Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 6

Early Church to Sunday School

History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 6
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Early Church to Sunday School

A Historical Survey of Christian Education

Part 2

III.  Early Church

A.  Worship Service

1.  Public segment

2.  Private segment

B.  Catechumenate

1.  Catecheo

2.  Catechesis

3.  Catechist

4.  Catechumen

5.  Catechism

IV.  Medieval Church

A.  Church-State Problems

1.  Illiteracy

2.  Clergy domination

B.  Increasing use of visuals, icons

C.  Monasteries - Benedictine Code

1.  Work

2.  Study

3.  Prayer

V.  Reformation

A.  Scripture in the hands of the people

B.  Catechesis returns

C.  Luther

D.  Calvin

VI.  Puritan Model

A.  Centrality of preaching

B.  Home as a small church

VII.  Sunday School

A.  Beginnings

1.  1780 - Robert Raikes, Hannah Ball

2.  Mainly outreach

B.  United States

1.  1785 - Lay movement, parachurch

2.  Lost evangelistic focus

C.  Problems

1.  Distancing of pastors from CE

2.  What to teach?

  • Seven questions that provide a framework for choosing and implementing curriculum.

  • Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

  • The three essential tasks of the Church are worship, outreach and teaching.

  • Christian formation focuses on the process of becoming more like Christ.

  • Instructions for spiritual education from passages in the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

  • The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

  • The Torah contains the essence of what God wants us to know. Jesus clarifies and exemplifies the Torah.

  • A CORE curriculum should be Comprehensive, Orthodox, Reforming and focused on Essentials. Delivery systems may include bible studies, small groups, Sunday school and sermons.

  • The Ten Commandments are the basis for Old Testament Law and the core teaching of the New Testament.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • A key element for effective education to take place is for teachers to know their students relationally.

  • Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

  • Asking the right questions about the curriculum and the audience can help you identify what information to emphasize and how to present it effectively.

  • How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

  • Effective teaching engages the whole person.

  • When preparing curriculum, an effective teacher will take into account both the content and the audience.

  • Many people fill the role of teacher in your life at different times and in various ways.

  • Christian education involves recruiting, training, modeling, organizing and supporting people who volunteer to teach.

  • Being trained in skills for conflict resolution helps you to have realistic expectations and gives you the tools you need to effectively resolve situations as they arise.

Through this course, you will gain a deep understanding of the educational ministry of the church, its foundations, principles of teaching and learning, and the development of an effective educational ministry. You will also explore strategies for different age groups, including children, youth, and adults, and learn how to address contemporary issues such as cultural relevance, technology, media, and special needs inclusivity.

Educational Ministry of the Church 
Dr. Gary Parrett 
Early Church to Sunday School 
Lesson Transcript


The Ministry of Reconciliation as it relates to our vocation. Remember yesterday we talked about how everything had been thrown out of whack in Genesis chapter three. And in yesterday's discussion I talked about the three fold out of Wackness of it all Creatures with God, people with one another, but also people with Creation. And personally, I do believe it's part of the Ministry of Reconciliation that we're called to, is not only helping others, be it right with God and right with each other, which I do think are helping people, being right with each other, I do think is part of the Ministry of Reconciliation that we're called to. But I'd also include part of the work of reconciliation, as is volved in redeeming of creation itself and being part of healing that which has been thrown out of whack through the fall. And when I find people who are engaged significantly in those kind of tasks, in the name of the Lord, I look at that is as a outworking of that very same kind of vocation and one application of that ministry record of reconciliation we were talking about. The other thing that came up during the break is just to jump us as we jump start back in the New Testament. When I say that there is still an emphasis on the home and the idea was the adults are trained by the leadership and they go home and teach the children. That's not to suggest at all that the children were not also taught by the larger community. In fact, it seems to me that we would say just what we said about this in Deuteronomy chapter six.


It's a both end kind of situation. The main weight is on the family, but the whole community is called in training all of the children as well. And probably children were learning in much the same way in the early church that Jewish children learn in the community of faith experienced. They learn through observation, they learn through the songs and the psalms and the praises and the prayers. They learn through the ritual that they observe. So yeah, children were deeply shaped in the community. And as was pointed out during break, probably children, the early church were more act or were probably often more engaged in the larger life of the church than many of our kids are in the life of the church today. In other words, in life, in the church today, we are often segregating our kids out from the larger community experience. But it's a both and not an either or some other things that we're just going to touch upon this briefly because we hit so many of the key New Testament passages already yesterday. But just some other things under the WHO question. We have the gifted teachers, we have the pastor, we have the elders, we have the mature Christians. Let's add to the mix this other teacher in the New Testament call one another. And that's a that's a very important outworking of the New Testament document of the priesthood of all believers. Everybody has something to bring to the mix. And there is a lot of speak to one another ness passages. For example, like Ephesians 518 and following Ephesians 518 talks about being filled continuously with the Holy Spirit. And it's one of those cases it's almost set up like we saw the Great Commission set up.


