Lead your class to plan fellowships that are fun, creative, and designed to include spiritually lost persons. Remember that if your fellowships aren’t including prospects and non-believers, you’re not using your time and energy to its fullest potential for the Kingdom!