intersect, where the bible meets life
Ommission and the Great Commission
Staring up at those fuzzy flannelgraphs of Mary Elizabeth Griffith. Traveling the “Romans Road” with Jack Nicholson. Returning the warm, caring smile of John Boyte. My Sunday School teachers when I was
Bert and Dianne Tippett, Joe and Beverly Jones, Tommy Sanders—they made the Bible come alive to me when I was a teenager. My Sunday School teachers during turbulent years.
Kevin, Solomon, and the Back Burner
Good teachers are the mortar holding a church foundation together. I remembered that recently while I was soaking in the teaching skills of the gifted Kevin McAlister in Sunday School at Farmersville, California. He was making Ecclesiastes read like Solomon had just written it last week!
But there may be a problem.
I went through some recent books and blogs on ministry. The in-vogue topics were familiar: preaching, leadership, small groups, culture, marketing, finance, counseling, vision, strategy, networking, worship, music—important issues all.
Its absence stunned me once I noticed it—Christian education. The teaching ministry of the church. I saw not a single mention of it in any resource I scanned. Ministry pundits must be writing about it, but I sure didn’t see it, and I looked at the work of some prominent people who write about ministry.
Not Missing in the New Testament
One focused trip through the New Testament should adjust the problem if I am right in my diagnosis. Even if I’m not, it would do us good to revisit what Scripture says about education. Jesus taught all kinds of people in all kinds of places. His students were those who would open themselves to receive His doctrine. Lessons, parables, examples, questions and answers, proverbs—the Lord was always teaching. And the Great Commission not only contains a directive to teach, it is such a directive in and of itself: “Go and make disciples—a disciple is a learner—“teaching them . . .” (Matthew 28:19-20).
When Jesus went back to Heaven, though, school wasn’t out! The book of Acts opens by noting that Jesus’ teaching had just begun. The soon-to-be-born church was to continue the lesson. Search Acts and see how integral teaching Scripture was to the young church. It was bound up with their preaching the gospel.
The elements of Christian education then weave their way throughout the New Testament letters. Keep in mind, for example, that one of the gifts of the Spirit is teaching. Look no further than First Timothy for another case-in-point. In this charter for church administration, Paul mentions teaching, learning, and doctrine repeatedly (see 1 Timothy 1:3, 7, 10; 2:7, 11, 12; 3:2; 4:6, 16; 6:2, 3). While it is true that the pastor must have an aptitude for teaching, the teaching gift extends throughout the body of Christ.
So what do we do to insure that we are fulfilling the Great Commission education mandate in a day when many in the church downplay doctrine?
Prioritize—Church leaders should insist that Christian education be a high profile item in the vision, mission, and planning of the congregation—and should budget accordingly.
Mobilize—Identify, challenge, and recruit people in the church who seem qualified to teach; cultivate a climate for nurturing and valuing Christian education.
Organize—Use whatever approach (small groups, graded Sunday School, intergenerational, etc.) you think is consistent with Scripture and your church’s mission. But be intentional in seeing that the ministry of teaching is accomplishing what it should in building up the body.
Catechize—Our local church leadership developed a catechism to use in teaching our young people the essentials of what we believe. To see the catechism, click on the “About Us” link at www.crosstimbersfwbc.org.
Maximize—Make the most of those gifted to teach by helping them sharpen their skills through workshops, conferences, training sessions, online classes, college and seminary education.
Evangelize—The laborers are few, including those who are called to the church’s teaching ministry. When we reach people with the gospel, we will continue the work of committing the truth of God to faithful people who will be able to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
And while you’re at it, why not call, write, email, or text your Sunday School teacher a “thank you” this week?
Intersect: Where the Bible Meets Life is a regular column written by Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College.