|Volume 17 Number 4 April 2015||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Churches of Christ have been known through the years as “people of the Book.” Part of that description was surely a result of great Bible classes. However, I have been troubled about Bible classes among our fellowship for some time now. I know my observations will not be accurate of every congregation, but I do believe if one is honest, my observations will be true of many. Interestingly, in most schools that teach secular education there is a paradigm that is strictly enforced.
Firstly, there is certification. Every teacher that steps into a secular classroom is certified in his or her particular field of expertise. Usually this certification has been preceded by no less than four years, often more, of intense study in that field. Even with the intense study, each teacher is required to shadow a seasoned teacher (i.e., student teaching). Sadly, this paradigm is grossly lacking when it comes to religious education. Often the only requirement of a Bible class teacher is a pulse! The idea of certification is a biblical principle. Paul reminded Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We need to become serious about training every Bible class teacher who steps into a classroom! Simply putting in a willing (or often not so willing) volunteer will never make our students “people of the Book.”
Secondly, there is expectation. In a secular setting, teachers are expected to perform their designated tasks, and likewise, students are compelled to do their parts. Teachers are expected to cover a certain amount of material regarding any given subject. Teachers cannot spend too much time on math to the neglect of English. There is a balanced curriculum. Students also are expected to complete all of their assigned tasks. If they fail to do so, negative consequences result. Sadly, in far too many Bible classes, there is little expectation on the part of either the teacher or the student. Often times the traditional narratives (Jonah, Daniel, David, etc.) are rehearsed without ever going beyond the basics. While these narratives are important, we must not emphasize these to the neglect of other parts of the Bible. If you were to ask half of the Bible class teachers in most congregations, could they tell you who Habakkuk was and the gist of his prophecy? What about Obadiah? On and on we could go. God expects us to know His Word (2 Timothy 2:15)! Bible class teachers cannot teach that which they do not know!
Thirdly, there is evaluation. There is continual evaluation in secular schools. Daily quizzes, weekly tests and yearly state achievement tests may be required. These are all done to evaluate the education, the curriculum, teachers and students. Sadly, many of our congregations never evaluate any part of their Bible class program. Far too often when a Bible class becomes available there is a signup sheet posted in hopes that someone will volunteer. If no one signs, we employ that “guilt announcement” to try to persuade someone, anyone! When we finally find our “teacher,” someone will tell her or him to pick the curriculum and we will “get it ordered.” Sunday comes and the vicious cycle continues.
Brethren, we must do better! Are Bible classes more important than secular classes? Most would agree that they are. If religious training is more important than secular training, why do we often take our Bible classes so lightly? Surely God requires more of those who teach His Word (James 3:1). It is my diligent prayer that this article will help to wake us to our responsibility and encourage us to get serious about our Bible class program. What would God say; in most congregations, how serious is the Bible class program? How would God grade us? Where you worship, does the Bible class Pass or Fail?
God Hears and Answers
The folks in Jesus’ day knew “that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him” (John 9:31). God will hear the prayers of the righteous. James tells us that the prayers of the righteous get results (James 5:16). How does God respond to our prayers? Sometimes God will say “Yes” to our requests as He did to Elijah (James 5:17). Elijah prayed that it would not rain, and God granted his request.
There are occasions when God says “No.” Of course, if we are not doing His will, we should expect “No” for an answer to our prayers. Yet, even the righteous were sometimes told “No.” We have the example of our Lord pleading with the Father to “let this cup [of suffering and death] pass away from me…” (Matthew 26:39). It was needful for the sake of mankind that God say “No” to His Son (Hebrews 5:7).
Then, there are times when God says “Wait a while.” For example, Judah’s leaders came to the prophet Jeremiah and asked him to pray for them. Jeremiah obliged, and 10 days later the response of Jehovah came to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 42:1-7).
Occasionally, God may give us something different than what we asked. The apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh and asked God three times to take it away. God did not do as Paul asked. Rather, God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee…” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
Sometimes God may give us more than we asked. He is certainly able (Ephesians 3:20). Remember when Solomon prayed for an understanding heart? God told him, “Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself a long life, neither hast thou asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern justice; behold, I have done according to thy word: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there hath been none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, all thy days” (1 Kings 3:7-14).
Our God “is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). He is Almighty God (Genesis 17:1). In God’s hand is power and might (1 Chronicles 29:12). With Him “nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). God can and will hear and answer prayer.
With Paul, we need to trust that “my God shall supply every need…” (Philippians 4:19). Keep in mind that God knows “what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). In righteousness, convey your thanksgivings, your prayers and your supplications unto the Father above.