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ROAD TO RENEWAL: Day 3: Our Commitment to Christian Education
Road to Renewal, Day 3: Our Commitment to Christian Education
The traditional vehicles of Christian Education in our African American Baptist Churches, like just about everything else in our Churches, have undergone considerable shifts over the past half-century. Sunday School is still the staple in most of our Churches and enjoys the greatest amount of consistent attendance. But more often than not, pre-set curriculums are ill-fitted to meet the specific needs of a local congregation. It’s the difference between buying clothes off the rack and having an outfit that is tailored to your specific measurements. Both provide coverage, but one does so with far greater effectiveness.
Other education formats struggle mightily. Mid-Week Bible Study seems to be the province of the retired on one end of the spectrum, and children on the other. Youth and young adults tend to stay away, preferring the inspiration of worship over the intensity of scripture applicability to their current life experiences.
Training in denominational beliefs and distinctions, once as common as Sunday School, is all but extinct. Very few of our Churches provide it, and those that do find little support, as people discount the value of Church doctrine. With the proliferation of religious programming to be found on television and in social media, it has played a significant role in making denominational distinctions seem unnecessary and irrelevant, and the argument could be made that it has done more harm than good.
As a result, there are things that we don’t know that have an impact on the quality of our faith-walk. We don’t know the difference between an ordinance and a sacrament; we don’t know what to believe about the Lord’s Supper and water baptism; we don’t know what eternal security means or whether we have it or whether we can lose it; we don’t know the difference between dispensationalism and progressive revelation; we don’t know what to make of the Trinity; we don’t know how to respond to death and dying.
Is God punitive or corrective? What is the purpose of prayer? How do we distinguish praise from worship? What is the relationship between the Church scattered and the Church gathered? What is the Church’s responsibility toward addressing suffering and poverty and prejudice and marginalization? What is the canon and how was it formed? What is hermeneutics, and why is it important? What’s the difference between a Biblical translation and a paraphrase? What is inspiration and what form did it take in the development of scripture?
In the Gospel accounts, the disciples repeatedly ask Jesus to, “Teach us…” and “Show us…”. This is the essence of Christian Education—teaching and showing, so that we might be about the business of doing the Gospel. We can’t teach or show what we don’t know, what we have not been exposed to. Thus, an essential element of our spiritual renewal is in our commitment to consistent Christian education.