Churches Teach the Truth
Churches Teach the Truth
All through the ages, great minds have searched for truth. They came short of finding it, however, if they did not look for it in the right place. Jesus said in prayer to God the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
The Bible is a marvelous book, a volume of 66 books written over about 1,600 years. The Good News Bible totals 1,395 pages of small print, which means many hours of reading.
Now churches have a task on their hands: teaching tremendous truths from a tremendous book. More has been written about the Bible than about any other book. There seems to be no end. The truths of the Bible are inexhaustible, they cannot be used up or worn out.
As you get into a lifelong study of the Bible, you will discover gold, silver, and precious stones in the mines of Scripture. It contains treasure worth digging for!
Teaching: A Ministry Gift
In Lesson 2 you were introduced to nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. In addition to gifts of the Holy Spirit, God has given ministry gifts for the building up of His church. “In the church, God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and the third-place teachers” (1 Corinthians 12:28).
It was he who “gave gifts to mankind”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 11-12).
In 1 Corinthians 12, a teaching ministry is rated as being very important. Where Paul numbers the ministry gifts, the work of a teacher comes third. Some Bible scholars place the combined gifts of pastor and teacher on the same level.
Mary and Timothy enjoy the Bible class for young adults. Their teacher, Andrew Jay, gives well-prepared lessons and encourages everyone to take part in their lively discussions.
Timothy asks him, “What is the difference between the ministry of a pastor and that of a teacher?”
“What do you think?” asks Mr. Jay.
Timothy ponders, then replies, “It seems to me that there is a close relationship. Both a pastor and a teacher should study the Bible and pray in preparation for what they present. Maybe the main difference is in the manner in which it is given.”
“Yes,” says Mr. Jay. “Perhaps we could put it this way. All pastors must also be teachers. They must study hard and be able to teach, instruct others, and inspire them with their sermons. All teachers, however, are not pastors. As you see, I’m a teacher, but not a pastor. I do not preach publicly or pastor a church. Both pastors and teachers have their distinct functions or ministries in the church.”
You learned in Lesson 3 that preaching is proclaiming a message to persuade listeners to respond in repentance and dedication. Teaching is explaining the truth to inform people, and to help them grow spiritually.
Christ has placed teachers in the church. A person with a gift of teaching needs to develop that gift. A good teacher, like an accomplished violinist, isn’t born as such. Teachers must receive training; they must study if they are to know their subjects well. They shoulder the great responsibility of teaching God’s Word to people who, in turn, teach and train others. This is why the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy as he did.
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses; and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
Earlier he had written, “God has appointed me as an apostle and teacher to proclaim the Good News” (2 Timothy 1:11). Here he placed his offices of apostle and teacher together. Paul the apostle became a teacher of teachers.
Mary and Timothy represent millions of believers who participate in church schools. Those meetings on Sunday are usually called Sunday Schools.
The first Sunday School was held in England in 1780. A kind man, Robert Raikes, noticed the wild behavior of children on Sundays when they were free from their work in the factories. He invited many of them to a school where he had arranged for some women to teach them reading and church doctrine. Once he encouraged poor, hungry children to come by offering cooked potatoes!
His work with the children was so successful that the district in which he worked was described as “quite a heaven upon Sundays!” The idea of Sunday School spread rapidly to other parts of the world. These schools play an important role in fulfilling Christ’s command to go everywhere and make disciples, teaching people to obey Him.
Though Sunday School began with children, of all ages needing this training. Some churches have activities and classes for every age and type of student. Their slogan is “Sunday School for all up to the age of 100.” And sometimes someone over 100 attends!
Many churches now prefer to use the overall term church school because classes may be held at times other than on Sundays, for example, on Saturday or weekday evenings.
Church school facilities may be elaborate with a complete building primarily for this purpose. Each class has its meeting place with adequate teaching aids and materials. Other church schools have little or no equipment. Students may be seated on the ground in the shade of trees or another shelter. Perhaps no literature is available. But some teachers can do amazingly well with so little! Whatever the facilities may be, teachers must have a message and be trained to teach it.
