It’s time to tackle one of my favorite issues, let’s talk Sunday School. In many places it’s dying on the vine, it’s being traded in and swapped out. It’s considered out of date and it’s not working. I’m here to tell you that Sunday School can be powerful, effective, life changing, church reviving and Christ honoring and will become your favorite time of the week. One of the problems is we are stuck on this idea of Sunday School being something it’s not. Today I want to talk about the “D” word. Let’s dive into the deep of deep.
So you want a deep Sunday School huh. The whole open group thing doesn’t appeal to you because you are worried about having to “water it down”. You don’t want to teach the boring stuff, you want to have deep teaching. Let’s stop for a minute, I don’t have any idea what “deep” even means. What are you teaching that’s so deep? Hebrew poetry structures? Are you examining the Hebrew Lexicon and searching for possible meanings for Selah? Examining every Old Testament prophecy and cross referencing historical and current events? Are you doing a historical look at I and II Maccabees? (One more). Are you trying to do a new translation from the oldest available Hebrew text? What is a deep class? I know what I have seen, most of the time when a teacher, leader or guru wants to go deep, he or she has a pet project or a personal agenda they want to teach. Put the rocks down, I didn’t say you do, just saying that is what I’ve seen. Don’t get so touchy, it’s like I hit a nerve. PUT THE ROCKS DOWN.
Ok, now that we are past the desire for bloodshed (I hope) let’s talk about what you should be teaching. You need to be looking at Old Testament books and examining how God is revealing Himself and what we learn about God, His character and His attributes from His revelations. You need to look at the law to see what is teaches us about ourselves, how unable to actually be holy we really are. You need to teach the wisdom of the Old Testament and the skills for living that are explained. You need to show people Christ in the Old Testament and how He is in every story and proclaimed through the entire redemptive history. Teach the principles of what God is showing us in the Old Testament, but do so without teaching legalism, and remind those in your class who aren’t Jewish that we aren’t Jewish, so don’t try to keep the law like a Jew. There isn’t a temple, it doesn’t work. (You think I’m joking, but I’m a serious as a teetotaler at a brewery with RC Sproul.)
You need to teach them Jesus. You need to teach the Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. . . but don’t call it that. Just tell em Jesus died in your place so you can be justified before the Father. Yes, use words like Justified, Sanctified and Glorified, just define them. Also define Born Again, Gentile, Epistle, Propitiation and anything else that brings a confused look to someone’s face. Remember, we are growing through Sunday School, so there should be new people in your class. Teach them the hard stuff, but make it so they can learn it.
Talk about stuff that matters to them. Talk about death and eternity, about marriage and divorce and sex and kids and drinking if you can survive the conversation. Talk about abortion, elections, Election, the 2nd coming and talk about then using scripture. Talk about stuff in the Bible, and a great way is to talk about it while it comes up while teaching the Bible. Use material to help you. I know, I know, you all hate curriculum, you can write better stuff than the guys who write this stuff for a living. Can I be harsh? Get over yourself and go buy The Gospel Project, or something else. Lifeway has great stuff, and their Thru the Bible is perfect for many of you. Just get it. Ok, go to the website and try a sample. Do it.
Ok, last thing. Teach your people to be transformed. Let me break it down this way, teach them like you assume your teaching will change their lives. Teach them how to study the Bible, teach them that life lessons that will save their lives are in the scripture. Teach them the whole thing is important, not just the part about dragons spewing rivers or wives submitting. Teach them about context, exegesis, isogesis and why it’s bad and why you never, ever do it. You don’t do it, right? Ok, good. Teach them about translations, the different translation philosophies and why they shouldn’t use the new NIV of the TNIV, and of course to avoid the New World Translation. Teach them about worship, prayer, fasting, studying and reading and quite times and such. Talk about outreach and evangelism (cause we are growing, remember) and make your class a safe, happy and fun place to bring people. This will require you to have some fun and be a little social. Bring coffee and maybe donuts. One class I worked with had chocolate covered bacon, and their class grew. Just saying, couldn’t hurt. Find good resources, bring good resources, share good resources. Teach your people to be Biblically literate, have a Biblical world view and to become teachers themselves when the class is too big and you need to have two classes. Teach them so they can become leaders, deacons, pastors and of course bloggers.
Now, do all this, allowing for time for fellowship, prayer, and be open to new folks and teach in such a way that new people are learning, engaged and feel open? Overwhelmed? It’s a big task, but Sunday School is amazing when you are open, caring, loving and you engage people with the power of the Word. Is it deep? I don’t know, I think sometimes we go deep enough to bury our class while it’s still living. Stop being deep, just be real and teach what matters. Teach with passion and love and excitement and then invite people to come and teach them stuff that will change their lives. If I can do it, you can do it (and I’ve done it with Middle School boys, so I know you can). Good luck, you’ll have a great and amazing time. Thanks for not stoning me.