I saw an article listed by Trevin Wax (to be fair, I didn’t read it) called “How to Preach with Unbelievers In Mind.” When I read the title, my first thought is, should we? Should we preach a message to speak to unbelievers? I think many would say “yes, of course. Those unbelievers need an opportunity to hear the gospel”. I want to take a moment and press the other side, just for a second and let us discuss.
Should we focus the time we call a worship service to cater to lost people? Should that be the focus of our worship service, or do we want to focus on worshiping God. Now, I understand that we can do both, but often when we try to do too many things, we don’t do either real well. In my opinion, there is a bigger issue that if we should preach for unbelievers or if we should have an alter call or not. That issue is, should we attempt to do everything on a Sunday Morning?
Sunday Morning has become “church” and the place in which we focus to do everything. We do announcements, worship, discipleship, giving, communion, fellowship and greeting, outreach, inreach, ministry and anything else we can cram into that space. We try to get everything accomplished and do it all before lunch. We have created a culture that we count heads and consider our church “growing” if there are more in attendance. We have dropped huge amounts of money for the building, lights and sound, decor and ascetics to make the worship more appealing. Our churches have become Sunday Morning services with some other stuff during the week. Inside this culture, we have to find a way to do everything and still preach for the unsaved that we invited and tried to entice with our event. Is this the best option?
I would say no, it’s not. We have lost so much of our evangelistic culture inside the church that we just relegate it to happen on Sunday Mornings. Sunday School, small group and one on one contact are your best places for evangelism, today I want to share with you some reasons why. We should preach, teach and worship on Sunday mornings, but focus less out outreach.
1. Worship evangelism is often supported by emotional responses, which can be problematic. Often people are moved by an emotional response, not conviction or the Holy Spirit, which will lead to a false conversion. The use of lights and music and an emotional appeal by a gifted speaker often cause people to “walk the isle” and then never return.
2. There is little interaction in a worship service. People can’t ask questions, they can’t have a dialogue, they simply listen in a passive way. Jesus was interactive, the disciples were interactive, the sermon at Pentecost was interactive because the Apostles were speaking in tongues in order to communicate and dialogue with people. Peter’s sermon was only one part. Small groups and Sunday School are great places for this to happen.
3. Sunday School and Small Group have better time limits. Most sermons are 30 minutes, having time for worship through song, giving and other items like announcements or baptisms. We have much more time to discuss and share, pray and study in Sunday School. It has time to develop dialogue.
4. It gets more people involved. Sunday School teachers and helpers and other Christians can be part of the discussion, there is much less passivity. In the worship service, the Pastor speaks and everyone listens. We are creating generations of lazy Christians who don’t share because they don’t need too and are never challenged too. They just invite people to church and let the Pastor do the heavy lifting. It’s not effective.
5. It builds community for new believers. When a person comes forward in a worship service, they are often introduced to the church, but they are often forgotten. They come in the next week to a large meeting and can disappear. They get lost and never discipled. If they are drawn to Christ in Sunday School, they are already part of a community, and that group continues to encourage them in growth. They are already plugged into a group.
These are just five quick reasons why I believe that outreach and evangelism should be tied to Sunday School and small group more than the Sunday morning service. That is not to say we shouldn’t share the gospel during the sermon, but maybe it should be less of the primary focus.