'Point of Reference' with Fred Price
Originally posted on 06/14/2019
This article is not meant so much to scold as to encourage; which is indeed part of the function of church. (1 Thessalonians 4:18) We have been commissioned by Christ to make disciples, baptizing them into the community of believers – his church – and teaching them to obey his commands. (Matthew 28:19,20) The first Christian sermon delivered by Peter to an inquisitive assembly on the day of Pentecost outlining the immediate necessities of faith, repentance, baptism and Holy Spirit indwelling. (Acts 2:38) The fundamentals of worship recorded in Acts 2:42; “They (believers – the church) devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” This pattern of fellowship, gospel preaching and teaching, communion and prayerful worship being followed today in our own services.
The earliest worship experience was of daily meetings at the temple courts in Jerusalem and in believers’ homes; praising God, sharing food and provision – gaining favor with God and men. (Acts 2:43-47) As time passed, a more uniform practice and time for worship was set aside. Luke writing, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke…” Acts 20:7 (“On the first day of every week…” 1 Corinthians 16:2) This was done to commemorate the day Christ rose from the dead, becoming resurrection Sunday (or the Lord’s Day), and to separate itself from the Sabbath day worship of Judaism. (Matthew 28:1) As needs arose, the principle of giving monetary goods for the benefit of others and the support of ministry was instituted in an offering while the singing of, “…psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…,” was included as well. (Colossians 3:16)
The early church considered the doctrines of Christ as “commands” to be obeyed and encouraged the “…public reading of scripture…”, accompanied by teaching on its practical application. (1 Timothy 4:11 & 13) For quite literally, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But, “How…can they call on one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:13,14 The questions and answers posed by scripture meant to spur us on to actively practice our faith in loving good deeds as a result of the encouragement found in shared worship and study. (Hebrews 10:24) The purpose of church being many-faceted; part of which is the offering of “sacrifices” of praise, money and service in response to God’s goodness and mercy, realizing true worship is expressed in deeds as well as words. (Hebrews 13:15,16; James 2:14-26)
If, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that men of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17; then, it only stands to reason that a primary purpose of the church must be to teach that scripture to those seeking a thorough understanding of their Savior. But much of the responsibility for this rests on your shoulders; you placing yourself where that can happen. There are many avenues and resources available to you but mature faith can often be realized best where people come together to jointly express their thanks and share their experiences, learning through others successes and failures how to effectively live the Christian lifestyle; becoming prepared and eager to share in the work of spreading the Gospel. (see 1 Peter 2:9)
The necessity and benefits of church attendance would appear to be inarguable for a true seeker of God, but what about Sunday School? Many Christians believe attending church is a must – as they should – but that Sunday School is an option to be exercised at their convenience; and to be honest there is no scriptural decree announcing, ‘Thou shalt go!’. In fact, Sunday School is a relatively new innovation, beginning in England in 1780 to facilitate the education of people in both religious and secular studies who could not, for various reasons, attend “school”; as education became more accessible to the common citizen, the curriculum changed exclusively to religious study and instruction. Sunday school among the Protestant churches of America came about in the early 1800’s, flourishing as a tool of graded worship and instruction; remaining the one country where it’s use is still wide-spread and actively promoted.
The goal of Sunday School being to take the broad ideals and teachings of a preaching service, breaking them down into more easily dealt with concepts. Attempting to create an environment where questions can be asked, doubts expressed, experiences shared and advice given; all through the funnel of scriptural authority. Which is not to say Sunday School supersedes the worship service in any way but that they bring out the best in each other. If we didn’t have the declaration of church, there would be little need for Sunday School, while at times the full meaning of a declarative statement of faith will be fully realized only in a small group setting. You can do without one or the other – but why would you?
Sunday School in many churches struggle; students in particular choosing to sleep in as a result of a late date or using that “extra” hour to catch up on studies. Let me encourage you to plan better, realizing church and Sunday School are available and considering them both priorities. You have the entire rest of the week to study, play, work and date; is two hours really too much to work into your schedule? (If you must work on Sunday, that’s regrettable yet understandable – but don’t volunteer to do so!) When we do only what we feel obligated to do we show a lack of respect for those preparing for us as well as a lack of interest and desire in spending time together – sharing ideas, developing relationships, earnestly seeking a deeper understanding of God and his will.
Many college age youth attend school away from home and can’t attend their home church regularly; while others live at home – commuting to school and could attend but don’t. That’s too bad and disappointing. Most Sunday School teachers study hard to prepare and present lessons specifically for you and your age group. They look forward to seeing you and want to develop a supportive relationship with you. But that won’t matter or happen if you don’t see the need. Can you survive without Sunday School? Sure. But will you thrive? The choice is certainly yours. But if you are truly interested in God’s word and how it can impact your life in a practical way, then you will, “…not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,…”!