Summary: This sermon examines the Biblical purpose that is fulfilled through a Sunday School ministry.
Today, I want to lead you in a celebration of the Sunday School. Why do we promote Sunday School since it is not mentioned in the Bible and Jesus did not establish it? Where did it come from? Sunday School began in the 1700’s in Gloucester, England with a man named Robert Raikes. Mr. Raikes, a member of the Church of England, had a burden for poor children who were forced to work long hours each week with no opportunity for education. Thus, he established schools that met on Sunday. These schools were not necessarily for religious instruction. Those early Sunday Schools were characterized by several important traits.
1. They used paid teachers. (Tease: wouldn’t you Sunday School teachers like to get paid?)
2. They taught secular courses.
3. They taught mainly poor children.
Over the years Sunday School has evolved into what we know today. It is an organization that focuses on teaching the Word of God. When Robert Raikes started the Sunday School Movement, the Archbishop of Canterbury called together the bishops to see what could be done to stop him, for, he said, it was a violation of the Sabbath.
(Contributed to Sermon Central by A. Todd Coget)
In celebrating the Sunday School I want to speak with you about its purpose. Before doing that I want to address two important principles.
1. The first principle is that purpose is what makes something special. Sometimes we get confused and celebrate things because of their tradition. There is nothing in the name or the function of Sunday School that makes it special. It is special because of the purpose it fulfills. It is an organizational tool for reaching, ministering and helping people to grow spiritually. A tool is no better than the purpose that stands behind it.
2. A second principle involves organization. There is nothing sacred about organization nor is there anything evil about organization. Over the years I have run into people who opposed certain practices because they involved organization. Some people oppose Sunday School because it is an organization. Even Jesus used organization. When he fed the 5,000. (Mk. 6:39-40) he instructed the disciples to seat people in groups.
There is nothing inherently evil about organization. However, there is nothing sacred about organization. For example a cemetery is one of the most organized places in the community but I do not want to live in one.
Sometimes we start traditions and organizations and then act like they fell out of Heaven as a gift from God. In our country, when the Sunday School movement began, it was looked upon with suspicion. Park Street Church in Boston had a major rife in the early 1800’s over whether to allow Sunday School. Their arguments:
1. It might be a desecration of the Sabbath.
2. Children ought to be instructed by their parents at home.
3. Professing Christians ought to be at home engaging in reading, meditation and prayer, instead of going abroad to teach children of other families on the Sabbath. (Illustration 6234 in 7700 Illustrations…Editor Paul Lee Tan)