The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is one of the most quoted sections of scripture among todays church leaders, and there has been a much needed emphasis on disciple making. We have emphasized so much that “make disciples” is the imperative and all the other verbs are supporting participles, that we have lost some of the weight behind, “going, baptizing and teaching.” In other words, in our efforts to push for disciple making we have neglected the very ways in which the Lord told us to make them. The result is a kind of discipleship that is far different from that mentioned in the Great Commission. Matthew records no mention of doing life together, or meeting once a week in a coffee shop to confess the same sins you confessed last week. While those things are not bad, they are not the end all be all of discipleship. Discipleship is more than relationships, it is going, baptizing, and teaching. This week I want to talk about teaching.
In many ways, our churches are educational institutions, that do not stop at graduate or even post graduate work. We teach our people from childhood until the day that they die. This means that church members should be the most educated people on the planet in their respective field of study. What would we say of the public school system if we sent our kids there for 12 years and they came out only knowing all information on a 5th grade level? I fear that our churches have failed to educate the people entrusted to us. We have a responsibility and obligation to teach God’s people. This is how disciples are made!
I was once told by a pastor who was nearing retirement that he always preaches on a 3rd grade level, and had done so for the entirety of ministry. It is great that he is thinking of those who may be learning for the first time, but my fear is that he will produce nothing but a congregation of 3rd graders. As a young man just starting in ministry I understand that I don’t know everything, I just really want to be able to say at the end of my ministry that I taught the people more than that.
I really believe that Sunday school is one of the greatest ministries of the church. I just don’t understand the negative reputation it has among people today, and I have to hold my tongue when I hear people talking poorly about it. I often hear people say, “Meeting once a week on Sunday mornings to listen to someone teach the Bible from a quarterly is not discipleship.” In response the listeners cheer in agreement, but I say, “If that’s not discipleship, than what is?” I just don’t see how meeting in a home on a day other than Sunday, yet teaching the same exact material only from a different book makes any difference. Sunday school is not perfect either, but if there is teaching, and the people are reaching the lost in their groups, than it must be discipleship.
Sunday school is obviously not the only option, we just really need to remember that in order to make a disciple we must teach. If you like the coffee shop thing, teach. If you like home groups, teach. If you like Sunday school, teach!