How many of you can name all the systems of the human body? We can all easily guess three or four: digestive, cardiovascular (circulatory and pulmonary), muscular, and skeletal. But would you have named these: lymphatic, endocrine, nervous, urinary, and reproductive (male and female)? Which of these systems is not needed? Which three can the body survive without? Two?
To double check your answer, check out Human Anatomy Online. The answer is that a healthy human body needs all the systems. Occasionally when a system malfunctions, medication or medical procedures are able to help the body limp along without that system–but it does so with a “limp.”
The same is true of the church body. All the systems are needed and need to be functioning at full capacity. What are those systems for the church? I tend to go back to the five purposes of the church (which can be found in Acts 2:42-47 and other passages): evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship. What is left out of the church systems that is not included in these five? Some argue prayer, but I tend to include it in worship. Others would argue stewardship, but I tend to include it either in worship or in discipleship. So whether you stick with the five purposes or add two more, which one or two can the church do without? None!
And yet churches regularly TRY to do so. I emphasize TRY because they too are “limping” along unable to function as our Lord intends. Many churches assign each purpose to a different program in the church. This approach results in silos, and when any one silo fails, it hurts the entire body–the whole system (just like the human body). Jesus is the Head of the body/the Church just like the nervous system (including the brain) is the system that connects the whole body. He never intended silos.
In many ways, Sunday School is the answer to silos. Sunday School is able to carry out all five purposes. It is a reaching-teaching effort that also ministers and fellowships. And Sunday School intends to lead attenders into a Bible study experience in class an in private devotions in such a way that they encounter the God of the Bible–so it is also worship! Additional efforts in discipleship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship, and worship are needed to supplement and strengthen the work that Sunday School does, but it is like the shell of the human body that holds all of the systems together.
Keep Sunday School healthy. Keep it balanced. Keep all of the purposes functioning well within Sunday School. Look at the purposes and discern what efforts are needed to supplement and strengthen the purposes through the Sunday School. For more information about Sunday School and the five purposes, check out the following blog posts: Sunday School Carrying out the Purposes of the Church, Five Purposes of a Revolutionary Sunday School, Repurposing Your Sunday School Class, and The 5 W’s of Balanced Sunday School.
If evangelism is weak, provide some training and some intentional efforts and events. If discipleship is weak, train teachers and challenge members to invest in a daily quiet time. Evaluate, address, and adjust. Give your best effort in carrying out our Lord’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Be revolutionary!