Preparing to Teach: Lesson 1 Class Notes
What is the status of Bible Study today?
Is Training Needed?
Way back in 1967, James A. Pike, and Episcopal Bishop, observed that most people felt that their children should be in Sunday School. His reaction was: "I don't know but it's pretty dangerous. You'd better study what they are doing there to see if it will be a good or bad influence. Select it carefully like you would a pediatrician." His advice was: "Don't. There is grave doubt that Sunday school anywhere is of any benefit."
Most likely we would consider that the worst advice one could give. But before we get "all up in arms" over the statement, perhaps we would do well to look at the condition of our own Bible Study both here and over the brotherhood. Read the following article by Neil Anderson, Editor of the Gospel Advocate:
What Has Happened to Bible Classes?
by Neil W. Anderson, Editor
Your Sunday school may not be a Bible school. Sunday school is not necessarily the same as Bible school. I observe many churches that apparently are getting away from Bible study by slowly drifting away from substantive, Bible-based teaching in our classes. Bible classes should teach the Bible just as math classes teach math or history classes teach history in school. Biblical illiteracy continues to grow in our nation. The results are that many Christians who lack foundational truths from God's Word are in danger of being "destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6 NKJV). Furthermore, they have not trained their children in the way of the Lord because they cannot teach what they do not know.
Moses commanded the children of Israel to teach their children diligently to love the Lord their God with all their might (Deuteronomy 6:7). Ezra personally prepared his heart to know God's will so that he could live it and teach it to others (Ezra 7:10). History is repeating itself again. After the death of Joshua, the generation that followed did not know the Lord (Judges 2:10). In "The Lost Generation" (Gospel Advocate, March), Don Campbell brought this tragedy home when he said, "When an entire generation arises that does not know God, we parents and grandparents must look to ourselves as having some responsibility for the shame." All Christians have an ongoing responsibility to know, live and teach according to God's truth. These examples should become a way of life for us. It is our choice.
Most of us depend solely on our Sunday schools for our religious teaching. We use a model that was developed more than 200 years ago by Robert Raikes, an evangelist in Great Britain. He was looking for a way to fulfill a need to teach the Word of God on Sundays to poor, uneducated children, many of whom were forced to work in factories six days a week. In his "Sunday school," the Bible was the textbook and religious education a vital part of a child's education. Sunday schools quickly became popular and effective; thus the modern-day "Sunday school" was born and spread to America with evangelistic fervor.
During the next century, as these Bible- based Sunday schools gave way to compulsory weekday state education, many churches retained their Sunday schools to teach religious education. By the early 20th century, going to Sunday school was a part of the lives of most children. My mother never missed asking me every Saturday evening if I had studied my Bible lesson for the next day!
Today, in many Sunday schools the pendulum has swung from an emphasis on textual Bible studies to studies on lifestyle, social and humanitarian needs with just enough Bible verses or Bible stories thrown in to make the subject acceptable. Generic materials used in such classes are teachable anywhere, but they lack biblical distinctiveness such as God's plan of salvation, leadership and worship. Often reliable materials written by brethren are ignored in favor of popular materials written by people we would not allow to teach or preach in our churches. In many cases, such materials overtly teach biblical error!
What we really need is to increase and intensify actual time for teaching and for study both collectively and personally to build our faith. Growth seldom occurs in spurts. It is gradual and progressive.
Respect for the Lord's Day has diminished from just a few years ago. Too many plans, including some church activities, are made for weekends, rooting out Bible study. And now our sporting gods vie for our time and money with team practice and tournaments (see "Today My Faith Was Tested" on p. 36) plus the spectator sports we have come to enjoy. These conflicts with periods of Bible study destroy continuity of learning.
Brethren, let's seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Let's turn our Sunday schools into Bible schools and study the inspired Word of God to show ourselves approved unto Him (2 Timothy 2:15).
Knowing the Bible and knowing about the Bible are two different things.
This language is not true of our classes up to at least the sixth grade. But what about junior high and high school classes? Do we seek to find the best of teachers to put in these classes? Recent research shows that 80% of all Bible Study "dropouts" occurs at the junior high level. Could it be caused in part by the fact that we put in those classes untrained teachers who feel that, because their students are just "kids," the teacher can get by without preparation, can "just wing it," and the "kids" will not know the difference?
What about our adult classes? Do we believe that anybody can teach if they only get a "little book" on the subject assigned. After all, if they read the little book they will have more knowledge on the subject than most, if not all of the class members. Moreover, it is not likely that any class member is going to do any preparation for the class. It makes no difference that the "little book" may be written by those who are not New Testament Christians and will have within them doctrinal error that the untrained teacher may not catch, thus opening the door to the teaching of doctrinal error.
