By Allen Curry. For years I traveled around consulting with churches about Christian education. Many people I met thought Sunday school was only for children.
Although that perception is changing, it’s still a common view. But compare it with the view of Christian nurture found in the Scriptures. The Bible addresses adults primarily and children incidentally. Biblical education, then, is primarily an adult activity. So we need to look at Sunday school, the major educational institution in churches, as an adult endeavor.
Christians should know what the Bible says. Sunday school provides an excellent way for us to learn new things from the Scriptures and review what we already know. Few deny their need. Many simply ignore the possibilities.
Some adults avoid Sunday school because they think they’ve learned everything it can provide. Many people think that education, and Sunday school in particular, is for kids. A brief tour of what one could learn by going to an adult Sunday school class that uses materials published by Great Commission Publications (GCP) will show you what I mean. GCP’s Adult Discipleship Studies can help you do something that you may not know how to do, and are afraid to try-study the Bible.
Studying different books shows both the unity and the diversity of the Bible. Getting to Know John’s Gospel, by Robert A. Peterson, encourages you to examine the text of the Gospel of John to understand its main points. Daniel Doriani’s Teach the Nations, scheduled for release later this year, guides you through the Gospel of Matthew.
In Sunday school class, A Living Hope, by Frank M. Barker, will acquaint you with the apostle Peter and the main issues of his first epistle. Paul E. Engle’s Guarding and Growing does the same for 2 Peter.
As a Sunday school student you will benefit from discovering how themes unite individual books, and how those themes are woven throughout the whole Bible. Exodus is the story of how God delivered his people from bondage in Egypt. It’s also a metaphor for our redemption. John H. White’s Slavery to Servanthood explains how the Exodus theme pervades the Scriptures and is at the heart of the Gospel.
Sunday school provides a place to examine the different types of literature found in the Bible. Students interested in a more introspective look at what the Bible teaches can profit from Jack B. Scott’s Wise and Otherwise. Those who have been perplexed by what the parables teach will find help in his Those Puzzling Parables.
Bible characters fascinate adults as well as children. Doriani’s David, the Anointed is a theologically helpful and exciting biography that not only explains how David functions as God’s anointed, but how he points forward to Christ. Paul E. Engle offers an interesting look at a frequently forgotten leader of God’s people in The Governor Drove Us up the Wall-Nehemiah.
Sunday school classes not only study how the Bible unfolds in book after book and in character after character, but also how it sets forth answers to problems. The systematic study of what the Bible teaches is important; hence, Sunday school studies doctrine. Morton H. Smith’s Testimony can help an adult Sunday school review the basics of Christian doctrine.
Presbyterian theologians talk about the covenant, but many people have only a glimmer of what it means. O. Palmer Robertson’s Covenants: God’s Way with His People presents an explanation of this crucial biblical idea in a way that laymen can understand.
No Christian can know too much about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., uses Old Testament figures in The Root and Branch to explain who Jesus is and what he has done.
Churches have Sunday school. But just what is the church? Edmund P. Clowney, in Living in Christ’s Church, describes the church as a living organism that takes on a particular form.
All Christians are called to love God and serve him. We serve God when we pray to him, and Richard L. Pratt’s Pray with Your Eyes Open will help you rediscover the joy and benefits of communion with God. This summer, GCP will introduce my The God We Love and Serve, which is designed to help Christians understand and serve God better.
Lest you think of Sunday school as a place where people learn abstract, impractical things, let me assure you that it provides help in living the Christian life.
Twentieth-century Christians have witnessed a concerted attack on the family, Learning to be a Family, by Ken and Floy Smith, provides advice on how to stem this attack as we look ahead to the future.
Family life has declined in part because of the absence and failure of fathers. Paul Heidebrecht, in Time to Go Home, shows fathers how to take their role in the family seriously.
All Sunday school students need to learn how to be true followers of Jesus Christ. William A. Shell, in Come Follow Me, offers a down-to-earth description of how to become and continue to be a disciple of Jesus.
None of us will profit from Sunday school apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But what are we to be like when the Spirit of God bears fruit in our lives? John W. Sanderson’s The Fruit of the Spirit explains each fruit-what it is, what it is not, and how to cultivate it.
Learning about the Bible, studying doctrine and finding out how to grow in grace are all things that happen to adults in Sunday school. Yet there can and should be more. Not only should we learn and grow, we must also serve.
Those called out of the darkness of sin to salvation in Christ have an exciting story to tell. T.M. Moore’s Making God’s Good News Known can help your Sunday school share the story of God’s redeeming grace.
Christians worship God. Some do so with a clear understanding and others simply show up at services. Sunday school classes that study Paul E. Engle’s Discovering the Fullness of Worship will become better-informed worshipers. Another way to improve your worship in song is to study Lawrence C. Roff s Let Us Sing: Worshipping God with Our Music (hot off the press).
Sunday school is not just for children-it is also for adults. Recognizing this, the PCA’s Committee on Christian Education has encouraged GCP over the years to produce helpful, confessionally sound materials for adults to study.
Adults, even though you have grown up, you have not outgrown Sunday school. Go to Sunday school this week and see what you are missing.