Friday, July 06, 2007

Is Sunday School A Para-church Parasite?

In every church growth class or book that I can remember an effective Sunday school program was touted as a key for churches that are reaching people for Christ. The dogma goes something like this: Grow Sunday School and your church will be able to attract and keep families. Assimilation rates will go up - way up. People will learn the Bible. Kids will get the Gospel. Sunday school growth equals church growth.

And all God's people said ... Amen.

Now the 9Marks guys are ruining all the fun. Read this Friday Rant by Michael Mckinley. He raises some theological objections to the Sunday school dogma.
Every two months, a local Baptist organization sends out its "Official News Magazine". Before I throw them in the trash (lest a church member accidentally read one), I always hold a debate with myself about whether I should even bother to peruse the contents. I always give in; it's the ecclesiological equivalent of the car crash you can't help staring at as you go by.

But I thought that I might share a nugget lovingly culled from the most recent issue. I quote:

The growth and sustained ministry of the local church rises and falls on the strength of SUNDAY SCHOOL. (capitalization theirs)

This offends me on at least three levels:

1. Ecclesiologically, this is a statement completely unsupported (and in fact, contradicted) by Scripture. I'm a big fan of Sunday School, but I'd probably have to give the nod to the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in terms of what's most important in the growth and ministry of the church.
2. Pragmatically, this seems to be contraindicated by both common sense and statistics. If we're going to be pragmatists, could we at least be good pragmatists?
3. Ecologically, trees had to die in order for this sentence to appear on my desk this afternoon.

I think he raises a good question. Is Sunday school all that it is claimed to be? Should be blindly follow the programming advise of people who sell Sunday school material?

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