“These tapes are very useful. I like the way you put a different spin on the lesson than the literature itself does, just like you do in the lessons on your website. Good illustrations and real life examples are good too.”
The verdict is in. People don’t attend Sunday School for the content. They attend to meet people. They don't attend for the presentation. They attend for the connection.
Now more than ever, people can get content. We have christian radio and christian tv and christian book stores and christian literature and now christian internet. Most of the large churches in America— and many smaller ones—make their sermons available on the internet in MP3 or some other format. If people want content, they can get content. (Does your pastor give his sermons away in MP3 format yet?)
I am not saying content is not important, or that teaching is not important. People are transformed by the renewing of their minds and the truth will set them free. I am just saying that content is readily available. Community, on the other hand, is another thing. There is an epidemic of loneliness in our culture.
You may be surprised to hear me say that I don’t teach my class. The small group that meets in my home on Tuesday night is enjoying the teaching of Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez. I think I am a reasonably good presenter, but not as good as Bruce Wilkinson, not as good as the Prayer of Jabez. I lead the class but I don't teach the class.
Well, you might say, but I like to teach. So do I, and I think I am reasonably good at it. And, in certain contexts, it serves the group for me to teach. But, sometimes I think the group is better served by going another way. Right now, it seems best for this group at this time to watch Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez and discuss it. It is not about what I like, it is about what will help the group.
But, you might say, “I feel gifted and called to teach.” Here is my suggestion: partner with someone who is gifted and called to lead. You do the presentation, let the leader lead. Each one using their gifts, the body of Christ grows and prospers. Great concept God had, isn't it?
I have always thought it a bit unfortunate that we call teachers teachers. If we call teachers teachers we assume their job is to teach. (Now that is an insight from the land of Duh, is it not?) But I have never met a Pastor or Minister of Education who felt like the sole job of the teacher was to teach.
The role of the teacher is analogous to that of a pastor. The teacher is the pastor of the micro-church called a Sunday School class or small group. A pastor doesn't just teach. He also leads and is responsible for the overall functioning of the church. In the same way the teacher is responsible for the overall functioning of the micro-church.
In my own church we have a leader who started a group three years ago. This last Sunday they birthed two new groups, one with 9 and the other with 13 (this is in addition to the original group that had 20). In this original group, Beth Moore has done most of the presenting of the lesson by way of video. Now there is a half-way decent lesson!
There are even churches cropping up that don't use live preachers at all. They use Bill Hybels on a big screen. (When I attended Willowcreek I watched the big screen most of the time anyway.) What they have locally in terms of live bodies are leaders who lead. Bill Hybels presents, by way of video, they have musicians that lead in worship, and leaders who see that everything that a church is to be and do is done. Heartland Community Church has grown to 1500 in attendance in less than 4 years using this model. Currently, they have no plans in sight for hiring a live preacher. It is not for everyone, but it is clearly a workable model for some.
Too many teachers today think their job is to open their Bibles, present a lesson and go home. We have a job to do. We have a mountain to climb. One of the best ways to take that mountain is through micro-churches acting like the body of Christ at the basic cell level. In order for this to happen, we need leaders who lead in every group. Today, we can get Bruce Wilkinson to present a halfway decent lesson. The feedback I am getting is that my own interactive videos are halfway decent. But, they must be combined with a leader in the room who will lead the group to fulfill the great commission through their micro-church.