Welcome to the final 2001 issue of Equip for Ministry. This has been an eventful year for our nation and our denomination. Though the Presbyterian Church in America extends beyond the United States into Canada, and though we have missionaries in more than fifty countries, this year has had particular impact on the U. S. The events of September 11, have had a ripple effect throughout the world and have demonstrated that in our “global village” you cannot touch one part of the system without impacting another. Yet our country was especially severely tried.
On a less challenging and non-threatening note, the Atlanta based PCA offices moved to a new location about twenty-five miles northeast of the city. To make that move and to adjust quickly without interrupting our ministries was not an easy feat, but the transition went rather smoothly.
In the July/August issue we addressed the local church education program. We are grateful for the positive comments, even those who chastised us for not mentioning the Christian school movement. (Though that is part of a wholistic emphasis of Christian education, it was not our intention to cover it in that article.) This issue further develops that theme with a specific focus on Sunday school.
The lead article was written by our friend Elmer Towns. Towns understands the trends in local church ministry. In the September/October 2000 issue, we reviewed Into the Future a book which he co-authored dealing with significant trends changing the face of ministry. He has participated in CE&P programs relating to the Sunday school, and the lead article contains many of the ideas he presented at our last conference. I hope that each of you particularly leaders and teachers will read the article carefully. The Sunday school has been a powerful tool in local church ministries for several hundred years. Some say that there is no biblical warrant for Sunday school; yet God has used this part of the church’s life to reach and disciple many children, youth, and adults. A Sunday school that is done well will contribute much to the church’s overall ministry, but as with other programs, it can be done poorly or ineffectively and distract from the church’s ministry.
This article contains much to think about, particularly whether Sunday school is still a viable program for our church or has outlived its effectiveness. Historically the Sunday school was used to reach out to the unchurched children. We in the Reformed faith have had a difficult time knowing how to do that effectively through the Sunday school; hence we have used it as an important teaching time for families in the church.
Towns underscores the four traditional purposes of the Sunday school: reaching, teaching, winning, and nurturing. I believe those are still valid purposes but as the article suggests, we must do them differently if we are going to reach this generation.
The Changeless Truths article addresses the vitally important issue of seizing the moment to turn tragedy into triumph. It will also pave the way for a lead article on Islam by our friend and brother Dr. Anees Zaka in the January/February issue.Please carefully read the book review section in this issue, especially the book by Jerram Barrs. It will dovetail with the lead and Changeless Truths articles. Never has it been as important as it is today, particularly because of the postmodern paradigm, to believe, understand, and stand for the truth and to witness to that truth in the most personal and relational manner possible. Christians must be bridge builders and not isolate or wall ourselves off from our surroundings. Christ’s command to make disciples was given to “the church” and we must not fail to carry out his Great Commission.