"…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up the body of Christ."
Fall is quickly approaching, and with it comes the beginning of the new school year. This means for teachers and home-schooling parents that they are dusting off the curriculum plans for the upcoming year and reviewing the goals for each age group. We also have seasons in the educational life of the church. As pastor/teacher of the church, it is a part of the biblical job description to seek to equip the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.
Since All Nations was established, there was a very intentional schedule instituted on Sunday mornings which emphasized both the morning corporate service and the Sunday school time. The service is structured in such a way to remind us of the gospel every Sunday. We hear, sing, and pray words of adoration, confession, and praise directed toward our God. We also regularly proceed systematically through the biblical text in the weekly sermons. These are sermons of equipping in a way. They are a time when we hear God’s ambassador speak God’s word directly to us (2 Cor. 5:20).. Preaching is the proclamation of God’s word to God’s people. Our Sunday school time isn’t the same thing as the evangelistic Sunday schools of years past. Instead, it is an intentional equipping time of God’s people. We have times of teaching for different ages. For the children the classes are intended to come alongside the parent and provide a general overview of the story of the Bible. The two youth classes are intentional times of catechism. They are intended to provide an adult-level Biblical and spiritual foundation to enable the youth to participate in the adult Sunday school (and every other congregational event). So they have an intentional biblical survey of the Old and New Testament in the first two years. In the second two years, the focus is more on drawing out the truths of scripture and considering how to apply them to their lives. The goal is for the youth to join the adult class as soon as they are able. The adult class is topical. Each year has a specific focus. One year may be about interpreting the Bible, the next year may be about Church history (or one aspect of Church history) and another year could be about Theology. These are topical foci which equip us to understand essentials of the Christian faith. In the summer we also spent time practicing asking questions of the sermon text and thinking about how we can apply it to our lives. This also is intentional and focused on equipping the church to take the preached word and respond properly.
The Sunday service and the Sunday school hour should not be thought of as entirely separate things, but as one and the same thing: the regular gathering of the body of Christ to worship our redeemer and to be equipped to do the work of ministry. The final regular time we have together is our mid-week study. This is a smaller group setting where we gather together around the word and prayer and try to connect more personally with one another. We ask how we can pray for each other, we pray for specific things not only related to ourselves, and this is all done in the context of someone’s hospitality at their home.
Is this the only way that the pastor of a church can structure the habits of the week? No, it isn’t, but many other ways have actually been tried, and often lack important things like specific topical teaching or focused time for developing real relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Other ways can end up being exhausting and don’t make room for reaching out to those who are lost around us. The 6 waking hours (of perhaps 115 hours) that our church has intentionally set aside each week are a blessing and encouragement to the church and Lord-willing serve to equip the saints for the work of service and the building up of the body of Christ.