Either this past Sunday or this coming Sunday, churches throughout the Western world will start their Sunday School classes. Many churches in the summer switch their worship hours and usually there are no Sunday School classes. As the students return to their regular school classes, there is a hope and excitement that they will return to Sunday School classes as well.
I have been teaching the Bible in Bible study groups and Sunday School classes since I was 16. There are very few books of the Bible that I have not covered in one of these teaching opportunities. Thus, I am always filled with excitement to start teaching again.
As I was preparing for my next Sunday School class which for this fall is a combination of the high-school students and adults, two prophetic visions came to my mind. One is from Hosea (4:6), who says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge and then proceeds to show how the leaders of the nation of Israel were no longer interested in teaching the word of God. As a result, the people dwelt in ignorance without knowing the great deeds of God.
The other prophetic vision is from the prophet Isaiah (11:9) who sees that the land is full of the knowledge of the Lord and no one has to teach his neighbor about the Lord. The people will make the knowledge of the Lord a supreme delight in their lives.
Which time do we live in?
During the Council of Nicea it was said that the theological discussions were done in the market place by the baker and the candle maker so that each was able to argue the distinction between Jesus having identical substance as God the Father and Jesus having similar substance as His heavenly Father. John T. McNeill, in the introduction to the History and Characters of Calvinism, stresses how by emphasizing knowledge of the Bible destinies of nations were changed. J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God, talks that at one time it was almost the hobby of every Englishman to study theology - which means the study of God.
There are two sentiments that I find in the classroom as I listen to the students - can you entertain me and do I have to memorize anything. Because of the first expectation, I hear of theologians who are trying their hardest to be funny, preachers who are known more for their humor that the substance of their preaching and Sunday School teachers who are trying their hardest to be entertaining. As one who had a chem-bio concentration in high school, I was trying to remember if any of my biology, chemistry, or anatomy and physiology professors were funny! I almost wanted to ask my doctor a couple of weeks ago if his medical professors were funny! Was his surgery class professional or entertaining? Was his acquisition of pharmaceutical knowledge easy or did he need to study hard?
Yet in spite of these two movements, I find that one of the great joys that I have as a pastor or a teacher is to find people in the church, young and old, who regularly read the Bible and the knowledge of God has shaped the way they think, speak, and behave.
I pray that you will be in Sunday School this Sunday and that your personal Bible looks much worn out because you have read the Word of God from cover to cover many times and there are portions that you have committed to memory.