In April 1994, Representative William H. Natcher died. He was a member of First Baptist Church, Bowling Green, Kentucky, whose sanctuary had burned a few months earlier. I was serving at Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green at the time. Shortly after the fire, we had extended an offer for First Baptist to use our facilities when weddings or funerals called for them. A large crowd was expected for the Natcher funeral, and First Baptist requested use of our sanctuary.
Very quickly we heard that many representatives, congressmen, and other dignitaries would attend the funeral along with the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. What do you do when you know the President is coming? You get ready. Secret Service checked out the records of all church staff. The funeral home staff made several trips and calls to check out details. Crews of volunteers came in to clean and straighten the facility in order to make the most positive impression possible. In the case of a funeral or wedding, the best impression is one in which there are no negative sights, sounds, or smells. That was our goal.
What if you knew that Jesus was coming to Sunday School? What would you do to prepare? What would be your goal? Would you study your lesson more? Would you spend more time in prayer and Bible study during the week? Would you invite everyone you knew? Would you clean and straighten your space? Would you practice asking Jesus a question so you were prepared? Would you plan to ask Him to teach in your place?
NEGLECTING JESUS. Jesus will be there this Sunday! In many Sunday Schools, however, why Sunday School is done and for whom it is done has been neglected. There is no agreement in His name. Many fail to acknowledge His presence. Many classes are simply a meeting to study a book called the Bible. When neglected, the resulting lack of understanding and purpose makes Sunday School powerless.
In many Sunday Schools, signs of this neglect are all around. Warm bodies are enlisted for important responsibilities within the Sunday School, including teaching. People don’t know what they are supposed to do. It shows up in poor effort and poor quality. It shows up in lessons which are ill-prepared and poorly delivered. Neglect of why and for whom can be seen in facilities which are poorly maintained and cleaned, planning meetings which are skipped, training which is spurned, and prayer which is not taken seriously.
When why and for whom Sunday School is done is unclear, vision and direction are missing. Motivation diminishes and disappears. Ministry becomes drudgery. Hope is scarce. Survival and doing the minimum required are the norm. Jesus’ presence is missed.
NEGLECTING OWNERSHIP. There is an ownership problem in much Sunday School work today. Or should I say, “lack of ownership?” There are many who assume someone else will do the work. They assume someone else will care for the sheep. They “don’t have time.” They “don’t know how.” It’s not “their job.” And all the while Satan is attacking and scattering the flock (John 10:12-13).
Wait a minute! To whom did Jesus give His Great Commission? He gave it to His disciples, to the Church. Well, who are we? Are we His disciples? Are we His Church? The task does not only belong to pastors, staff, deacons, and teachers. We are ALL His hands and feet in this world. He has called us all to care for the sheep, and not all of them are in the sheep pen (John 10:16). The world is a rough place for sheep who are alone, without a shepherd and more importantly without a shepherd and without the Shepherd.