This is article five of a ten part series. Click here to view the previous article.
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. ‘Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?’
Jesus answered, ‘What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?’
He said, ‘That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and that you love your neighbor as you do yourself.’ ‘Good answer!’ said Jesus. ‘“Do it and you’ll live.’ Looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define neighbor?’ Jesus answered by telling a story and encourages the scholar to listen for the answer to his question.
(Jesus tells The Good Samaritan story)
Jesus asked, ‘What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?’ ‘The one who treated him kindly,’ the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, ‘Go and do the same.’
Jesus began by pointing the scholar to the scriptures, The Law and asked for his interpretation.
Jesus didn’t tell the scholar anything. He involved the scholar in discovering for himself the biblical truth that could transform his life.
Then he sent him on a mission! Jesus knew that knowledge was not enough; the truth must be appropriated into life for it to be transformational.
Principle: A Word-Driven Small Community ‘begins with, returns to, and ends with God’s Word which is relevant to any challenge or discussion.’ Stetzer/Rainer
We Baptist fume and fuss about the Bible, but I’ve discovered that we will do anything to keep from studying it and when we do, we make it the most inane hour of the week. As I have traveled across NC over the past 30 years, I’ve asked this question to a multitude of churches: How long do you spend in actual Bible study every Sunday? The average answer is about 30 minutes. Sunday School classes practice the “Three Baptist’s B’s” quite well 15 minutes of shooting the Bull; 15 minutes of talking about the Ball game, and maybe 30 minutes of Bible study. We also spend an inordinate amount of time on announcement and prayer requests, plus we must wait until everyone is there before we do these, because it would be a tragedy for anyone to miss the announcement/prayer requests, but Bible study can go out the window! You can tell that I have a bit of passion around this subject. We must remember that announcements do not make disciples; that we’re praying ourselves into biblical illiteracy (and I believe in fervent prayer); and that hour on Sunday morning is sacred unto God for Bible study. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that people are getting it anywhere else. They’re not. So, what does it mean to be Word-Driven?
A Word-Driven Sunday School…
- Has the Word of God as its anchor.
- Is not an emotional support group. Members are always brought back to God’s word as the source for every need.
- Shares stories and experiences when the biblical passage and life experiences intersect
- Teaches with DEPTH …less about covering the content and more about engaging the content.
Regarding depth, Adults indicated that only 14 percent of a possible study time should be dedicated to teacher explanation or lecture as opposed to 40 percent for discussion and hands on learning. The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them, Stetzer, Hayes
I have the joy of teaching a small group of adults on Sunday mornings. I’ve discovered that they really do want a ‘word-driven’ Bible study that ‘begins, returns, and ends with God’s word’; one that doesn’t waste time but uses the full hour for Bible study. I’ve also discovered that they enjoy learning in creative ways and that transformation has no age limit; even senior adults. Paul wrote in his letters that transformation comes by the “renewing of your minds”. This renewing work of God’s Spirit is a life-long activity. All adults continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by God through the renewing of their minds and attitudes. We do not change the way we learn as we mature. Our learning style doesn’t shift so much as does our reticence to change. If we have been used to learning only by lecture, then this is the way we expect to learn when we come to Bible study. It may not meet our primary learning style, but it’s the way “ we’ve always done it.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that adults don’t enjoy learning in creative ways; even senior adults. Simply check out the programs that are offered at adult centers and YMCAs, and you’ll discover that adults are some of the most involved, creative people around. Why should Bible study be different? Church is often the only place that adults are asked to come sit, soak, and sour. This should not be!
Andragogy is the art and science of adult learning and it assumes that adults come with experiences to share and if they do not share, then little or no learning takes place. Many adults have had years of biblical study and many wonderful stories. The leader can set up an environment in which the members can feel safe and unthreatened to share what they know or some of their experiences. Remember, the statement, “Where there is no involvement, there is no learning” was written by Gaines Dobbins when he was in his eighties! As an educator of adults he recognized the benefit of involving people, at all ages.
So, teach like Jesus. Ask your class, What’s written in God’s Word? How do you interpret it? What do you think? Then sit back and let them get involved in discovering for themselves biblical truths that can transform their lives.
Phil Stone is the State Sunday School Director for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.