Vacation Bible School (VBS), a branch of the church school ministry, is usually conducted for a week or two when children are free from their regular schooling. VBS may be held in the home community, in another building, or at a camp.
Some churches have developed Christian schools offering primary and even secondary education. Others have classes for adults who want to learn to read. These classes use the Bible as one of their textbooks.
Whatever avenue they choose, the main function of church schools is to provide Christian education for all. Public preaching of God’s Word is not enough. Our children and young people especially need Bible teaching. A strong church school will help make a strong local church.
Bible Study Classes
Closely linked with church schools are Bible study classes. These classes, devoted to the serious study of the Scriptures, are usually attended by adults. They do not have the range of age levels as do the church schools although the studies may be divided into groups for men, women, and youth. Often larger churches divide their studies so that people may take classes that fit a particular need or interest.
Many churches conduct a midweek service that includes both a time for prayer and a period of Bible study. Pastors or lay leaders teach these classes.
Sessions may deal with a theme of the Bible, such as salvation; or the class may choose to study the life of a person, like Moses or David. The studies can also center upon a section or passage of Scripture such as the Beatitudes or the book of James.
Interesting Bible studies taught under the anointing of the Holy Spirit can be a blessing to everyone. Paul writes, “Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). After the Day of Pentecost, the apostles taught believers doctrines of the faith (Acts 2:42), and through the years that followed, teaching was emphasized (Acts 19:9-10; 20:20).
A church deeply rooted in God’s Word is a strong church. It will not be easily swayed by strange doctrines that come along. As we become spiritually mature, we are no longer “blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men” (Ephesians 4:13-14).
Bible studies conducted in believers’ homes have proven to be very profitable. Classes are held during the week at a time and place suitable for a group of perhaps ten to twenty people. This form of study and sharing has the advantage of bringing the teaching of God’s Word closer to the lives of
those attending. In a home atmosphere, people feel freer about sharing truths and experiences.
In this system of home studies, the teachers themselves often attend classes beforehand. Besides receiving this added help, the teacher must spend much time in prayer and preparation before giving the lesson to others.
Correspondence courses such as those offered by ICI are being used effectively by many groups. Sharing a series of lessons makes it more interesting for all. Certificates can be given to those who complete a course.
Bible studies can also be conducted at camps or retreats. As people come away from home and work they find more time for meditating on God’s Word. Good, sound Bible study classes yield fruit. And when combined with times of prayer and waiting upon God they bear more fruit!
Lay Leaders Training Classes
It’s a pleasant spring evening and Mary and Timothy are walking home from church.
“What about this lay leaders class to begin tomorrow night, Timothy? What are lay leaders? Are you going?” asks Mary.
“No,” Timothy replies. “As to your other question: lay leaders are people who have secular work, but also work in the church. They hold offices like elders, deacons, group leaders, and Sunday School teachers. Allen is one.”
“Allen is one what?” asks Allen as he catches up to walk with them.
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” laughs Timothy, teasing him. “But seriously, Allen, we were talking about your being a lay leader and about the training classes beginning tomorrow. You’re going, right?”
“Yes, indeed!” replies Allen. “I need all the training I can get! Being a leader in the Lord’s work is a big responsibility. You may sit in on the classes if you wish, Timothy. We need every leader that can be trained for the future. Our pastor and his assistants can’t take care of everything, especially as the church grows. We must free them so they can devote more time to spiritual ministry. All God’s people must be prepared for Christian service.”
First Timothy 3:1-7 lists high qualifications for all church leaders. They must be mature in the faith, be trustworthy, and lead respectable personal lives. Lay leader’s training classes include Bible studies as well as practical help for dealing with people’s needs and church matters. It is important for all those God has called into lay ministries to be trained for these responsibilities.