Jesus' last command was the well-known Great Commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . .. " (Matthew 28:19). That directive comes down through the ages to every Christian today. As you develop the topic of witnessing with your group, bring out that the Bible is clear about the qualifications of one who witnesses:
"The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits" (2 Timothy 2:6). Your students should understand that in order to be an effective witness, a person must first experience and prove God's promises for himself.
You might wish to bring out that the message of the Gospel is a message of God's love, which can be delivered in many ways besides words. Yes, the most obvious method is by telling others, but a deed of kindness can speak volumes also. Sometimes a listening ear does more than any words can. A life lived each day in a godly manner has an influence. Showing concern for the needs of others often opens the door to an opportunity to share the Gospel story. A smile can prompt a question regarding the source of one's happiness.
Direct your group to this thought: The message of the Gospel was designed to be handed from person to person. Are we taking advantage of every opportunity that comes our way?
The students will be able to relate why we must have a burden for the lost in order to be an effective witness, and will accept the challenge to pray for that burden.
Matthew 4:19; 6:19-21; Mark 1:17; 8:36; 16:15; Luke 15:4-7; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7
Question 1 - Name some people you know, or have heard about, whose lives prove they have a burden for souls. Identify what it is in each of their lives that inspires others, and list some of the attributes that make these people effective witnesses for Christ.
Response 1 - The students should be able to think of great historical Christians, or of people with whom they have been personally acquainted, who have proved their burden for the lost by sharing Jesus Christ with the unsaved. These actions of witnessing are a source of inspiration to other Christians. The attributes of these persons will probably include prayerfulness, dedication, zeal, compassion, and interest in others.
Question 2 - An account is told of a young man who grew up in Scotland, and at the age of seventeen, he accompanied his mother into the city of Glasgow for the first time. His mother suddenly became aware that he was not with the rest of the family, and she began to search the area for him. She found him in a small side street, much like an alley, away from the crowds of people. There he sat with his face buried in his hands, sobbing. "Mama, all these people are on their way to Hell! Who will tell them about Jesus?"
This young man, William C. Burns, had a burden for the lost and became one of the greatest evangelists at the turn of the century. Why do we need a burden for souls in order to be an effective witness? How can we get that burden?
Response 2 - Your students should see that, without a burden for souls, we will not pray for the lost. We need a burden to feel the urgency of lost souls going to Hell. Without prayer, all the talking in the world will not bring people to the point of surrender to Christ. We need to have a burden also in order to share out of a heart of love. Your group should understand that, for the most part, the burden for souls will come only through prayer. Oftentimes, as we pray, we receive a real burden for the lost. Sometimes the burden will develop through a missionary's talk, through an opportunity to observe the need of others, or through reading books describing the endeavors of missionaries.
The words of this song should reflect our heart's desire: "Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me. And may I humbly do my part, to win that soul for Thee."
Question 3 - The missionary C. T. Studd was challenged to an all out dedication to Christ by an article written by an atheist: "If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything .... I would esteem one soul gained for Heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay my hand, or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, 'What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul' (Mark 8:36)."
What actions in a person's life could cause others to think he does not care about the lost? What actions would show that he does care?
Response 3 - Your students' answers might include: a focus on accumulating material things or on enlarging personal bank accounts; excessive involvement in recreational pursuits; total absorption in a tight circle of family and friends. Actions which show the opposite attitude would include: an interest in missions and a willingness to support this type of endeavor; caution in personal conduct in terms of attitude, actions, and deportment; a willingness to deny self for the sake of the Gospel; and a sensitivity to the needs of others.
Question 4 - D. L. Moody made a vow to the Lord that he would not let a day end without sharing Jesus Christ with someone. One night, as he was getting into bed, the Holy Spirit reminded him that he had not told anyone about the Lord that day. Instead of saying he was sorry and climbing into bed, Mr. Moody got up, put on his clothes, and went out into the night. As he stepped off the front porch of where he was staying, he saw a man leaning against the light post at the corner of the block. He walked up to the man and asked him if he had ever heard of Jesus. The man began to cry, and told Moody that he was just standing there telling God that if He was really real, to let someone come into his life and tell him more about Him. Moody had the privilege of leading that 1nan to the Lord.
If we ask the Lord to help us share Christ with someone every day, He will bring us into contact with people who are anxious to know about Him. Where might some of these contacts take place, and how can we take advantage of them?
Response 4 - Every day, most of us have opportunities to share Christ with people we meet at work, at school, on the bus, in the neighborhood, at a store, or any number of other places. Explain to your group that a good way to start taking advantage of these opportunities is to always carry some Gospel tracts. If they are shy, they can begin by leaving a tract at a restaurant with their tip, at a phone booth, or on their seat on the bus (being sure not to litter!). Soon, they might find themselves offering a tract to the grocery clerk or to a person waiting for a bus with them. Many people get saved after reading Gospel tracts. Before long, they will find that the Holy Spirit will give boldness to start talking with people about Christ. We must ask God to help us view each person we meet as a potential candidate for the Gospel. We can ask Him to help us to make a difference in that life.
The important point of discussion should be that we just need to start! The Lord will help us continue. The Spirit can guide us into creative ways of reaching out both as a church family and as individuals. Some groups have held free car washes and have taken that opportunity to hand the drivers a portion of Scripture and to speak a word for the Lord. Others have set up free coffee stands at public locations and have given out verses or tracts with the coffee. We can ask God to broaden our horizons and to bring to mind new ways to get the Gospel out to our neighborhood and community.
Question 5 - William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, often said that he wished it were possible to send each of his ministers to Hell for one day. He was sure when they returned that there would be no reluctance to tell lost humanity about the Savior! What events in our lives often encourage us to tell others about Jesus?
Response 5 - The students will probably bring up events such as serious illness, accidents, or death of a loved one, identifying these as situations which call our attention to the shortness of life here on earth and to the fact that we don't know when our time will come. Having a friend come to know Jesus and seeing their excitement about telling others could encourage us to share our story also. The privilege of going on a missionary trip where we are challenged to share Jesus with others could be another example.
To wrap up your lesson, you might want to point out that the Great Commission Jesus' last charge to His disciples was not a suggestion. It was a command! Our responsibility to share the Gospel is neither optional nor something that only super dedicated Christians need to worry about. If we are serious about our commitment to Christ, we need to be serious about witnessing!