The Purpose of the Church is to Educate
Tonight I am going to finish up my series on the purpose of the church. But first, let’s review the first 5 purposes of the church:
WORSHIP MINSTRY FELLOWSHIP EVANGELISM EDUCATION
Tonight we focus on education.
"The Power of Education"
A mother mouse and her three children crept out of their hole into the kitchen and began feasting on some delicious bits of food. Suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, Mother Mouse saw a cat slinking toward them. The cat was between the mice and their hole. The mother mouse puffed up her lungs and went, "Woof! Woof!" The cat turned tail and ran. The mother quickly leads her children
back to the safety in their hole. When they were safe and sound, Mother Mouse speaks to her children and says, “Children, that ought to show you how valuable it is to be educated.” To which her little micelings answered, “Mama, what do you mean?” She replied, “Imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t learned a second language!”
Your parents, your teachers, our society stresses the value of an education. That diploma is your ticket to a good job, that degree is your chance to make the big bucks. But as important as an education from school or college is, education in the church is even more important for one very important reason: Jesus commanded His church to educate its members.
In the Great Commission passage of Matt. 28:18-20, Jesus gives us the 4th purpose of the church: to be
Matthew 28:20 …teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…
This is God’s education program for His church: to teach and to train believers to become more like Christ. Let’s think together tonight about this important purpose of the church.
Within this command I find two very important principles of Christian Education: teaching and training.
First, there is the command to teach.
The father says, “You better get ready. The bus will be here in a minute to pick you up and take you to Sunday School.” The boy asked, “Did you go to Sunday School when you were a boy?” The father replied, “Yes I did.” The boy said as he was getting dressed, “It probably won’t do me any good either!”
But it should do some good and it will do some good, if we will realize the church is to be a community of learning, where people are teaching and learning the truth of God. We are called both to be student and teachers. How does that work?
Jesus tells us what we ought to teach: …all things that I have commanded you…The textbook for our teaching is the Bible. If you are a teacher, your job is not to teach the Sunday School lesson—it’s to teach the Bible. The Sunday school book is a tool to help you teach the Bible to your students, but it is not the text for your class—the Bible is.
Your job is not to share your opinions or your views or your ideas, but to communicate God’s opinion, God’s view, God’s truth. This is what Jesus calls us as a church to teach.
At the same time, Christ does not want us just to teach lessons or even to just teach truth, but to teach people. Teaching means you have to communicate the truth of God’s Word in a way that is meaningful to the people who are trying to learn. That’s why we separate our Sunday school classes into age groups, or adults with something in common (married couples, college age). The goal is to bring God’s truth to them in a relevant way that makes sense to them—not just to spout off Bible verses and hope they pick something up.
Jesus gave us a good model for how to do this by His own teaching methods. Can you name some of the ways Jesus taught in the Gospel?
- Stories /Parables- Prodigal Son, Pearl of Great Price
- Questions- Who do men say I am?
- Object Lessons- consider the lilies…
- Scripture You have read…
- Lecture/Teaching- The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus demonstrates there are many different ways of teaching God’s truth.
Now our purpose as a church is to provide an environment for people to teach and learn the truths of the Bible. How do we do this?
Through the preaching of God’s Word, through Sunday School, through VBS, and any other way that help them understand the Bible. The term that covers all of these areas is Christian Education and it is part of the purpose Jesus gave us for the church.
Let me throw in one more important thing about teaching: you are never too old to learn. I spent 6 years, countless hours and money attending FWBBC, earning a B. S. degree, and I still need to learn. Some Christians get this idea that Sunday School is for kids, and that adults don’t need to keep learning. If that’s true, then you’d think Jesus would have mentioned that in this verse, don’t you? It would have been easy for Him to say we should be teaching all kids under the age of 12 to observe all things I have commanded you…No, all of us need to keep learning and relearning the truth of God’s Word. You’re never too young or too old to learn a little more from the Bible.
You never know what you’ll learn in church.
I was reading a column in a magazine by Michael Duduit about how the Starbucks coffee chain is printing words of wisdom on their coffee cups from Rick Warren, such as You were made by God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense.
Duduit wrote about how surprised he was that his Aunt Ethel, owner of Ethel’s Donut and Bait Shop in Bucksnort TN had decided to do the same thing on her coffee cups. He writes: I asked Aunt Ethel what kind of quotes she used, and she had in mind.
"Well, there's a good one that Willard, our 5th grade boys teacher always says: 'Sit down and shut up, you bunch of hooligans! I'm trying to teach the Bible here!' Then there's the quote she's heard several times from the ladies in her Sunday School class: "Hurry and get through the lesson so I can tell you what I heard over at the hair salon yesterday." Another quote: "Tell that organist to turn the volume down, She's blowing my wig off back here."
What words of wisdom could you quote from your Sunday School class?
Jesus makes it clear that our church is to be a place where people teach and learn the Bible. That is the purpose of our church.
But Christian education is more than just teaching---it involves training. …teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…The goal of this education is not just to give out information, but to produce transformation—to lead people to become loving, obedient followers of Christ. What does this involve?
First it involves modeling the truths of Scripture. People have to see how God’s truth works in real life---in your life, in my life. It’s one thing to tell people this is what you ought to do. It’s another thing to show them this is how to live it out.
