Because of the passion for Sunday School/small groups that God has placed within me, I tend to see affirmation of this ministry in many passages of God’s Word. I came across a verse this afternoon that I had read many times over the years, but somehow I had missed its Sunday School/small groups message. Perhaps you have read it. Here it is:
Assemble the people–men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns–so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:12, NIV).
Wow, what a great verse! Can you see some points, some truths about Sunday School? Can you see how Sunday School/small groups can lead us to be obedient to His command in this verse? Allow me to share four points (the command and three results):
- THE COMMAND: Assemble the people. Gather them together. All of them. All ages. Not just the members. Invite those who are from out of town along with the members. Invite people who are “my kind of people” and those who are different. “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Lk 14:23, KJV). Help them to see how vital Sunday School is. Sunday School is an effective reaching arm for the church. Age-graded Sunday School/small groups is organized to reach out and care for everyone in the church and community. Preschool, children, and youth leaders invite individuals in their age groups and their parents. Young, middle, and senior adult leaders invite adults in their assigned age groups. People like to be invited. People are waiting to be invited.
- FIRST RESULT: So they can listen. Through hearing His Word, they meet God. They learn about Him, and more importantly they experience Him. They see how he has moved in history, in people’s lives. They learn of God’s ways and His attributes. They hear His truth. They learn of His expectations–for them. When they are assembled, they can listen together. Together is better. In fact, Sunday School and small groups are great communities for listening. Teachers prayerfully prepare to meet the specific needs of that age group and of those specific people who have gathered. There members and guests can debrief what they are hearing. They can ask questions. They can be led to apply His truth. They can hear how God is alive today and moving in people’s lives.
- SECOND RESULT: So they can learn to fear the LORD. When we assemble them, the hearing of His Word leads to conviction. They realize how awesome He is. They come to understand His expectations. They try to deal with the fear on their own but realize their own inability to respond adequately to Him. They admit that sin has a price they cannot pay. They recognize their need for Him, for a relationship with Him, and for His help. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching [teaching] to them?” (Romans 10:14, NIV). In Sunday School/small groups, people come to realize their need to accept what God has done in Jesus Christ for their sins. Andy Anderson said people are more than 100 times more likely to accept a relationship with Jesus in twelve months of attending Sunday School than by attending worship only. Community in Sunday School and small groups encourages faith steps to be taken.
- THIRD RESULT: So they can follow carefully all the words of this law. When we assemble them, they get to know God and His Word. They realize His expectations. They are taught to understand and apply His truth. They are expected and led to takes steps toward becoming obedient. They are held accountable to practice what is taught. They are encouraged to live it out daily at home, work, school, and play. Jesus commanded us to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded” (Matthew 28:20a). It i s not simply about knowledge of God’s Word. Sunday School/small groups can be a great community for helping persons of all age understand, apply, and obey His truth. They realize people care about them. They are encouraged to try again when they have failed. They see real life in Christ modeled. They want to please God. They want to obey. The ongoing personal nature of relationships in Sunday School/small groups nurtures obedience.
Now, what will you do with the sermon? I challenge you to preach it, teach it, share it in meetings. Expect much of the Sunday School/small groups. Ask God to bless and use your classes/groups to assemble the people so they can listen, learn to fear the Lord, and carefully follow all the words of the law. Stop being mediocre about your Sunday School/small groups! Be revolutionary!