There is an imperative followed by participles. So the imperative is be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit and then for participles, participle phrases that flow out of that, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns, spiritual songs, singing, making melody in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, submitting 1 to 1 another out of reverence for Christ. And those four participle phrases seem intricately linked to the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. One of those is to speak to one another. We speak to one another, teach one another. It's in Ephesians five. It comes out even more clearly, I think in Colossians 316. In that particular passage, watch out again for our individualized tendency to read the US singular when it turns out to be plural there that the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in you community, but the word of you let the Word of Christ dwell in the community richly. How does the Word of Christ dwell in the community richly when we who are part of the community, speak to one another and teach one another, Psalms and hymns, spiritual songs? It's one of the reasons why, although I love Praise music, I'm always an advocate for the praise bands that I've been involved with in pastoring to try to get them to crank it down a little bit on the volume, get out of concert mode. This is not a performance and the community needs to speak to one another through their songs and we need to hear each other sing the songs, not just hear the leaders sing the songs because the Scripture commands us to speak to one another through songs and hymns and spiritual songs. This is part of the one another ness, and that's one of the key teachers in the New Testament priesthood of all believers.


Again, there are some leaders and there are gifted leaders and teachers and pastors and. Elders. But we all have an obligation to teach. And we could even add to this. Not only do we teach one another, but we also are obligated to teach oneself self. We have an individual responsibility for our own hearts. Second, Peter, Chapter one. For example, Peter says, Make every effort to add to your faith, goodness and to goodness knowledge. There is some personal responsibility about this as well. Or at the end of the letter of Jude, build yourselves up in your most holy faith. Although those are plural uses of the word you as well. You can see from these that that that can happen on the plural level unless it happens that I take individual responsibility for myself. So none of us in Christ can ultimately blame the lack of Christian formation in our own hearts on poor teachers. We have some responsibility in our own life to teach, instruct ourselves. We had mentioned in the Old Testament the use of the Psalms praises prayers, put them back in the New Testament as well. Those are also key teaching components, as we've seen. And also I'll I'll mention again the idea of ritual, not as much ritual in some way in the New Testament as we see in the Old Testament. But clearly there is ritual. We had mentioned, for example, the four commitments from Acts 242. They committed themselves to the Apostles teaching. They committed themselves to the Koinonia, the fellowship. They committed themselves to what else? But remember, memorize this yet the breaking of bread, which was a reference almost certainly in 242 to the celebration of the Lord's Supper. And the evidence seems to be that in the earliest church, whenever the believers gathered together for worship, they celebrated the Lord's Supper, and in doing so, they proclaimed his death until he returns again.


And it was an important ritual that taught and shaped as well as an act of worship in the life of the church. A lot of us in evangelical churches don't quite do it that way. You know, once a quarter, if we don't forget, maybe we'll celebrate the Lord's Supper. That's not the way it looked there. The fourth commitment acts to 42. The fourth commitment was what? Prayer. Wrong. You have to go and correct your English Bibles there. They've got it wrong. Try again. They committed themselves to the Apostles, teaching the apostles, teaching the fellowship, the breaking of bread. And though Nivi and others say prayer, I think they missed it here, actually, in the Greek, as they committed themselves. Number four to the prayers, plural. They committed themselves to the prayers plural. Any difference between saying they committed themselves to prayer and committed themselves to their prayers? I think there's a significant difference. Committed themselves to prayer. While it's true that speaks sort of about a lifestyle commitment, committing yourself to the prayers is not just a general commitment. It's a very specific commitment. And to understand in part what it may have meant, just go from acts to chapter three. Guess where John and Peter are. They're on their way to the temple at the time of prayer. These were all Jewish believers. They were used to set times of prayer and part of their commitment was to set times of prayer and probably community times of prayer, that prayers, not just a prayer in general. Those things point me back to this idea. There was an element of ritual in the early church. A lot of us are uncomfortable with that. We don't like ritual. Too bad for us. The problem is we have our rituals just the same.


It's just they're not particularly thoughtful and they're not particularly Christ centered, and they're not particularly time tested or Scripture soaked sometimes. But we have our rituals. But I'll skip the sermon for now, and we'll come back to that. Some other things here. I'm just thinking again, key things from the New Testament emphasis. Well, just to reiterate one thing that always jumps off to me when I think about this is a commitment to the faith. And the faith is a commitment that's expressed in terms of the apostles teaching, but also the language that's used by Paul in reference to that faith is priests becoming obedient to the faith, people wandering from the faith. The faith is an idea that means more than just some cognitive acknowledgment of truth. It's much larger commitment to that. The goal of Christian education, again was Christian formation, formation in the likeness of Christ, not just Bible knowledge. And so this idea of the faith is not something simply to believe. It's something to obey, something to submit to. And if we didn't catch it from that phrase, this phrase shows up again in the New Testament. It's all over the Old Testament. But it guess what? It's back, back in view when we get to the New Testament. And how is it most principally in view of the New Testament, the way as I show up in the new test? Well, Jesus is called the way. And what else? Yeah. One of the first names that actually sticks to this early church is they're called followers of the way Paul identifies himself as a follower of the way. And we have reference to someone like Apollos, who was trained in the way of God and then gets better trained in the way of God through a color.