But doctrinal error is not the only problem. A writer who lives in Timbuktu knows absolutely nothing about Christians in Katy, Texas. How silly would most of us look today if we were all dressed in "one size fits all" clothing? True, the writer may know something about human nature and, assuming that all Katyans (if there is such a word) are possessed of human nature, he is bound to hit a few just as some of us would be built just right for "one size fits all" clothing. Except for those few, all the rest would be missed.
Does this say that we need to be concerned about our number of teachers and our number of classes? Our practice has been that we must have 8 adult classes on Lord's Day morning with two teachers (each with a little book) in each class. Many have had no teaching experience, have little Bible knowledge of the subject beyond the "little book," make no effort to either seek other materials or think beyond the "little book." They may take the time to type out the little book so that they don't appear to stand before the class and read from it. Because of little preparation, however, they sometimes wind up reading their notes, occasionally looking up at the class. They will usually find very few of the class looking their way because they have failed to get their attention. Should they expect anything more? Probably not. After all, isn't reading to them the way that we usually put our children to sleep?
But this is Bible Study. They should be interested just because it is the Bible. That is a good thought but it is not a correct thought. That's like saying that everybody should be interested in every dish prepared. After all, every dish contains good ingredients (theoretically). However, we all know that some cooks can take those good ingredients and make them absolutely unpalatable to human taste. Dogs might not even eat it and pigs would have a hard time.
I am not saying this to belittle those who are kind enough to overcome their hesitancy and say "yes" when asked to teach. I am not saying this to criticize those who teach without ever going beyond the content of the "little book." It is not their fault that they have never been exposed to training before being thrown into the fire.
Then why am I saying it? I am saying it because I am convinced that our people deserve better. The "little books" are generally so shallow that one can wade through them without ever getting wet feet. Is it right to insist that people attend Bible Study and then make no effort to provide them with well-trained Biblically knowledgeable teachers. Is it fair to tell them that by this time in their Christian experience they should be able to eat strong meat when we have never fed them anything but pabulum?
Does Training Help?
First, let me suggest that I have some doubt that one class like this every 10+ years will help a great deal. By its very nature it cannot be called a "training program." At best it can be considered as a baby's first step. If it stops here it will be as if there was never a baby's second step.
Having said that, let's ask and answer a question that, though similar in language, is as different from "does training help" as the east is from the west. Can training help if done correctly and consistently? For the answer to that question I want to share some research with you.
Let's begin by recognizing that from a distance all Bible Study classes look alike to the casual observer. After all, there are far more similarities than differences. They all meet on Sunday usually before worship; they all have a teacher and a class ranging from a few to larger numbers; they meet for about an hour; they claim to study the Bible; they are divided on some basis, ranging from personal choice to age. Given that they all appear to be much the same, why is it that some churches have flourishing Bible Study programs and others in the same neighborhood are barely holding even or even losing members?
A study was done of Sunday schools in the Georgia Baptist Convention to attempt to answer that question. It found some interesting results. The churches included in the study were in all regions of the sate and represented all sizes. They accounted for 1.3 percent of the total Southern Baptist church population in Georgia. Interestingly, at the time of the survey these 1.3 percent of churches accounted for 15 percent of statewide Baptist conversions and 42 percent of the total growth in Sunday school attendance in the state.
How could that be? The same survey found that theses churches revealed ten common practices or characteristics that are not necessarily common to every Sunday school. The fastest growing congregations had on average implemented nine of the ten practices. A comparison study of a random group of other Southern Baptist churches in Georgia revealed that other "growing" Sunday schools practice on average eight of them. By contrast, those that were in decline or had plateaued practiced an average of fewer than five of the ten. The ten common practices of the fastest growing Sunday schools were as follows:
- 98 percent of the churches with the fastest growing Sunday schools involved their Sunday school leaders in training.
- 96 percent viewed their preacher's support of the Sunday school as important to the health of their church.
- 96 percent were overcoming space limitations (or were flexible about the use of space and schedules).
- 91 percent were assertive about expanding their enrollment.
- 85 percent provided personal evangelism training for their members.
- 83 percent were assertive in creating and launching new classes.
- 80 percent conducted organized weekly outreach.
- 78 percent developed and maintained prospect lists.
- 78 percent had high standards for leaders (either written commitments or signed covenants).
- 78 percent intentionally organized their classes with growth in mind – multiple leaders in classes and strong emphasis on age affinities.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)