This is day 9 of 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School.
Imagine a Roman soldier trying to defend his weapon, his sword, to the enemy who is attacking. The soldier could go into great detail describing the craftsmanship, the type of iron, the strength, the effectiveness of the sword in the past, how sharp it is, etc. We quickly recognize how ridiculous that is, because the Roman soldier would never defend the sword; he would use it. Avery Willis shared this illustration and adds, “The truth of the Word proves itself as authoritative when we use it.” (Truth That Sticks: How to Communicate Velcro Truth in a Teflon World by Avery T. Willis, Jr. and Mark Snowden (NavPress, 2010) p. 106.
What a great reminder that the textbook of Sunday School is the Bible—God’s Word that needs to be shared in the context of relationships. Unfortunately some well-intended Bible teachers may fall into the trap of feeling the need to defend God’s Word. There are a few other traps related to the Bible as the textbook of Sunday School. Do you recognize any of these other examples?
Making Bible study an end unto itself – This mindset results in little or no expectation for life change to come as a result of studying God’s Word. I heard a pastor refer to this as “spiritual obesity”—feeding and feeding on God’s Word but never living it out in life. This teacher might frequently say things like, I didn’t have time to finish the lesson.” In this case, teaching is like something on a checklist one can check as completed each week. I’ve done my job.
Teaching out of personal opinion or personal preference – These teachers are quick to use popular books, magazines, news articles, movies, and personal or public opinion (movies, books, news, famous people) as the main focus of their teaching. They may not recognize how it contradicts Bible truth. This leads to confusion and/or false teaching.
Avoiding touchy subjects because of fear of hurting someone’s feelings – These teachers fail to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin as they are exposed to the truth found in God’s Word. God often puts us in a certain place at a certain time because He knows what can happen if we allow Him to speak to us through His Word. Teachers may also hear class discussions that are not based on scripture. I tend to respond to those discussions by affirming many adults talk about that today, or yes we read and hear a lot about that today. However, I usually lift up my Bible and add, “But let’s look again at the passages to see what the Bible says.” If people ask me “Are you saying that ….?” I respond thanking them for asking if that is my opinion or not. I then can clarify this is what the Bible says—what God says—not what I say.
View curriculum or commentaries as the textbook – These leaders may not open their Bibles or reference the Bible as the textbook during the session. They are so focused on curriculum that they forget why they use curriculum. Curriculum provides commentary and other resources to help the teacher and the other learners understand and live out the Bible, but the Bible is always the textbook of Sunday School. These classes often have frequent discussions about not liking curriculum, etc. These classes may also contain learners who only look at a learner guide—never digging deeper into the Bible for further study.
Examine your own Sunday School class. What can you personally do to insure the Bible remains the textbook of Sunday School? What better reminder about our responsibility in teaching God’s Word than the encouragement found in 2 Timothy:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 HCSB
Belinda Jolley serves as the Director of the Adult Ministry Office of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Belinda and her husband, Steve, enjoy starting new classes at First Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.