And Priscilla and the early church are called followers of the way. Significant because it's got that Old Testament linkage. But now it's also got that Christo centric focus. That means followers of the one who was the way incarnate. And it also is significant to me because they were set apart as an identified people primarily by the way that they lived not so much by distinctive doctrines as by the way that they lived. Well, we're going to leave that for now. We'll come back to lots of other things. Much of the class is going to be returning to the New Testament in particular. So I don't mind passing on there, though, quickly. Early church beyond the first century, let's say the first three or four centuries of the church after the New Testament. Some of the things that are significant we're just doing highlights. This is like watching the highlights films at the news at 11. You know, you see the slam dunks, that's all we're going to get is the slam dunks and or watching hockey and you see the goals and the fights. You see them both. The early church is full of both highlights and fights, and we have to watch this all throughout church history. A couple of things that stand out to me from the highlight film. One pertains to the worship service and one of the significant things about the worship service from the second century on, for a period of time, there is a division of the worship service, especially the two main segments. There's a public segment and there is a private segment. There's a segment of the worship service where the doors are open, and then there is a segment of the worship service where the doors are closed, and the open portion of the service includes the singing of hymns and the saying of prayers and the reading of scriptures and even exposition of scripture.


But the closed portion of the scripture of this of the worship service is about what? How this is the celebration of the Lord's Supper. And this becomes a significant thing in terms of of the use of ritual. This division of the service in some cases becomes very dramatic division. And there is there is an explicit kind of teaching that takes place. There's a teaching about those who are in the family and those who are not in the family. So everybody can come and participate in hearing the word taught. There would be a ceremony, in some cases a ceremony of of closing the doors, sometimes a very dramatic ceremony where people were dismissed with prayer, the seekers were dismissed with prayer, and they were sent on their way. And then the doors were closed and the closing of the doors was to be a symbol of harkening back to an Old Testament event. You remember what that was? Closing of the door of the Ark. Something symbolic. You may be a seeker, you may be a catacomb, and you may be on the way to be in train. But you're not fully a member of this community yet, and you're being reminded of it in a dramatic sort of way. It's an interesting thing. It was clearly a worship act that was intended to teach and make a strong impression on people's minds and hearts. And I bet it did. I bet it did. Also made the church very vulnerable to attack from some of those who are already inclined to be critics of the church. Since the doors were closed and this was private, all kinds of rumors began to circulate about what was going on behind closed doors, and they'd heard about flesh and blood.


So the church was accused of cannibalism and sacrificing infants and eating the blood or eating the flesh and the blood. Interesting. Do you think we we could do something like this today? Do you think we should do something like this today? It would be an interesting debate and discussion. Could we do it? It'd be sort of hard to pull off in the kind of world we live in today here in North America anyway. But should we do it? There's a there's a good question. Should we do it? Should we do. Do we do anything like this in the church today? Yeah, some ways we do not as dramatic, but there there are often some sort of word that will come from the pastor when there's a celebration of the Lord's Supper, some sort of closing of the table. And it may be. It may be. We invite everyone who is a baptized believer in the Lord Jesus to partake of this table. Or it may be not a reference to baptism, but those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and follow Him as Lord. You're welcome to this table. I've always thought in my celebration of the Lord's Supper. As a pastor, I'm actually glad to have unbelievers present in the room because it gave me an opportunity to preach the gospel one more time. Every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper, I always thought it was worth my time to remind the believers what this was all about. We don't we don't get it very quickly or very often, very easily. So everything bears repetition pretty well. But I would repeat it for the sake of the believers. And I also do it as an opportunity to preach the gospel one more time.


