A good Sunday School lesson is more like RAW and less like a polite British tea party. There are RAW emotions and RAW opinions shared.

RAW Sunday School lessons


Most Sunday School classes are too polite. Too sweet and kind. I want some opinions. I want some heat. I want passion. I want some disagreement.

A good Sunday School class is like a good college class. It exposes you to different views and lets you decide for yourself.

I was writing a Sunday School lesson today on Romans 7—the famous, “I do want I do not want to do” passage. Turns out, there is a good deal of controversy about this passage. The Preacher’s commentary explains:

For centuries, considerable debate has gone on concerning the exact time in Paul’s experience to which he is referring. [1]

Yet, this controversy often does not make it into the average Sunday School classroom.

There is considerable controversy in theology around the second coming. But you wouldn’t know it from listening in to the discussion in your average Sunday School classroom. I had a gal Facebook me the other day and suggest that Barak Obama was the Beast of Revelation 13. I told her I held to the belief that much of what is recorded in Revelation happened in the first century and that I didn’t think anyone living today was the Beast. She has never heard such a view. In theology we call this the Preterism. It is a mainline view held by most of the seminary professors I studied under. R.C. Sproul holds this view. She had never heard of it. You may or may not agree with the view, but I think Sunday School ought to be a place where controversies are raised and discussed, not hidden and ignored. I pointed her to Sproul’s free online video on the subject. Next time she is in Sunday School and the subject comes up, I hope she says, “I disagree. . .”

I went to church my whole life but was in my twenties before I realized there was any controversy about free will and election. I remember how shocked I was that people actually did believe in predestination while others believed that you could lose your salvation. I thought everyone believed we choose to be saved but we couldn’t choose to not be saved once we were saved. Next time you teach on it, you might just read a few verses from Romans 9 and ask your group to explain it. Let them struggle. Let them disagree. Let them fight.

Controversy is all through the Bible and all through theology. Don’t shield your people from it. Expose them to it. Let them wrestle with it. Make them wrestle with it.

Want to know two words that will stir up any Sunday School class? I disagree. Next time someone expresses their opinion, say, “I disagree. I think you are wrong.” (This might work better in a men’s class.)

John MacArthur wrote a book recently called Slaves. Imagine someone in your class read that book. Imagine the subject comes up and they start off on how we are slaves and not merely servants. Stop them in their tracks. Say, “I disagree.” Then, quote John 15:15 (HCSB) “I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.” We are about to have a conversation.

Look at the teaching of Jesus. He was controversial. He stirred up trouble. He got people talking. They argued about what he meant. We are still arguing about what he meant. Take the Sermon on the Mount. One writer said:

The Sermon on the Mount has been a subject of much controversy over the centuries. There have been those who insisted that it were to be taken literally – to the letter. That means, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out! That means, if you need to pray, look for a closet.

There have been others who have contested that it can only be fulfilled by clerics. Many joined the monastic societies and orders because they felt that, that was the only way the sermon could be fulfilled. Still, others have embraced many strange and ambiguous interpretations.[2]

Jesus was controversial. Teach like Jesus. Or, perhaps, you disagree with me? How so?

[1] Briscoe, D. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 29: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 29 : Romans. The Preacher’s Commentary series (144). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.