Sunday School is History!
Where did our church come from? Did some guy just decide one day that he’d put up a building and invite people to come in? What about our denomination? Ours is the only Presbyterian church in all of Pearl. What makes us so different from the other eighteen or more Baptist churches in Pearl? Where do we actually come from? How far back can we trace our roots in the Christian past?
The answers to questions like these are found by understanding church history. When I was a teenager I was never taught about church history. I was dependent on various sources to sort of cobble a basic understanding of things together for myself while I was in college. I always wished that the churches I was part of would have explained things to me a little better – would have given me a sense of what happened after Jesus ascended into heaven. For many of us, the first century time of the Apostles is the most that we really know about church history. We know the book of Acts, and then we know today (and probably a lot of talk about the Reformation)! However, a lot has happened in the remaining 1900 years up until today! And those things that have happened are far more impactful, interesting, and important than many of us may realize.
There’s something even more pressing that makes studying church history urgent. I have known some who have walked away from the faith for churches that are perceived (that’s an important word) to be more ancient, to have a greater pedigree than our own; churches such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.
I went to college with a young man who grew up in a nondenominational church that never talked about church history and had no interest in even discussing where their church came from. They were very focused on the moment. For them, Christianity was a 21st century religion (which it certainly is), but not a first century religion (which it also is). When he reached college he began to feel like the protestant religion was shallow, vapid, entertainment oriented, and that it lacked deep roots. He is now in the Roman Catholic church. I am absolutely persuaded that he was wrong, but I was persuaded of this because even then I was a student of church history. I knew that the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have a monopoly on church history. But I only knew this because I’d grown to love the facts about where we came from.
This is my desire for all of us as a church. My desire is for each and every person in our church to feel ownership of all of church history. When we read the old creeds during worship, I want each of us to know and believe that these are our creeds. We aren’t borrowing them from some other church. When we hear some quotation from St. Augustine we need to understand he isn’t part of some other church that we’re just borrowing from when we see fit. When we use words like “Trinity” I want us to have a rough idea of where that word comes from and why we use it when it’s nowhere to be found in Scripture. And when the world screams that the past doesn’t matter, I want us all to be firmly persuaded that it’s wrong, and that we know why it’s wrong.
All of this leads to a temporary shakeup in how we are doing Sunday School for the adults and teens. Beginning May 6th we are to go from having two adult Sunday School classes to one Sunday School class. We will meet in the fellowship hall so that there’s room for everyone. We will also be inviting the teens to join us since this is something that they need to know about too!
Class is to begin promptly at 9:50 am each morning, as time will be a factor for us. One other change that some may miss is that we will not do prayer requests beforehand. There are two reasons for that. One is that we already have church prayer time at 9:15am in the parlor, where we pray for needs in the congregation. The other is that we do prayer requests every week on Wednesday nights.
This new Sunday School class is to be taught by me as we, as a church, walk through church history together. The series is called Church History by the Century, and the idea is for us, each week, to focus on 100 years of church history at a time. The first week we’ll cover the first century. The second week we’ll cover the second century, and so on. There may be some centuries where we cheat and spend two weeks, but generally this is the format we’re planning to follow. All of this means that the combined large Sunday School class will go through the summer and well into the Fall as well. Once this series ends, we plan to return to the more familiar format that was our practice before.
I have six hopes for us as we begin this series:
1) I pray that God would use this series to give us joy in God’s dealing with the long line of redeemed sinners that we’re a part of.
2) I pray that God would use interest in this new series to bring new people to Sunday School who haven’t normally participated.
3) I pray that God would use this series to fortify our conviction that it is a blessing and a privilege to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
4) I pray that God would use this series to introduce many of us to new, inspiring heroes of the faith who we may not have known about before.
5) I pray that God would use this series to give each of us a sense of place in the big picture of the Christian faith.
6) I pray that God would use this series to convince us of the truths of what we’ve been taught, and that by learning about church history we would all be stronger in the faith.
The new Sunday School series begins on May 6th at 9:50am.