Just a brief gospel presentation to the unbelievers who were there and then let them know that this table is for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and then let them experience the distinction by having them not come forward. Complicated by a lot of other factors. I think, for example, when we pass the plates, as a lot of our churches do, it becomes very hard for someone to let the plate pass in front of them. Even if you've given the word to says, this really isn't for you. It's kind of hard in the light of peer pressure sometimes to let the plate pass. So I preferred the idea of having people come forward personally. Some churches, as people come forward, they actually invite the nonbelievers to come, but not to come to partake, come for prayer and say, if you are a seeker and you're willing to acknowledge yourself as a seeker, come to the front and maybe you can signal. I know Robert Weber teaches on worship, likes to have people come to the table and signal like this that they're a seeker and they're not here to receive the Lord's Supper. And in that case the pastor would simply offer prayer for them as they're seeking that God would help them in their journey toward faith. But I've always found it to be very useful in a moment to teach believers and also speak to unbelievers and make some point of the distinction. And I do think that many of us evangelicals could learn a lot from other communions who celebrate the Lord's Supper a lot more often than we do. This is powerful not only active worship and communion with God ourselves, but it's powerful teaching for believers and the whole realm of reconciliation and is powerful gospel opportunity for unbelievers.


That's the way I see it. So sometimes we close the site. I remember one time visiting a Catholic service. It was during the Lenten season. My sister married a Catholic, and so my brother in law and I become very close. My sister became Catholic. My brother and I have been very close, had lots of wonderful discussions that just a couple of weeks ago we were up until 2:00, most most of three nights that I was with him. And I know he goes to bed at 9:00 every night, but we were up till 2:00 every morning having wonderful discussions about things, but it thrilled their heart when I went to a Lenten service with them some years ago. And and I remember being struck at the celebration of the mass when it came to the point for people to come forward that it was very clear that I was not to go forward. In fact, in the missile that was providing the order of service for us to follow along, there was a very explicit direction that the celebration of the Lord's Supper, their celebration of the sacrament of the mass, as they called it, was for Catholics. And the way they said it to me as a Protestant, I thought was actually very gracious. The label was they had instructions to Catholics. And then the second category was to other Christians. And it was basically in the language, you know, we are saddened by the fact that there is not full unity in Christianity today, and we cannot invite you to come to this table or even in that sense. There was a closing of the table, but I thought it was reasonable and I thought it was appropriate and I wouldn't have gone probably wouldn't have gone in any case because of my understanding of what that was about was different than their understanding of what that was about.


I did appreciate the graciousness with which they spoke to me. More gracious than Protestants would probably be toward them. Another thing that develops here, this is, I think, a significant for teaching at least I think it strikes me that churches need to think about how we can seize upon this teaching opportunity. Turns out that the worship service itself is one of the most powerfully formative things that the church ever does. Everything about the worship service forms Fact There's a class that I began to teach last year on this very subject called worship and Christian formation. Worship is very formative. Taking that idea from with now again that the rituals form us. That's part of what I have in mind. But also I'm thinking of the fact that even the music, the songs that we sing and the prayers that we pray, it's often been said, Let me hear you pray and I'll tell you your theology. I think we could certainly say the same today. Let me hear your songs and I can. Tell you your theology and the songs of the church, the hymns, the praises that we sing. Powerful teachers. It's interesting to ask the question, should a women be permitted to teach in the church? Well, if you think about the hymns that we sing, they've been teaching for quite a while in the church. A lot of the hymn writers are women. A lot of our favorite hymn writers hymns, teach music teachers, Luther's critics. And the Reformation understood this. One of Luther's critics said, you know, all those hymns that Luther's writing, that's the real problem. His hymns will down more people to hell than any of his sermons, at least because hymns teach. They teach. Listen to the hymns, listen to the prayers, listen to the praises, listen to the whole experience of the worship service.


That's where people will get their theology from in many, many cases. The other key thing that develops very early in the church that we need to focus on is the development of what's been called the catacomb in it. The catacomb in it is an idea, kind of a sometimes formal, sometimes informal school of the faith, people being trained in the faith. And it really second century, third century, fourth century, this is sort of the highlight of Christian education in those days. This formation of the catacomb, it seems that in the earliest days, the School of the Faith involved older, mature believers being partnered up with younger, immature believers or seekers and primarily lay instruction. And as time went on, more and more it's the clergy that are doing this Instructions pastors and bishops that are doing this instruction comes from the word Caracal. The Greek word here is Caracal. The verb caracal literally means something like to to sound down or to. It's significant. We're not exactly sure what this all means, but I think it probably is pointing to a couple of different things that catechesis in the early stages was primarily oral instruction and primarily involved repetition. In fact, in the early church when this when a cat, a human was being instructed in the Apostles Creed, for example, in some cases it was forbidden for that creed to ever be written down. The creed was considered one of the mysteries of the church, and it was a privilege for only those who were the elect. And so when a cat, a human, was being trained in the faith, the catechist, the teacher would give them the creed line by line orally. And it was spoken over and over again till they had memorized it.


