Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

OVERCOMING A GLARING IMBALANCE

Today’s blog may come across initially as being critical and negative. I do not mean to leave this impression. For I want my thoughts to be viewed as helping us see things more clearly, and motivate us to respond to those new insights that will help us advance and grow.

Here is my focused concern: I’m afraid that we live in a day when subjective worship experiences have become resting points on the Christian journey, when in fact, we should be moving onward to grasp the objective truths that give a strong foundation to our faith, as well as a strong foundation to our worship expressions.

Why would this be my concern? Require extended consideration in this blog? It’s because public worship expressions today have often replaced the sensed need to understand and articulate clearly what we believe. Persons will attend public worship gatherings, for example, but avoid Sunday School or educational opportunities to expand their growth in the Christian walk.

What I write next may come as an item of complete surprise to believers in our modern day. There was a time when the public worship experience was less important than participating in Sunday School. How do I know this? It’s because a couple of congregations with whom I’ve served have revealed this to me. As I looked back on their attendance participation, Sunday School was always, without exception, ahead of all worship time attedances.

It became obvious to me that congregations in earlier days were searching for a stable foundation on which to build their Christian lives. Worship may make you feel good. Enable you to leave a service lilted. Even inspired. But does worship alone enable a person to build a strong and ongoing relationship with the Lord?

Some may have a rebuttal at this point. Simply stated, was Sunday School the fad at the time? The practice that most believers were into? Following? In other words, were more going to Sunday School because that’s what everyone was doing at that time.

I am convinced the foregoing concluson is incorrect. It really is. For as I viewed past Sunday School experiences, there were many more opportunities for doctrinal and theological instruction that took place. Believers had a heart for wanting to know what they believed. Not only did they want to be able to understand their beliefs, they also wanted to be able to articulate their beliefs and live them out in their time as well. Today a class on marriage, parenting, or finances has greater interest and involvement than understanding and growing in our faith.

This reversal in our time has had critical results. Critical overtones. Because we have created a consumer oriented church. “Give me what I want,” in other words, “and I will attend and participate in your church. Insist that I must learn and grow and seek to understand my faith, will turn me off. Repel me. Make me dislike any church that wants to live in a world that I do not live in.”

I’m not advocating that we suddenly change and revert simply to being a learning church. I am advocating, however, that we strike an important balance between the subjective expression and experience of worship with the objective need to better understand and practice our faith.

This balanced step, I believe, will enable a currently imbalanced church to regain a healthy life inside and outside the body of Christ. What do you think?

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November 1, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Relationships, Service, Spirituality, Sunday School | Leave a comment

REGARDING THOSE WHO TEACH

Yesterday evening at our church I was participating in a study of the use of one’s tongue in chapter three of the Letter of James. The opening verse of this chapter immediately captured my attention and thought. I pondered it considerably. The verse reads: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

Allow me to ask a few questions. Is this verse intending to discourage persons from teaching? Should most persons steer away from instructing others altogether? Should most individuals not even aspire to this function? Are those who teach really going to be held more accountable than others?

One gets the initial feeling from reading the verse that a fear factor is being expressed here strongly by James for those who would even dare attempt the effort to teach. In short, one had better avoid it, unless he or she is able to qualify as a “perfect” (“mature”) individual (see James 3:2). And who can reach this difficult level? Furthermore, who is able and authorized to measure one’s capability to be a teacher?

I believe James is endeavoring to achieve a number of important practical ends in this instruction. Among these practical ends are the following:

  • The ministry of Christian teaching should not be entered into thoughtlessly.
  • A teacher is only able to teach after being equipped to do so through timely preparation and experience. Vance Havner said: “To teach something you don’t know is like coming back from somewhere you haven’t been.”
  • No one should teach who is not first practicing and following in life what he or she is attempting to communicate in word. A failure in this area is where a teacher will “…receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
  • Those who teach need to gain some mastery and control over the use of their tongue. This only comes with time and maturity.
  • Teaching is not a ministry for those who have a strong ambition and wish to be actors. In other words, those who are always wanting to be out in front of others. To be perpetually noticed and applauded.
  • Teaching is not for those who talk more than they listen. Until persons have first heard God well and experienced what they have learned from Him and others, they are not ready to instruct anyone else.
  • Teachers who are not ready to teach actually hinder God’s work. Why? Because they do not educate, encourage and excite those they are instructing.
  • Inadequate teaching creates a serious growth and health problem from within the life of the church. I appreciate the on target words of Henrietta C. Mears: “Your pupils are not bowls to be filled, but torches to be lighted.”

I do not believe that James is discouraging others to teach. He is rather providing counsel about its seriousness. What more nobler and worthwhile desire can there be than that of teaching the riches of God’s Word? It is a ministry that will be blessed by only the rewards of eternity!!

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Relationships, Salvation, Scripture, Service, Spiritual Gifts, Spirituality, Sunday School, The Tongue | Leave a comment

SUNDAY SCHOOL REVISITED

I am surprised that a number of congregations have eliminated Sunday School  altogether. And some who have removed Sunday School really do not have any other  educational opportunity to replace it. If educationl opportunities are provided it is generally through the inclusion of a small group ministry in congregational life. While small groups are great opportunities for fellowship, they are not always strategically structured toward the educational end.

Sunday Schools are increasingly disappearing from present day congregations, I believe, for two major reasons. The first reason is the way congregations have traditionally structured their Sunday School classes. Simply stated, they build their classes around enjoying a social group setting with a specific age. While some learning and growth take place in this kind of structure, the connection is often more social than it is spiritual.

A second reason for the demise of the Sunday School is the growing movement away from objectivity toward that of subjectivity. People want what they want. In fact, they are demanding it in congregations today. And Sunday School is not one of the experiences many moderns want. For Sunday School takes people in the direction of  learning more. It helps individuals to better understand their faith. Furthermore, it expects something of those who choose to attend and participate in the classes.

But it is impossible to grow in the Christian faith through worship services and small groups alone. While these two experiences provide uplift and fellowship, they do not provide a context for a more in-depth exposure to Scripture, and to ones growth in Christ. If timing is the issue here for having Sunday School, then move the learning experience to Sunday evening, or, to another evening during the week. But to eliminate Sunday School altogether is to turn church into nothing more than a pep rally through worship services. And stable and strong Christians are not built through spiritual pep rallies.

There must be structured educational experiences in any church for people to move forward in Christian discipleship. Allow me to return to Sunday School being built around a class with a specific age group. This is a problem in that it separates different age groups from one another. I personally enjoy being in a Sunday School class having  different ages represented. In fact, I believe this is healthy. We need the contributions of all ages in our lives.

Perhaps if we structured classes around the subject matter being taught, more than who is in the class, we might immensely strengthen a Sunday School program. Additionally, it would be a way to draw the generations more closely together. For some reason I’m getting the idea today that congregations are trying hard to segregate the generations. Youth programs, for example, are increasingly keeping youth separated from the rest of the adult members of a church.

This attempt to segregate is one reason why division is an ever growing problem in  congregations. To have a healthy congregation there must be a healthy learning environment in which all ages can increasingly learn and grow together.

I love the words of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment