What a difference good, sound Bible education in the church makes! For you who enjoy a close relationship with the Lord and a steadfast faith, think about how different your spiritual growth would have been if Sunday School or an intentional Christian education program in a Bible-believing church had not been a part of your life. Would you have grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the extent that you have? Would you be as aware of the flow of Scripture or understand doctrine in the manner you do now? Would you be as far along in your spiritual development? Solid, well-grounded Bible teaching directly influences the extent of your spiritual growth.
John: My dad was a pastor. I had the privilege of growing up in a godly home and receiving consistent parental instruction. I sat under my father’s preaching. My parents greatly influenced my life. I attended a Christian day school through my elementary years and received an excellent foundational education. As valuable as were those training venues, I would have missed a significant component in my spiritual formation if I had not been part of a weekly Sunday School.
Daria: My parents were believers who faithfully took me to Sunday School and church. Our Sunday School classrooms were separated by curtains, not walls. Even though my church was limited financially, it was rich in Bible education. My pastor and teachers took great care in preparing their lessons. Teachers’ meetings were held every Sunday evening. I remember exciting Sunday School lessons depicting Old Testament heroes, great flannelgraph illustrations given by Miss Lillian-my Sunday School teacher, fun art projects that I took home to remember the Bible story, and wonderful choruses telling about salvation and Heaven that my friends and I sang in the opening sessions.
Though we grew up in different Sunday Schools, we both participated in age-appropriate Bible learning that gave us a big-picture awareness of the grand plan of God revealed in His Word. It was in Sunday School that we discovered the edge-of-the-seat drama of Bible stories; we visualized the plots of the narrative accounts through pictures and flannelgraph; we became familiar with the locations of the books in the Bible by participating in competitive “Sword drills” and by locating and reading passages during classes. The names of Bible characters became as common as neighbors down the street. We gradually developed a doctrinal infrastructure that gave form and substance to truth in an organized way that increasingly directed our reasoning ability. God’s truth was relevantly applied so that we personalized the demands God placed on all areas of our lives.
That excellent quality of Sunday School instruction was possible because our teachers used carefully designed curriculum that guided their teaching. The intentional nature of instructional resources indicated that there was a plan to everything they taught. By following a scope and sequence, our teachers avoided the “pet topics syndrome” by methodically communicating the “whole counsel of God.” The coordinated nature of materials from a single publisher meant that Bible instruction was further developed and reinforced as we moved from one age level to the next. The doctrinal reliability of the trusted curriculum consistently matched our churches’ beliefs; our teachers had no cause to doubt the curriculum’s accuracy in presenting the Scriptures. Truth reigned; it was not diminished by generic teaching from interdenominational materials, marketed for mass appeal. We were fortunate that the Sunday Schools we attended had an educational plan.
In contrast, some churches put together their educational programs in piecemeal fashion. No rhyme or reason exists for choosing or changing curriculum. When thinking about this approach, we pictured a greenhouse near our home that is a hodgepodge of building additions. In the beginning the facility was a tiny storefront with a greenhouse in back. The owners needed more space for growing plants, so they added additional glass shacks. With more plants being grown, a new section of storefront was built to display the plants. The bricks of the addition did not match the original storefront; a small cutout doorway adjoined the two sections. Old pots and planks were stored haphazardly in view of the customers. The place was a mess! No master plan for building that retail establishment existed.
In the busyness of church life, careful attention to forming a long-term church strategy for the spiritual development of its people may be neglected. Educational plans are “add-ons” rather than components of a comprehensive and coordinated instructional design. Teachers or classes make their own decisions about what will be taught. This approach will not produce the positive spiritual formation results that can come from an intentional, effectively engineered educational plan.
When God gave Moses the blueprints for the construction of the tabernacle, He spelled out a carefully coordinated strategy. Each worker knew what was to be done and how his assignment fit with the other craftsmen’s tasks. The construction of the church of Jesus Christ also requires a carefully coordinated strategy as the Word of God is skillfully used so that the whole building of believers, joined together, “grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21).
The process of moving people toward spiritual maturity is serious business. Paul spoke of the manner in which he viewed the task of spiritual formation in the church in construction terms. The church must be built with the planning and precision of a superbly engineered building. He said in 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The work of building the church deserves as much attention as would be given to a well-engineered building project of concrete, steel, and lumber.
Take an honest look at your church’s educational strategy. Is it unified and intentional? Is there a master plan? Do the church leaders, pastors, deacons, and Sunday School teachers share a common strategy for spiritual formation? Does the curriculum tie together from one age level to the next? Are people making tangible progress toward spiritual maturity?
At Regular Baptist Press we have a plan for spiritual formation. The scope and sequence chart reflects the careful thought that we put into designing our curriculum. Our ministry exists for the purpose of intentionally building lives by the Book through the instructional ministry of the local church. Would you like to develop an intentional, deliberate plan so people in your church can grow in faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Regular Baptist Press is here to help! We provide curriculum and training to build lives by the Book.
John Greening is the national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. Daria serves the alongside John in the roles of administration and writing.