Discipling Through Sunday School Jesus’ Way, Part 1

Friday 30th July, 2010

I came across a verse in my quiet time today that spoke to me. Having read the Bible through many times, I have read it previously but missed today's message. Here is the verse from Mark 6:30 (NIV):

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.

Setting the verse into context, Jesus has sent out the Twelve "two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits" (Mark 6:7, NIV). He instructed them and sent them out. Here is what I saw that I had missed before. Jesus had a four step ISAR process for discipleship:

  1. INSTRUCTING: Jesus instructed them.
  2. SENDING: He sent them out to practice what was taught.
  3. APPLYING: They applied what was taught.
  4. REPORTING: They "gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught."

Wow, those are simple but effective steps for transformational discipleship through Sunday School. In this four-part series, I will set these steps in the context of the youth or adult Sunday School class. In Part 1, I want to examine the first step: instructing.

INSTRUCTING. Revolutionary Sunday School is more than teaching. It is more than a cognitive dump. I like the word instructing so much more. It is the judge "instructing" the jury so they know how to deliberate. It is a math teacher "instructing" so the pupils know how to multiply fractions. In the case of Sunday School, instructing is helping disciples know something for a purpose. It is preparing "God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:12, NIV). It is teaching Sunday School members to obey everything Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:20a, NIV).

Instructing is teaching more than information. It is teaching for obedience. It is teaching for life-change. It is preparation for sending and applying. Here is an important step which is often missed in Sunday School teaching. We need to let our members know that we are instructing them to be sent out to apply the truth. Otherwise, they quickly forget the purpose of the instructing. It is not knowledge for knowledge's sake. We don't only want Christians who know more about the Bible. We want Christians who know more about how to be Jesus' disciples.

What does all this mean? It means we will have to adjust our teaching in order to help our pupils take steps toward committing to obey. We lead them to understand the context so they can understand the message to the original hearers. Then we lead them to understand the importance and relevance of that truth to today and to them personally. Then we lead them to agree to take action. Individuals in the class encourage each other to keep their commitments to be obedient to the message, to carry out the truth. In other words, we make sure we save time during the session for class members to determine a personal response to meeting God in His Word. We save time for them to think through a plan for obedience. We save time for them to practice in class where applicable.

Sometimes we try to communicate too much. It is better to lead attenders to respond to God in obedience to one verse than to expose them to twelve verses to which there is no response. When your goal is transformation rather than information, it changes how you plan and teach. And it requires the teacher to encounter God and be transformed in advance of the session.

In Part 2, we will look at the second step of discipling like Jesus: sending. In the meantime, evaluate the Sunday School session of your class. How can you make adjustments toward transformation? How can you move toward discipling more like Jesus through Sunday School. Instruct rather than inform. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teaching, check out these blog posts:

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