Sabbath School leaders and supporters should be actively endeavoring to draw guests to our Sabbath Schools. What an opportunity to be evangelistic!
This is not a new idea. The 1976 edition of The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia reads: “The Sabbath school was developed to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in response to the command of Jesus and in the setting of the three angels’ messages. In loyalty to this original purpose, the Sabbath School continues to communicate the Good News with the objective to win, hold and train for Jesus Christ, men and women, youth, boys and girls, in all the world. This objective is carried forward through the following four areas: faith emphasis, fellowship emphasis, community emphasis, and world emphasis” (p. 1258).
The 1996 edition of the encyclopedia reads: “The goal of the Sabbath school is for the discipling of people for Christ. The four basic objectives of the Sabbath school are faith development, fellowship, community outreach, and world mission” (p. 508).
Nevertheless, you may recognize some of the experiences that I have had in our Sabbath Schools.
A first elder made comments in a Sabbath School class that would not only be confusing to a guest but would surely be objectionable. Being a small church, there was only one adult class, so all guests had to attend that class. After church, I asked him why he had made such comments that could easily run guests away, never to come back. His response was, “The Sabbath School is for us and not them.” He added, “If they don’t like it, it’s not our problem.”
Years before I went into ministry, I was teaching an adult Sabbath School class that regularly had guests. One individual often made statements that were difficult for nonmembers to understand. I tried to avoid accepting his comments as often as I could. However, on one Sabbath when I recognized him, he made a statement regarding Sister White visiting other planets. I saw eyeballs bulge and mouths drop open. Some of those guests never returned again.
I Meant to Say . . .
Sometimes members make statements that are all right but incomplete. Unfortunately, they never get to explain–or explain away the rest of the comment. On these occasions members leave bad impressions all too indelibly imprinted on the minds of guests and new members. Too often they never get the opportunity to redeem themselves.
Speaking of Sabbath Schools in Counsels on Sabbath School Work, Ellen White said, “This is one of the important branches of the work, and should not be left to chance, or to haphazard management. If these schools are conducted as they should be, the efforts made in the pulpit to present the truth in a manner to win souls may be deepened; and if the labor bestowed is followed up by interested workers in the Sabbath school, much good will be accomplished” (p. 184). She also said, “The Sabbath school should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ” (ibid., p. 10).
Let’s Be Evangelistic
Guests who attend our Sabbath Schools should leave with the firm understanding that we are a people of the Word. We need to train our members to be evangelistic in and through the Sabbath School. Sometimes we may need to resort to special classes to protect our guests and new members from the insensitive comments of those who do not see the evangelistic purpose or potential of this most important part of our church.
While it is incumbent upon us as Sabbath School leaders to teach sound doctrine, it is also our obligation to make our Sabbath Schools inviting places of learning. Yes, Sabbath School is a learning place for our more knowledgeable, grounded members. It must also be a safe learning haven for the less skilled as well as guests and newer members seeking the sincere milk of the Word. The choice is ours: Reach ‘em and teach ‘em or run ‘em off.
Frank M. Jenkins
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists