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Three Sunday School/Discipleship Misnomers and What to Do About Them 

Posted: 5/28/19 at 7:50am. Post by Tony Brooks.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:46-49 NIV)  

Today I want to challenge pastors, paid staff members (responsible for Sunday School and discipleship) and Sunday School directors about some misnomers around Sunday School and discipleship:

Sunday School doesn’t work. I know some pastors that think Sunday School is dead. Pastors often think this way, because they misunderstand the purpose of Sunday School. Sunday School has become an event on Sunday mornings with agegraded classes that are shrinking.   

Sunday School was meant to be an open, small group Bible study that reaches people for Christ and begins the discipling process. It was the outreach/evangelism arm of the church. It was one way to care for all church members as well. It can happen any place at any time as long as it is an open, small group Bible study. Some of the most effective groups are happening at other times and other places rather than inside the church.  

Sunday School doesn’t work because we are not working at it. We think about it as a Sunday morning activity and do not work to reach new people on Sunday mornings and at other times. For Sunday School to be effective, we need a team who works on it strategically throughout the week. It requires persons to find new prospects, discover their spiritual needs, find out the right time to offer a class, and select the right curriculum to meet their needs. It requires work! The pastor or paid staff needs a Sunday School director, outreach director, and a leader in every age group to form a Sunday School council that plans for new classes and strengthens existing classes.  

The scorecard has been skewed towards reading your Bible daily, attending Sunday School and worship, and giving money. (Are you still using the envelope system?) We need a better scorecard on how the classes have helped you live out your faith during the week, how it has helped you be a Christlike follower in your family, in your workplace, and at your church. A new scorecard is needed that reflects what you do during the week to serve others, reach others, and disciple others.  

Discipleship is a program. For over 30 years, I have heard from the pulpit and other places: Take this course and you will be a better disciple. I have taken courses like Master Life in the 80s, Experiencing God in the 90s, and many others. They have been beneficial for my own spiritual growth. Some equate it as the “once all be all” silver bullet to be a disciple. But discipleship is a lifelong process.  

Discipleship has been focused on Scripture memory and knowing God’s Word as its primary goal. The courses that I mentioned above and others are focused on knowing God’s Word and helping the person grow spiritually. That is very important! If I, however, am not producing more disciples, I have failed. How are you preparing people in Sunday School, small groups, and discipleship to multiply? To put Jesus’ words into practice requires us to be faithful disciples who disciple as well. Perhaps we need a reminder of his final commandment:  

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)  

If we are following Jesus’ last command, then we are discipling others and becoming mature followers of Christ!  

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7