A popular term today for this is mentoring= taking time to personally lead a person to grow in their faith. The idea here is not just to teach a lesson on Sunday and then forget your students the rest of the time. It is to make an investment in the lives of the people you lead or teach, to become personally involved in helping them grow in their relationship with God.
Isn’t this what Jesus did? He took 12 men and He poured His life into them. He not only taught them, but trained them, helped them see how God’s truth worked in real life, helped them grow and become more than they ever thought they could be.
That is part of the purpose of Christian Education in the church—not just to teach concepts, but to help people learn to live out the truth in their homes, on their jobs, at school, or wherever they are. People not only need to be taught—they need to be trained.
You have to become personally involved in helping other people grow in their faith. It means taking the time to get to know them, taking time to let them know you really care about what’s happening in their lives, making the effort to encourage them to live out what they learn in church.
It could be as simple as personal conversation by phone or in person, a letter of encouragement, inviting somebody to join in some activity you both enjoy.
Training involves being open and honest, showing people your own struggles, and then showing them how Christ helps you overcome those struggles, showing how the principles you learn about marriage, and money and work and giving and prayer and caring ---all the thing you learn from God’s Word, sharing how these Biblical principles really do work in your life.
The hardest part of training involves confrontation. Sometimes people don’t just need a shoulder to cry on—they need somebody to love enough and care enough to speak to them when they are doing wrong. Jesus outlined this difficult part of training in
Matthew 18:15-17 15“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
This part of training is the part nobody likes to do, but it is just as important as what we might call the more “positive” teaching. Our church is like most churches---we’re not too eager to exercise church discipline. In some ways that’s good, but at the same time there are times when training involves loving somebody enough to confront them in love over sin.
Training each other to observe all that Jesus commands is the purpose of the church. Training is just as important as teaching, even though it is much more challenging.
Carl Sewell sells cars in Texas: Cadillacs, Hyundais, Lexuses and Chevrolets, and he runs some of the best dealerships in the United States. When a car salesman comes to work for him, Carl Sewell sends him through a course that includes four sessions on how to ask the customer exactly what he wants, one whole session on how the restroom is maintained, two more sessions on customer service, and so on. In other words, Sewell wants his salespeople to forget everything they knew about selling cars and learn it from him.
That’s what we should be training people to do—to follow the Boss, to do everything He says to do just as He says it ought to be done. That is the purpose of the church.
The pastor escorted Miss Betty Ray in to meet her class. New in town, she hadn't heard of their reputation for chasing off teachers.
Betty introduced herself as snickers rippled in the room as she rummaged through the huge shoulder bag she carried for a purse.
"Have any of you ever been out of state?" she asked in a friendly tone. A few hands went up.
"Anyone travel beyond five hundred miles?" One hand went up as the snickering diminished.
"Anyone visited outside the country?"
No hands went up now. The silent students were puzzled. What did this have to do with anything?
Finally, Betty's bony hand struck on what she had been searching for in her handbag. Pulling up a long tube, she unrolled a map of the world.
"What else do you have in there? Lunch?" someone cracked.
Betty smiled lightly and answered, "Cookies for later."
"Cool," Rick, most mischievous boy quipped.
Then she pointed with a long fingernail to an odd-shaped continent.
"I was born here," she tapped with her finger. "And I lived here until I was about your age."
Everyone craned their neck to see where it was.
"Is that Texas?" someone sitting in the back asked. "Not even close. It is India."
"How did you get way over there to be born?"
Betty laughed. "My parents were missionaries there, and that is where my mother was when I came into the world."
"Cool!" Rick leaned back in his chair duly impressed.
Betty fumbled again in her purse, this time pulling out a handful of old wrinkled pictures along with a tin of chocolate chip cookies. They passed the pictures around, viewing each with great interest. Dark faces stared up from the photos, frozen in time. The kids studied them as they bit into the sweets.
"You don't have to be a missionary - everyone can do something in this world to help another," Miss Betty said. The hour quickly slid by as she told them her stories about faraway places and what the people were like there and how they lived.
Sunday after Sunday, Betty came to class, tying her lessons to their everyday lives. She told them how they could make a difference right now.
Betty taught that Sunday school class for twenty years. At last, her hair grew into a natural gray. Her hands began to shake with age. Every now and then, she received a letter from a former student. There was a doctor, a research scientist, a homemaker, a businessman, and many teachers among them.
One day she reached into her mailbox and pulled out a blue envelope which she noticed came from India. In the left corner was the name of a boy in that very first Sunday school class, years ago. She recalled how he'd always liked her cookies and seemed so interested in her lessons. A picture slid out of the envelope and onto her lap. Squinting her eyes, she smiled at the man in the photo, still seeing the teenage boy in him. Standing in the rubble, in the city of Delhi, India, he stood with other volunteers who had come to help earthquake victims that had hit the nation of India.
The caption read, "Because of you, I am here now."[i]
Who knows how far some of us will go and be used of God because the people of Gray’s Chapel fulfilled Christ’s purpose of His church to educate? God calls us to be students and teachers, to teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you…
[i] Robin Lee Shope (c) 1997 from Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. All rights reserved.