A friend of mine once asked a group of pastors, “Other than leading people to Christ and preaching, what is one other thing in ministry that truly excites you?” When it came my turn to respond, my answer was easy. For me, one of the most exciting things in ministry is to see normal, average, garden-variety Christians (like me and you) being used of God to do great things for His glory. As a pastor, it thrills my heart to see God using our people to impact His kingdom, and I can think of no better avenue for doing that than the Sunday School ministry of our church. In the context of the Sunday School class, teachers and leaders can see lives transformed, marriages restored, relationships reconciled, addictions overcome, leaders sent out, attendance increase and God glorified. That sounds a whole lot like the book of Acts to me. It makes my socks want to roll up and down while my heart leaps out of my chest as an ahooga-horn sounds come out of my ears!
One of the things that disturb me about many modern church growth philosophies is the subtle message that says, “Leave the real ministry to the professionals.” Though it is never stated, it is communicated. When a pastor or church planter presents his plan for reaching people and growing the church it often focuses on the church members inviting all their friends and relatives to come hear him preach and teach. That smacks of a big ego and does not remotely match up with the idea of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” found in Ephesians 4:12.
God’s body building plan has a different kind of focus. He intends for pastor’s and staff members to build up the congregation of believers and to equip them to do ministry so all of us can enjoy the privilege of being used of God in significant ways. Sunday School ministry is a very practical outlet for God’s people to get involved in real ministry that involves more than licking envelopes and changing rolls of toilet tissue. You see, we each have a Great Commission responsibility. Reaching people and discipling people does not require a seminary degree and I think it is wrong to imply such a thing.
Before I answered God’s call into ministry, my first opportunity for service came through my Sunday School class. I was appointed the task of being the Outreach Leader for our young couples class. I received a small metal box with a stack of 4 x 6 cards for enrollees and prospects for our class. God used that experience to shape my life. I can still remember setting aside a day each week to fast and pray during my lunch break for the growth of our little class of six people. I would make phone calls each week and encourage people on their birthdays and anniversaries. We planned a few fellowship times at different homes. Little by little we saw our group grow and God add people to His kingdom as He blessed the work we did. Our attendance doubled in a year and it was about ready to triple when Terri and I began to follow God’s calling on our life and moved to Texas. Our class bought us a new set of tires— maybe it was love or maybe they were making sure we made it out of town, but either way it sure was a blessing!
That ministry to that small group of young adults prepared me for greater avenues of ministry and the things I learned then still go with me today. I was leading a conference not too long ago when a lady came up to share that she was a member of that class. Of course, I remembered her, but what I didn’t know was how God used a simple birthday card to encourage her in a time of desperation. As she told me the story, I became all the more convinced of the great value of Sunday School ministry. Ahooga! There go those socks, again.