Why Do We Have Sunday School (Adult Ed)?
It is not uncommon to read someone who concludes, “If Christianity doesn’t change, it is going to die.” One thing often pointed to as an example of what needs to change is Sunday School for Adults (a.k.a. Adult Ed). If it has outlived its days why do we as a church still have it? Why do we put so much energy and effort into to having Adult Ed classes? In this brief article I would like to provide several answers to such a question. My answers are not intended to say all that can be said nor are they given in any particular order. The answers I give here do get to the heart of the issue as I see it.
First, Adult SS classes provide a space and time for young believers or people seeking to understand Christianity to ask questions and express their doubts and concerns. Here is a set time, place, and subject to help such people. Here we can sit with people from various backgrounds with different needs and questions and show how Christianity addresses their concerns. It affords an almost ideal solution to creating a space that is welcoming, nurturing, and fruitful, for believers at different stages of spiritual growth and those of all ages who are looking for answers to the questions of life. It presents one way the church can continue to thrive in a world that seems to be constantly changing. The main point is Adult education provides us with such a space. Teachers and students must work together to create an atmosphere where people feel free to ask their questions and state their concerns. This will take work and prayer but it reaps many dividends for the kingdom.
Second, Christianity is under attack and the Adult SS class is an ideal place to equip believers to face these threats. Here is a place to deal with the charges against Christianity and offer answers to the questions and threats. Time can be given to systematically and carefully deal with the issues. Our own doubts and fears can be dealt with as we learn from each other. No one person has all the answers. That is why we are a body of believers dependent on one another for strength and help as we face opposition to Christianity at home, work, school, and the marketplace.
Third, in Adult SS we learn there is no secret, hidden code for understanding the Bible. God did not bury secrets so deep in the Bible that only a few specially trained and equipped believers can mine them. No, God’s Word is his revelation to us. He reveals his will to us and answers the big questions of life: 1) Where did we come from? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where are we going? He tells us the truth about our situation. He tells us everything we need to know to face the difficulties of life. Together we see the big picture and support and encourage one another. Together we pray for the Spirit’s help in understanding and applying Scripture. Together we mine and labor over the great truths of Scripture.
Finally, Adult SS teaches us to shun what Mark Galli calls “pep talks for successful living.” What he is referring to is the advice that “can be found in pop psychology books, self-help conferences, and other religions...God in his grace has made such principles available far and wide. [Which helps to correct the mindset that] you don’t have to be a Christian to raise good kids or succeed in business or learn from suffering. A little philosophy here and a little psychology there, and you can construct a life that works.”
Adult SS, correctly done, shows us that Christianity is not about a life that “works” or the “successful” life. Christianity is about the faithful life. It is about glorifying God even in the hard places of life. It’s about trusting God when you have no idea what is going on in your life. Mark Galli defines the theology of glory or pep talk Christianity with these words, “If we do this and that, and endure this and that with the right attitude, all will be well.” He contrasts it with the theology of the cross, which says, “that God is most deeply met in the suffering itself, not just on the other side of it. Forgiveness of sins is not found after the cross, but in, with, and under the Cross. This is the ‘wisdom of the cross’ (1 Cor. 1-2) that is folly to the world.”
So let me ask a personal question: Will you join us in Adult Sunday School?