Interview on HopeStream Radio

Listen to An Interview with Carole Pollard

MUSINGS OF A TEACHER: The church and the Bible

As a child I frequently heard dispensationalist terms like premillennial, postmillennial and amillennial. I witnessed adults searching scripture to decide which eschatological stripe they should embrace as their own. The Bible was their final authority.

 

In my young adulthood, seeker churches made their appearance. The Bible’s definition of the church as the collective body of Christ seemed to be set aside for the greater good of growing the body of Christ.

 

To satisfy the new priority of making non-believers feel at home in church, worship styles and music became the next great debate. This was labelled an issue of taste rather than substance.

 

Along the way, churches became accustomed to making decisions without searching scripture. In our market-driven culture, church choices are made on the basis of effectiveness and appeal.

 

Current issues concern theology, what we believe about God. God is love; we count on it. Does God’s love preclude judgement? Dare we name sin? Are we ok just the way we are? Are people naturally good? Are all people automatically the children of God or must one acknowledge need for Jesus’ atonement to become God’s child? Does God have a moral standard for his children? Can we update the name “Father” for God?

 

Discussions cite trends and cultural norms. I’ve heard that the Bible is too old to be relevant and too complicated to understand. We are content to be told what God is like by pastors and current books. We experiment with other approaches to spirituality to find God. We eagerly accept disarming interpretations for prickly scripture passages.Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to explore God’s own word ourselves? Last winter I had the privilege of teaching Bible Orientation to adults. The class frequently was punctuated by exclamations of surprise. Who knew that minor prophets describe us and even address financial struggles? The Bible “is useful to teach us what is true” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT). Let’s read it!

MUSINGS OF A TEACHER: The Bible according to me

 

Orphan letters with a word or two in a text, snippets of horrific global events on the news, “friends” spouting random opinions and miscellaneous personal information: this is communication in our tidbit world. Does our Christian School Bible Curriculum or Sunday School Curriculum mirror this accidental, piecemeal approach? Do we teach the Bible as an unrelated collection of nuggets for our use?

 

It is possible to make the Bible say most anything we want it to say. As a teenager in my country church, I heard an illustration of extreme proof texting. Apparently the issue of that day and place was women’s hair; the bun traditionally gathered at the neck-base was climbing seductively upward. This prompted a sermon based on Matthew 24:17 King James Version: “Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house.” This verse conveniently contained the nugget to stop the dangerous bun inclination: “top knot come down”.

 

I gained a new notch on my grandma belt this month so I went baby shopping. In a Christian bookstore a diaper bag blazoned: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51). The cleverness was squashed by trivialization of context for me, a new widow.

 

Our glorification of the individual has overgrown our sense of tradition and community. We are accustomed to selecting options so we choose which part of the Bible we like and then our favorite version of it. Our embraceable scriptures tend not to be determined by factors such as awe, responsibility or obedience. We are pragmatic; we use whatever will help us feel better. Positive verses, analogous to self-help substance, are very popular.

 

If we are selfish in our approach to the scriptures, how will those who follow view the Bible? Our Christian School Bible Curriculum and Sunday School Curriculum must reckon that they are training church leaders for the next generation. We have an opportunity to ground children in the whole counsel of God. We dare not squander it.

MUSINGS OF A TEACHER: I love watching kids learn in Sunday School!

It was my turn to teach Sunday School. We started the way we start every Bible Orientation class—reciting the names of the books of the Bible until we reach the book of the day. The first recitation was hesitant, subdued. The Count from Sesame Street insisted that counting must be done with conviction: I apply the same attitude to reciting the books of the Bible. After instructing the children to repeat it together, fast and loud, the mood was energized. Genesis! Exodus! Leviticus!…Everyone was smiling. Our Bible survey curriculum for kids had caught them.

 

The previous teacher had placed a marker at the end of Ruth so we were moving into the twin books. We turned to the index of the Bible and students quickly identified 3 sets of twin books in the Old Testament and 4 sets in the New. They were surprised to discover a single set of triplet books in the New Testament. Then we found I Samuel in our Bibles.

 

One of the boys in my class functions on the autism spectrum and I debated assigning him references to find answers but decided to try. After a bit of coaching this boy who would not participate if he was required to formulate answers, found verses independently and read them enthusiastically. Both he and I were filled with joy.

 

One of the girls was assigned I Samuel 10:21 to find the name of the first king of Israel. She named “Saul” and added the comment, “I know Saul. He killed a lot of Christians.” That prompted a clarification that more than one Saul is found in the Bible just like more than one Jennifer attends our class. And so the children sorted out names in the big story of the Bible.

 

In our 25-minute class, we finished our survey of I Samuel. What a privilege to watch children find their way around the Bible through Sunday School Curriculum!

MUSINGS OF A TEACHER: Why do we do Sunday School?

Is Sunday School the weekend version of daycare? Should Sunday School Curriculum aspire to dazzle and entertain so parents will choose our church? Do Sunday School lessons teach moral lessons? Do they recount Bible stories? Does our Sunday School Curriculum introduce Jesus to our children?

 

Could we do even better? Consider the proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. What if our Sunday School Curriculum used the Bible as textbook? Could Sunday School lessons make children so comfortable with this big, intimidating book that they would read Bible stories for themselves? Should Sunday School Curriculum lead children to discover what the Bible says about Jesus? Would teachers, traditionally the source of information, have the patience to relinquish that role in favor of guiding Bible exploration?

 

Imagine a Sunday School Curriculum that prepares children to be workers who rightly handle the word of truth, the workers that have God’s approval according to II Timothy 2:15. Now that’s a lofty reason to do Sunday School!