But it was never written down. So oral instruction seems to have been part of this idea from RICO. The other idea that seems to come from this root idea of catechesis is that in this faith training there was not an emphasis on something novel. It was an emphasis on something ancient. What I passed on was something ancient, not something I made up. Something novel I pass on to you. What I also received. I sound like Pauline language. It is, Paul says in first Corinthians 11 four, I passed on to you. What? I also received that on the night Jesus was betrayed, he took breath and he goes on this formula for celebration. The Lord's Supper does the same thing in First Corinthians 15 when he lays out the Gospel, He says, For I passed on to you as a first importance, what I also receive. And he lays out the gospel. So catechesis involved repetition, but maybe even more significantly, it involved passing on that faith, which was once for all delivered to the Saints. Not a novel thing. It's a once for all thing. Very significant point about the faith that we should probably emphasize. When we say the faith, we link it to Jude. Three is a once for all faith. It's not a faith. It's changes from generation to generation is timeless. A lot of words come out of this that we might just take a moment to identify catechesis, or sometimes catechetical it would be just a general term to describe the whole teaching process itself, but explicitly religious. This is explicitly faith training, not just teaching in general. This is faith training. As it comes down. And in the history of the church, the person doing the teaching is called a catechist.


The person being instructed is called a cat, a human. And when the teaching, the catechesis begins to be written down and bound in printed form, that's called a catechism. So in a related terms, but they all come in from this idea. It's a Bible term, it's a New Testament term. We saw it last night. Just briefly, first Corinthians 14. I would rather speak five intelligible words than 10,000 in a tongue so that I might. That's what Paul says. The first group was 14. He says it again in Galatians Chapter six. The one who is catechist should share all good things with the one who catechesis. That means pay your pastor. Something like that, loosely translated. And then it shows up in Luke chapter one. And maybe this is the most significant reference Luke Chapter one in the Preamble of Luke's Gospel or whatever you want to call it. When Luke is addressing his gospel to Theophilus, says Theophilus, many have tried to write accounts of these things. I wanted to give you a carefully ordered account of the events of Jesus life so that you may be convinced of the things that you have been categorized in. So if Theophilus evidently had been categorized and Luke is writing to confirm his catechesis, so faith training, the way this takes shape in the earliest days of the church, I think there's already catechesis clearly implied in the New Testament from those passages. I think the first real catechism in it is chapter two, those 3000 believers and their four commitments in Acts 242. But in the history of the Church it's very significant. Some of the background is helpful here, people coming into the faith with very little knowledge of the Christian way in the Christian faith.


And so they're coming in perhaps from Jewish backgrounds, but increasingly from pagan, gentile backgrounds with a whole different understanding of what is truth and a whole different understanding of what is moral. And very little common ground that can be understood in assumed. And so for people to come into the faith, it was rightly understood. I think, that this was very significant stuff. We're talking about a revolution in your whole thinking, a revolution in your whole view of the world. And we can't just do this in a simple and in a casual way. This takes a lot of work. A lot of folks are thinking, and I'm one of them actually, that the kind of world that we find ourselves living in today is in many ways very similar to that sort of world in the second, third and fourth centuries of people coming into the faith from totally pagan backgrounds. And therefore, we have to work extra hard to learn, help them learn a vocabulary of Christian faith and a lifestyle of Christian faith, morality of Christian faith in a world that says there is no absolute truth. We have to work pretty hard at helping them see what the Bible says is absolute truth. A lot of us think that the right direction of the evangelical church is sort of is to some kind of renewal of a significant catechism in it. I mentioned my sister when my sister wanted to become a Catholic. Basically, by the way, this was driven. She was nominal Protestant growing up. We were very nominal Protestants. She married a man who was a nominal Catholic until his second bout with cancer, and he became a serious Catholic. And when they had kids, it was when they really had to wrestle with which of these choices they were going to make.


Are we going to be Protestant or Catholic? That's when this often this religious crisis often comes up. Well, for her to become Catholic as an adult, for her to become Catholic, she had to commit herself to a long period of instruction with a Catholic priest, a lengthy period. Catholic Church has something called the CIA the rite of Christian instruction for adults. It was a long process. I think in her case, I don't know what, 30 weeks or something very formal instruction for her to become Catholic. Then she could be received into the church, had a conversation on a plane with a man who was raised nominally Catholic, married a woman who was raised nominally Jewish, and they were fine until they had kids. And they found that they they should make a decision, too. So he was telling me about this. They said we should pick one and run with it. And he said, Well, I turned to my wife and said I could change. I could do that. That shows you how nominal he was in his Catholicism, I guess. But the same story is unfolding. For him to become a Jew, he had to commit himself to week after week of instructions with the rabbi to understand Judaism. It wasn't his background, and for him to become a Jew was a significant thing. Before he could be received in the community, he had to be instructed in the community. Now, what happens at our churches today, in our evangelical churches, when someone shows up, we greet them at the door. We give them a warm handshake. If they're there are two weeks in a row, we give them a teacher's manual, make them a Sunday school teacher, and we forgot to ask them what they believe.


