YOU ARE CALLED TO A HIGH CALLING
BY HAROLD J. WESTING
Congratulations, Sunday School Superintendent! You have a great mission and have been called of God to a high calling. The Sunday School is still our greatest means of evangelization, according to W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. I agree with him.
Numerous parachurch ministries have arisen in recent years to help in the gigantic task of evangelizing. Yet, in spite of all the efforts being put forth in many different areas, the Sunday School movement still has the greatest opportunity of reaching people for Christ because there are more Sunday Schools, more people involved, and more personal relationships being extended through the Sunday School than in any other program.
I am not upset by the crepe hangers who feel that the death of Sunday School–even the death of the church–is just around the corner. There are many positive signs that Sunday School can still have great impact on the building of the church of Jesus Christ. Numerous factors seen in the world about us indicate that we can make this decade one of the most significant in the development of the Sunday School.
Prepared Setting for the Mission
1. We live in a fear ridden society.
Numerous evidences illustrate the fact that people are listening to the evangelical message more today than ever before. We have a positive message, which can minister to fear-ridden people. Those who have preached and taught a liberal and socialistic gospel have not produced a change in the lives of people. When the gospel is attractively presented and the message is excitingly taught, people do come to hear its message and they respond to its invitation.
2. We have the means to accomplish the task.
The 200-year history of the Sunday School has given us experience and the framework for the research, which has taught us as never before how to most effectively operate a school. All you need to do is step into a Christian Education section of any Christian bookstore and you will be convinced that we have the means to do the task. We have the media, the materials, the curriculum, the buses, the buildings and the burgeoning programs to help us. There are teachers’ classroom kits, guides, records, tapes, individual instructions and teacher training aids. And although the Sunday School conventions have gone through dramatic change in the last few decades, they still are providing excellent means, along with all other training programs, to equip us to do the job well
3. People are educationally minded
Another sign that Sunday School can have a great impact today is that people are educationally minded. Adults are signing up in great numbers for evening adult education classes. There is a higher percentage of graduates from colleges today than there was from high schools 40 years ago. With such a tremendous need to learn how to live in these trying times, Sunday School, God’s great university, can meet a need in lives more than ever before.
4. Christians are responding to service.
It is a great encouragement to see how Christians are responding to opportunities to serve God. Young people turn out in large numbers in certain churches to prepare for Christian service. Senior citizens often retire from secular employment early to go to places of service around the world. Thousands of people are leading home Bible studies. So it is not that we cannot find enough workers to operate our schools and teach our classes as some doomsayers claim. If the challenge is presented properly, if adequate training is provided, and if we run quality Sunday Schools, people will respond.
5. The church needs the Sunday School
Great Sunday Schools can still be built, and successful Sunday Schools play a significant part in developing strong, spiritually dynamic churches. Anyone who feels that this is not a good day to build a Sunday School has simply not done an adequate study of the hundreds of growing Sunday Schools in North America.
The Apostle Paul said that he pressed “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). It is assumed that as your first requirement for holding this office in the church you are a child of God. As a Christian, you have a high calling to serve Jesus Christ. It is not out of keeping with Biblical truth, I believe, for you to consider this opportunity to serve your term of office as Sunday School superintendent as a divine appointment of God.
God does not expect you to work without reward. Do you know that He gives rewards to His children for their faithful service? What a motivation for us to be faithful as we work for Him!
God wants to make yours a growing and effective Sunday School. As the superintendent, you are the key to see that it happens. Your life and influence will make a difference.
Have you noticed what happens when a new coach takes over an athletic organization? Whether it is a Junior High School football team or an NBA basketball team, the impact a coach has is obvious. In a similar way, the impact you as the superintendent–manager–of your Sunday School can have will be obvious. You play a significant part in the growth or demise of that Sunday School. So I want to congratulate you on your very high calling. Yours is a prestigious and serious responsibility. You are in the driver’s seat. You can make a critical difference in the short and long range effectiveness of your school.
1. Your personal growth will make a difference.
Because of your efforts your school will become a discipling institution, where the teaching of God’s Word affects lives. If you yourself are a model in involving the Word of God in people’s lives, very likely your staff will become personally involved in their students’ lives. Your own personal growth cannot help but make a profound impact upon the lives of those who work with you on your Sunday School team.
2. Your example will be important.
Your example will lead your team of workers to the position where they feel they can have confidence in the Word of God and where they daily want to apply its truths to their own lives. If you are doing as Matthew 7:7 suggests, that “asking, seeking and knocking for righteousness” is a daily part of your life, then no doubt your whole Sunday School can be influenced by that same sense of excitement.
It is important for you to know that good teaching is more than understanding the technical aspects of pedagogy. You will come to realize that in teaching lessons from the Bible an important goal is Christlikeness. Luke 6:40 suggests that when a student is fully taught, he will be like his teacher. A good superintendent will lead his entire school in that Biblical concept of teaching.
3. Your influence will be felt.
You will lead in making your school an evangelistic and life-building center rather than just a maintenance Sunday School. Through your influence the entire Sunday School staff can be influenced by your model of being personally involved in soulwinning. You will see that there is room for a ministry to people who are already in your school. But more than that, you will have a deep concern for people who are on the fringes, people who attend periodically, but who have not become an integral part of the body of Christ, people who need to be won to the Saviour.
4. Your service will be challenging.
In your leadership you will see that the saints of the body of Christ are genuinely involved in Christian service rather than just polishing church pews on a Sunday morning. This will happen when you realize that all education which is Christian eventually leads to service and to evangelism. Education without evangelism and evangelism without education is a contradiction in terms. Learning how to be godly will motivate people to reach out and serve and evangelize a world, which is in need of the message of the gospel of Christ. Your kind of leadership will move Christians out of their pews into the front lines of Christian service.
