Taking Discipleship Seriously in Sunday School

Saturday 17th November, 2007

For far too long many in the body of Christ have taken the command to "make disciples" too lightly. The Great Commission has good instructions for what is to happen: "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV). How can Sunday School help the church to "make disciples?"

What would happen if Sunday School began to produce disciples? What would happen if Sunday School led members to seek God's power and leadership in prayer? What would happen if they sought his will and ways through listening to His still small voice when they opened His Word in personal and corporate Bible study? What would result from Sunday School leading members to apply God's truth (obey Jesus' commands)? Well, Sunday School can do so much more than it is!

What adjustments to thinking and practice do Sunday School leaders need to make? Dallas Willard has written a great book that I would encourage you to read: The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus' Essential Teachings on Discipleship. He has also written a thought-provoking article entitled Why Both with Discipleship? In the article, Willard makes four points that Sunday School should reinforce. Willard's points are in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN WHAT JESUS HIMSELF OR HIS EARLY FOLLOWERS TAUGHT THAT SUGGESTS YOU CAN DECIDE JUST TO ENJOY FORGIVENESS AT JESUS' EXPENSE AND HAVE NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH HIM. Pastors and teachers need to reinforce the message that Christians cannot rest upon the laurel of a conversion experience. Our Lord expects more. We are to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12). James reminds us that discipleship requires faithful action. Sunday School should be teaching "to obey" what Jesus commanded. Members must be led to understand and respond to Jesus' words, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, NIV).
  • IF WE DO NOT BECOME HIS APPRENTICES IN KINGDOM LIVING WE REMAIN LOCKED IN DEFEAT SO FAR AS OUR MORAL INTENTIONS ARE CONCERNED. What a great picture! What if pastors and teachers began to focus on leading members to become Jesus' apprentices? What if they realized they were being trained to be Jesus in the world? What if Sunday School became a place of training and mobilization for carrying out Kingdom work in the world? This change begins in mindset which is communicated by leaders to attenders. This is frequently learned one-on-one. What if every attender was paired with another for accountability to apply God's truth?
  • ONLY AVID DISCIPLESHIP TO CHRIST THROUGH THE SPIRIT BRINGS THE INWARD TRANSFORMATION OF THOUGHT, FEELING AND CHARACTER THAT "CLEANS THE INSIDE OF THE CUP" (MATT. 23:25) AND "MAKES THE TREE GOOD" (MATT. 12:33). Sunday School is a great place to learn what "avid discipleship" looks like. It is a great place to transform from the carnal Christian ("does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God," 2 Corinthians 2:14, NIV) to the spiritual one! I like what Willard said: "This requires a long and careful learning from Jesus to remove the duplicity that has become second nature to us." Sunday School can help members to see and deal with sin while learning to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
  • FOR THE ONE WHO MAKES SURE TO WALK AS CL OSE TO JESUS AS POSSIBLE THERE COMES THE RELIABLE EXERCISE OF A POWE R THAT IS BEYOND THEM IN DEALING WITH THE PROBLEMS AND EVILS THAT AFFLICT EARTHLY EXISTENCE. Pastors and Sunday School teachers and leaders must point out the power that is available through the Spirit. Members must learn that loss of power and influence comes when they sin. Sunday School has an opportunity to mobilize members into life-impacting, Kingdom actions. What if every member found (1) a way to serve and (2) a lost person to love to Jesus?

Make sure you read the article by Willard. What steps can you take to turn your converts into disciples? What is the next step your class needs to take to become His apprentices? What sin do your members need to address? What fruit of the Spirit needs to be practiced? What step do you need to take to become His disciple? Take steps forward here. Be revolutionary!

Comments [0]