But we're so glad to have another warm body. Often. Often. Isn't that the case? Well, the early church looked at this a little bit differently and understood that folks needed a lot of work this catacomb, and it sometimes was upward of three years. And when we get to the when question, I want to draw some examples from Saint Augustine about paying attention to the developmental level spiritually of where people are out. There was a kind of catechesis that was aimed at. The Seeker. There was another kind of catechesis that was aimed at the one who said, I'm no longer a seeker. I really want to be a Christian. A committed seeker, more committed seeker. And then there was another catechesis, kind of catechesis for those who are really mature. But in general, this could often be a three year process and the end of the three year process was baptism, not the beginning of the three year process, but the end of the three year process. There was such an attention to the fact that we're talking about revolution in somebody's lifestyle here that they actually wanted to watch and observe that lifestyle before they permitted someone to be baptized. Remember, in many cases here, the hostility that the church was under was not a church in alignment with the state, but often experiencing the persecution from the state. So for someone to make a profession of Christ had implications of great significance, not only for that individual and his or her family, but for the whole Christian community. Someone's going to wear the name of Jesus. We all have a stake in this, and they took this very seriously. We may not agree with this idea of make them wait for three years of instruction before we get them baptized.


But I certainly don't have a problem with a lengthy period of instruction somewhere. I might want to reverse this and say if I have a clear sense that you're sincere about your faith, I'll baptize you. But you must be committed to like the period of instruction because we're calling people in from from a different world, from a different background. And again, there are distinctions between the kinds of people who are being categorized. We'll get back to that when we come to the wind. Question. Let's speak a little bit about the church in well, let's say the medieval church church in the Middle Ages. We're going to make this very quick for the sake of time, just highlights some problems as the church goes on through time from the days of the early church. Some things happen that really spell some significant trouble for Christian education in general. You have the church being aligned with the state now where in in the previous days the church had often been at hostility with the state. And we saw that even today in some parts of the world, that has a huge impact on people taking their faith more seriously. And now you have basically, if you're in the state, you're in the church. And so people are pronounced Christian almost by virtue of being members of a certain country, a certain state, certain realm. That's problematic. If I think I'm already a Christian, why do I need to be trained in being a Christian? I'm already a Christian. You've told me when infant baptism becomes the norm. Often the whole idea of that lively catechesis of adults just goes away because now you're you're Christian at birth and there may still be some kind of catechesis, but it's not the same sort of catechesis.


And we get back to this very problem that someone rightly pointed out a few minutes ago. If adults aren't trained, guess what happens? And children aren't trained. We have problems in this ongoing work of the church. Huge problems of illiteracy. More and more people not able to read, not able to write. We have a problem of the Bible being taken out essentially of people's hands because they couldn't read it if they had it. And in some cases even the the priests that are training them can't read it as well. We have speaking of priests, we have the increasing clergy domination, domination of the church, that lively sort of priesthood of all believers, emphasis in the early church gets sort of lost in the shuffle in many cases. So there are some significant problems there. There are some things that are going on at the same time, however, that are suggestive, since people are largely illiterate, are increasingly large, numbers of people are illiterate. In the church, there's increasing use of the visual for teaching, for example, the use of icons. If you go to an Orthodox church today, wall to wall icons, and some of that had to do with sort of AIDS to worship and AIDS to prayer, but some of it had to do with instruction. Often what the icons were purporting to do is teaching visually the story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. I visited churches in Greece and Turkey with the faculty a couple of years ago, and some of these are very moving, very powerful, but as powerful and potentially instructive as they might be. Often they were accompanied by some things which are very problematic. So you might have some powerful depiction of a scene from the life of Jesus and right side of right next to that might be a depiction of a scene from the infancy narratives of Jesus, which are not biblical and not canonical, and they're put up.


Side by side in such a way. Or alongside of the Jesus pictures of Jesus might be pictures of some traditional story that's been told and passed on that's not rooted in Scripture. And when they're side by side by side like that, then the clarity of what's being taught through those pictures gets muddled up very easily. What is biblical? What's not biblical? What's grounded in Scripture? What's a tradition that might be of interest but may not be historically reliable and certainly not at the same level of scripture alongside. The other problem with the icons, of course, is although the official teaching of the church would be that you don't worship the icon in practice, it's very easy to fall into that kind of error. And so there's some understanding of it. One thing just to keep in mind is whatever the problems potentially are for worship, the act, the reality is that we still use icons to teach. We don't call them that an evangelical churches. We call them flannel grafts in the Sunday school, for example. We call it the Jesus film that goes all over the world. We still use visual things to teach, particularly with certain populations. So that was one of the teachings things. The other way that teaching was done was through the development of the liturgy and through the development of the church here. The liturgy and the church here particularly become ways of teaching a specific thing. And I guess we could say two things that are being taught. The gospel is being taught through the liturgy and through the church here or said otherwise. What I like to call the story, the story of redemptive history is being taught through the church here, particularly what God has done in Jesus Christ.


