I am constantly amazed at how the Holy Spirit works different threads in our lives together to convict us of sin and spur us on in righteousness and growth. Idle conversation with one person combines with a song we hear on the radio, and then, BANG! Something we read in the Bible connects with us in a way it never did before, and changes us forever. I call this “convergence”, and it happened to me again today.
About eighteen months ago, I discovered what I wanted to be when I grow up: I want to be a Champion for Jesus. I was attending a prayer seminar down in Oregon, and the speaker was talking about how most pastors would give their right arm for someone who could be, er, their right-hand man. “A champion is the kind of person you could ask to start a new program in a church, and they make it happen and get it done. They don’t complain about how busy they are, or come running back to you for every little decision, but they boldly use their gifts to build up the body of Christ, and God gives them success.” Since this was a prayer conference, it was pointed out that champions are generally men and women of prayer.
Sometimes they also let me be the Ice Cream Man.
One of the best things about our church (from my perspective) is that I am allowed to teach (or at least lead) an Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) class. Cooler than traditional adult Sunday School classes, ABFs are adult Bible classes that meet on, er, Sundays.
Many churches don’t do Sunday School for grownups anymore — in fact, when we first moved to this area and were shopping for a church, we had a hard time finding one that offered anything beyond the ‘standard’ worship service with a sermon. Personally, I think this is unfortunate for several reasons:
- An adult Bible fellowship class can focus on an exegetical study of the scriptures, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. While some classes are topical in nature, I tend to study the scriptures book by book, taking each verse and dealing with it as it comes. Over the past several years, we’ve studied nearly all the epistles and a handful of minor prophets, and now we’re most of the way through the gospel of John.
- There’s a difference between having the scriptures explained to you, and working as a group to understand them. I’m a big fan of the Inductive study method, in which I (as ‘teacher’) come up with a set of Observation, Interpretation and Application questions, which we all discuss in class. We hammer out a group consensus answer to each question, not pooling our ignorance, but rather pooling our knowledge of related scripture and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives.
- There’s a big difference between having a message preached ‘at’ you, and taking part in a discussion about the scripture. Our class ranges in size from 8 to 18, and nearly everyone speaks up. It is very hard to fall asleep or tune out in that kind of a venue — whereas even the most disciplined mind can wander when sitting in a church pew, disengaged from the sermon.
I could go on and on — I’m a huge believer in adult Sunday School. “Show me a person who attends an adult Sunday School class, and I’ll show you someone in whose life God is actively working,” I often say (or at least I would say that if anyone ever gave me a chance).
Some people worry that Adult Sunday School classes can compete with or dilute other ministries, and some churches have stopped offering them because they fear that people “won’t come to church for so long on a Sunday”. I think this is hogwash. Members of the early church met every day for prayer and fellowship in the upper room they rented, and (at least some of them) attended daily teaching in Solomon’s Colonnade (in the temple) as well. I don’t think there is anything about modern life that precludes a much higher level of participation in church programs, Bible studies, service projects, and the traditional worship service experience.
That clown wants some ice cream BAD!
But I digress. I set out to write about convergence, and I must make good on that promise.
Today we were studying the 16th chapter of the gospel of John, in which Jesus begins to explain the transition between His physical ministry and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Concerned that the disciples might fall away, He exhorted them (in chapter 15) to remain connected to Himself, as the Vine to their Branches. We speculated about how the disciples must have felt, exchanging a solidly-present Jesus for an invisible Spirit “for their own good”, according to Jesus.
One thing led to another, and we began talking about the way that, as good servants and citizens of Heaven, we persevere and endure trouble and hardship for our King for the good of the Kingdom as a whole, not necessarily for our own comfort or enjoyment. We talked about Paul’s word picture of running a race, and how it serves as such a good metaphor for the Christian experience.
Less than an hour later, our pastor preached on Hebrews 12, with a primary focus on this verse:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1
“Daddy, did you say a bad word?”
Sitting in my usual pew, I noticed a new banner hanging near the front of the sanctuary. The image portrayed a runner, bursting through a finish-line tape as he came through wide open, heavenly gates. The caption was something like “Be a champion for Christ”, and so I nudged Kathy. “That’s what I want to be,” I whispered.
It is just one more of the cool ministries of the Holy Spirit, to further cement the truth that He reveals during Sunday School by affirming it again in the worship service. I would say that it is rare that a Sunday goes by, and we fail to find a connection between the sermon and what we studied in class — and I’m pretty sure that the pastor and I aren’t comparing notes.
As we studied today in John 16:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth …
We serve a great God.