If you are to make a significant difference at this point, your own life will demonstrate a continual concern for those who work with you on the team, plus you will demonstrate an ability to train those in genuine discipleship so that they too can reproduce other responsible reproducing saints.
5. Your administrative guidance will be imperative.
As a leader you will plan to build the church of Jesus Christ both quantitatively and qualitatively rather than allowing it to deteriorate and thus fulfill the law of degeneration. The law of reversion of types suggests that anything left to itself will eventually turn into a lesser form. That is true not only of items in our physical world but that same law is applicable to the spiritual world. If a church does not have adequate leadership, the law of reversion of types will go into effect and that school or church will tend to deteriorate.
If you turn the pages of church history, you will find the evidence of that law often working upon the church, and in nearly every situation you will find it so because there was inadequate spiritual leadership. You can make the difference in your church by providing the sound administrative guidance to keep the Sunday School on track.
You will have to lead out in proper goal-setting practices; and then follow through to make the goal-reaching happen. You may need to be willing in some instances to change yourself in order to have the capacity to lead others in the changes necessary to keep the church from the degeneration syndrome.
6. Your values will be exemplary.
You will find ways to help your members build into their lives godly values rather than allowing them to reflect the values of the world, which is constantly pressing upon them. The first task in Christian education is to see that each student comes to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The second most important task is to see that all of the students have a value system, which is consistent with those set forth in Scripture. Values are best transmitted from one person to another, not necessarily by the words which are expressed in a classroom, but through the personal contact the teacher has with his students.
When you consider that the average student spends one hour in Christian education a week and spends approximately 35 hours in secular education plus as many as 35 hours a week before the television, you will see how critically important it is that we amplify that one hour of classroom instruction with an ongoing personal encounter with the students. If you are going to make a significant difference there, your own life will have to reflect values consistent with God’s value system.
7. Your family life will be above reproach
Your leadership will avoid fragmenting family life of people in your church. You will be concerned about the scheduling of all of your events and the continuous emphasis you will our events and the continuous emphasis you will make in your teaching and your program about the place of the family in God’s program. If you are to make a difference in this, you yourself will need to be a strong family person who is able to guide your own family to spiritual maturity.
8. Your acceptance of people will bring results.
Your leadership will help to keep the house of God a place where people sense loving acceptance without being made to feel they are being used. Even a child is discerning enough to sense if he is being used as an object–an object to help you win a Sunday School contest or an object to fill a pew so there is someone to teach.
Make your school a place where people are welcomed and accepted for their own sakes and are all treated alike regardless of their station in life. As a successful leader you will want to make certain that each individual is given focused attention. You will lead your staff to be not only concerned with the masses, but more concerned about people’s personal well-being. Eventually this personal concern will have a real impact on your school and more people will come because they have found it a place where the individual is given high priority.
9. Your function as a team leader will be critical.
You will guide your staff to work as a team rather than as individuals doing their own things. The Scripture communicates over and over again that people learn from one another in the Body. Corporate learning must, therefore,
become a mode of your operation. You will make a significant difference in the long-range impact of your school as you demonstrate the capacity to mobilize your team toward the eternal project of building people into growing, mature saints.
10. Your balanced life will be basic.
You will be careful to direct the kind of energies used in the building of your school. It will make a difference whether that school is built by human energy or by a continual dependence upon prayer and the power of God. Psalm 127:1 says that “Except the Lord build the house, they labour vain that build it.” This passage suggests that it is very possible to build the church of God with our human energy, but this is not God’s way. You will make a great difference in the emphasis which you give on prayer and how you show your dependence upon the Lord.
You will keep a balance between your working to the point of exhaustion with your human energy and showing a great dependence upon the power of God. Paul demonstrated this truth of good balance as he reflected on the building of the church at Colosse in Colossians 1:27-28 He was striving to the point of exhaustion as he depended upon the Spirit. He did not simply depend upon the Spirit without working himself, nor did he pray without extending himself to the point of exhaustion to see that the task was accomplished. You will make a significant difference as the leader if you are able to demonstrate that balance between human effort and divine dependence.
The Challenge of the Task
No doubt you are saying at this point, “There certainly is a lot expected of me. I really make a difference!”
That’s right, you do! People have high expectations for you and they should, because your leadership will really make a difference in the overall effectiveness and influence your entire school has upon all of those who walk through its doors.
Maybe you can’t accomplish all of those factors, and some of them will take more time than others, but it is important that you come to see that your efforts toward accomplishing them will make a difference. Keep in mind the admonition of Paul when he suggests to us, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown of laurel that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man shadowboxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:25). If you are going to be striving for the mastery, it will take a high level of discipline. But be assured that you do not have to accomplish this mission by yourself. Remember that Christ promised the church that if we would go and accomplish the mission of making disciples, He would be with us even unto the end of the age. His presence really makes a difference.
Yes, you have a big mission! And doubtless you feel inadequate. But that will cause you to depend upon God all the more. The job certainly is bigger than you are. But don’t worry. That’s good. Joyfully tackle the job bigger than yourself your time. Discipline your life. Stretch your faith. Be willing to change and God will use you as a magnificent leader in one of the greatest fields of opportunity He has given.
The following chapters will help you accomplish your great mission of managing your Sunday School.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY ACCENT-B/P PUBLICATIONS, INC., 1980, PAGES 11-19. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.