And it turns out now that the church is picking up on something that was already done before them in Israel, in Israel, again, one of the ways that you tell the mighty deeds of the Lord was through the celebration of holy seasons and holy festivals. And in Judaism today, same thing. How do you teach the mighty deeds of the Lord in history for Israel? You teach it through Holy days and holy seasons. And so the church began to do this, too. We'll get into this a little bit later when we get to the how question, perhaps. But through the church here, the story of Jesus is told story of his birth, story of his death, story of his resurrection, story of a second coming. And it's told every year over and over and over again through some sort of attention to the church here. The other thing that we could talk about here is the at this point of the life is the growth of the monasteries. And in some cases, the monasteries play a really critical role in preserving education, in preserving literacy, and and presenting a new pattern for training. Again, there's problems as well as blessings, problems of sort of forming an elite ism. And only the elite get educated in the faith in-depth. But one of the things that happens at the monasteries, if you think about the Benedictine code, for example, one thing that's instructive for me, if I'm a Benedictine monk, my day has three features. My my day every day is divided into three things work. Study and prayer. Whatever else we might say, if we wanted to linger here about problems of the monasteries, there's something really wise here. And if we're going to build a Christian out of you, it's going to be a comprehensive approach.


It's not just going to be cognitive study experience. You're going to work. You're going to engage your hands. You're going to be busy about action and labor and your real work, the Opus Day, the real work of God. You're going to be prayer, a person of prayer, and you're going to be in a community of prayer and you're going to be committed to obedience and submission in a community. Very, very brief sketch there. Keep moving rapidly for just a few minutes. A couple of highlights from the Reformation in terms of C.E. Reformation highlights for C.E. some things that happened that we rejoice in in terms of Christian education, scripture given back to the people, put into the vernacular and made accessible to the people in the sovereignty of God. Just before these things happened, the printing presses on the scene and the people can have the scriptures in their own language. And as we mentioned, catechesis returns now primarily through the development of cataclysms because the printing presses in place carried catechetical instruction can be written, written, printed and distributed. And so in the Reformation, and this is a huge concern of every church actually get into the hands of people some succinct summary of the key points of the faith. So you give them the Bible back. You've got cataclysms in their hand. The use of the catechism is critical. Someone like Luther, Luther winds up having having a small catechism and a large catechism, and there's some attention now to again, spiritual development. Small catechism was for children and simple persons, and the large catechism was for those who are able to handle more. And there is a recovery of that sort of spiritual sensitivity in terms of development. Another key factor that I would highlight here is the emphasis on universal education.


All the reformers become keen on making sure that education in general is accessible to everyone, primarily so that once people are literate again, they can be instructed in the scriptures. And there's a great attention to this. Calvin's provides sort of an interesting model for us here that maybe later in class will return too. If I'm in Calvin's Geneva, my training is going to involve a couple of things. My education is going to involve some catechesis, which will be training specifically in the faith, but there's also training in the academy, which is going to be training in skills of reading and writing and thinking and just classical literature. One is specifically about shaping my ability to think and to reason and to articulate. And the other is about taking me deep into a particular content that is the content of the Christian faith. That's an interesting point that we'll return to in just a little bit. Priesthood of all believers is recaptured in a fresh way, Particularly, Luther puts some new emphasis on this idea of every vocation being a sacred vocation. And every Christian has an obligation to learn and to grow and to serve God. And then one thing that is another key factor based on what we've already said, congregational singing is restored in a fresh and vigorous way. As someone like Luther starts writing lots of hymns. And and again, the hymns are not only acts of worship, but they are great teachers as well. This model follows down into the Puritan model, and I think you had a chapter in your book about this where some of the emphasis of of the Puritan focus on Christian education that we could point out is the centrality of the preached word of God in the worship services where people are not just expected to be entertained for 22 minutes on a Sunday and get something warm and fuzzy and mushy on a Sunday.


But they're going to be deeply challenged and deeply instructed through the word of God. And there's also a return to the idea of the big dash. It's not called that, but the home is once again seen very clearly as a as a small church. The home is a small church and the father is a priest in the home. Just back to the Sunday school. And this is actually going to set us up for the what question. The Sunday school was developed in 1780 and two names that are usually associated with this, the name most commonly associated as Robert Raikes has the founder of the Sunday School movement. But the other name that sometimes also shows up is Hannah Ball, a woman, and she doesn't get as much mention, as much credit. I wonder sometimes if it's because she's a woman that she doesn't get as much attention or as much credit. But usually Robert Raikes name is identified here. Again, primarily, I would put it in our three spheres. I would put this in the outreach sphere. This is love of neighbor. This is compassion, evangelism and outreach. And it's reaching out to the poor children of England, working six days, gather them on the seventh day. Robert Rigs gathering them at his own expense for general instruction. And tremendous results occur. And so what happens? The Sunday school movement just explodes by 1785 or so. It crosses the across the pond and comes to the United States, and then it starts to spread rapidly across North America. It's a lay movement. In the early days, it's entirely lay led and it's a parish church movement. It's not really adopted by the local churches early. In fact, churches are suspicious of this because it's started by a layman.


