This past year during the fall and spring semesters I shared teaching responsibilities for an adult Sunday school class on the book of Colossians, after teaching part of a shorter series the previous summer. These were my first opportunities in several years to teach adults in that setting, and I was very grateful to be able to do so. Our church is blessed with more capable teachers than space for classes, so I’m once again taking a break from teaching responsibilities. I sincerely hope there isn’t another years-long wait before the next opportunity, though, because there are a number of things that I really enjoy about teaching in the church, particularly classes for adults.
1. I get to study a subject other than music. I’m sure some folks at church find my participation in the church’s musical activities—or rather my usual lack of active participation—to be somewhat enigmatic. After all, shouldn’t a professional musician want to have a hand in all things music-related? I’ve written about this before and won’t rehash those ideas here. Suffice it to say for now that I like for my experiences of worship and service in the church to be unrelated to my day-to-day work during the week. If I’m spending most of my time Monday through Saturday making music, Sunday doesn’t feel like much of a “Sabbath” if I spend it doing exactly the same things as every other day. It is nice—not to mention spiritually and psychologically healthy—to step out of my professional role and do something else on the Lord’s Day. The time spent in preparation during the week is likewise refreshing, as I am able to take my mind off of its usual focus for a bit and delve into the Word more deeply than usual. This brings me to my next point.
2. I am motivated to make time for in-depth study of the Scriptures. I have read the Bible through on a yearly basis for about fifteen years now, and have listened to it read via audio recordings several times over, as well. This is an important part of my regular devotions, but it isn’t particularly in-depth, nor does it have to be. There is a place for cultivating and maintaining a general sense of what the Bible says in that way. However, there is also a place for more rigorous study, something which I found easier to do before becoming a parent. Now time for challenging reading and study is precious and hard to find in the midst of other important responsibilities. Preparing to teach an adult Sunday school class requires—at least for me—several hours of reading commentaries and other reference works, writing a full manuscript (which I will not read verbatim but this exercise helps me to organize my thoughts), and time spent in prayer for myself and for the class. The last part in particular is important, because…
3. Teaching challenges me to grow spiritually. I sometimes have a bad habit of allowing Bible study to be a merely academic exercise. I find the study of history, of anthropology, of systematics, and all the things that go into good theology to be intellectually stimulating. However, while the Bible touches on all of these fascinating subjects, its primary purpose is to point its readers to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to teach those who believe how they are to live as God’s people in the world. If I do not walk away from these studies more convicted of my failings and more enamored with Christ, I’ve missed the point! Teaching through Colossians was particularly encouraging, since the initial recipients of Paul’s letter to Colossae weren’t descending into flagrant sin and unbelief like those in Corinth or like those rebuked by Christ himself in the opening chapters of Revelation. Rather, the Colossians were “regular Christians” just trying to believe and live rightly. Paul’s challenge to them to continue to look to Christ alone as their sufficient Savior is relevant to all of us who try to live well, avoiding particularly scandalous and public sins, but still very much in need of exhortation to look to Christ.
4. Hopefully, teaching challenges others to learn and to grow, as well. As is the case with any teacher in any subject, I’m sure some of the folks who attended my Sunday School class liked my teaching, others probably didn’t, and some thought it was “okay.” Although I have a small amount of formal theological education I have no degree in that field, nor do I hold church office, so to stand before a group of people and say “this is what the Bible says” sometimes feels presumptuous. I suppose all I can do is stick closely to the scriptures and to the books of those more learned and pious than myself, continue to pray, and hope that the things I have to say are of benefit to others. In the end, if we’re not all walking away from such a class knowing more about Jesus and feeling challenged to be more like him, we’ve all missed the point!