And, you know, they're not so keen on this, but it begins to take off across the United States. And eventually the church says, boy, something hot is happening. We better pick up on this and the church adopts this and makes Sunday School the primary Christian education vehicle. When Sunday school gets adopted in the church, a couple of things happen. First of all, there is a loss of that kind of evangelistic compassion outreach element that begins to be diminished because that's what Sunday School was originally about. It's about loving your neighbor and going out of the church. But now it's about having people come into the church. It's no longer primarily evangelistic, it's primarily Christian education. That's one of the things that happens. There are some other things that I want to consider about the development of Sunday School. Lots of blessings upon the church in the last 200 years because of Sunday school. Lots of blessing. We could think of our own Christian experience. We could think of great Christian leaders who came to Christ in a Sunday school setting or were deeply formed in a Sunday school setting. Couple of problems. One of the problems we already talked about was pastors who had previously seen themselves as probably the primary Christian educator now start to distance themselves from that and begin to see themselves as something else. Administrators, preachers, but not necessarily teachers in the way that Baxter saw Pastor as a teacher. When the Sunday school movement is exploding across, North America is still primarily a lay movement and a parish church movement. And there is a need for equipping lay teachers. The movement's growing rapidly. Teachers need to be equipped and they need to be provided with some materials to teach. So in order to facilitate this, this lay movement.


There are Sunday school unions begin to be formed and the Sunday school unions are formed to support this labor movement, which is a parish church movement, and the unions are unions that is there, intra denominational unions. So now you have Presbyterians working with Baptists, working with Methodist in the Sunday school union to promote the cause of Sunday school as it goes westward. And that sounds like a great thing, but it caused a problem. It causes a hitch in the road. In the early days of the Sunday school movement, North America, still, most of the instruction, much of the instruction came from something like this, from a catechism. But now that we've got these cooperative unions across denominational lines, they start to bump into problems. Guess what? And we go back to that question about infant baptism again. Now, the Baptists and the Presbyterians really want to work together, but they realize they use a catechism and they've got disagreements about the sacraments and disagreements on a few other points. All the major stuff they agreed upon, they got disagreement. So the Sunday school unions start wrestling with this. They meet together, they convene to discuss what are we going to do. And ultimately the movement is away from cataclysms because cataclysms were going to bring to the rise some denominational problems and some doctrinal conflicts. So we have to find what we have as a basis for agreement, put our focus there, and they decide that here's the movement now, we will no longer teach this, we will teach this will no longer teach the catechism. We will teach the Bible. I've got a problem with that. Sounds pretty good to me. It sounds pretty good to me, because. Why? Well, because in teaching the Bible, we all commit to we all agree upon this sounds good.


But who's going to teach the Bible? And what do you mean when you say we're going to teach the Bible? And can you really teach the Bible without bumping into some doctrinal controversy? Well, perhaps if you focus on the safe part of the Bible, what would be safe? Maybe we could tell and put a focus on Bible stories, Bible stories. And so in time, because of the call for unity, the kinds of stuff that you just read in the Heidelberg Catechism, which is teaching on what Christians believe and exposition of the creed or teaching on how Christians behave, exposition of the Ten Commandments, or teaching on how Christians pray, exposition of the Lord's Prayer. That stuff is no longer dominating. Christian teaching now is Bible stories. I don't have a problem with the idea of saying, Let's teach the Bible. But remember, it coincides with the fact that pastors are increasingly distancing themselves from Christian education. And so what we find, say, for example, in most of our evangelical churches today is we have kids who to grow up in church and spent 15 years in church, and they're growing up years. And when they're 18, they can tell you, Jonah, in and out, upside and downside backwards. They know Jonah, they know Daniel. They know all the stories of the Bible. Can they articulate the faith? Not very well. Can I tell you the Ten Commandments? They I ask you if you can tell me the Ten Commandments. A hundred years ago every Christian could have. Today, not very many can. And it's ironic in a sense that in the name of unity, we moved away from the very things that had always been the basis of Christian unity. And I mean big picture unity even across Protestant and Catholic divide, because in the Catholic catechism, guess what's there? Same stuff that's in the Heidelberg Catechism handled very differently.


But the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, sacraments, same things were taught for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years to Christians of all stripes. But now we teach Bible stories. I like Bible stories, but it's inadequate if that's where we leave it.