Douglas R. Young
Some may find it extremely difficult to answer the question, “Where is the church of Christ headed?” Many in the church of our Lord are “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). What has caused such deterioration among us? With such a condition ever before us, this author sees very little difference in our present situation in comparison to the condition of Israel in the days of Hosea. The nation of Israel was suffering from “a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). In rejecting the knowledge of God, God would ultimately reject them as His people. The inspired penman of the book of Proverbs published, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). It is interesting to note that the word vision in this particular text is not what we might think it is. It refers to some sort of revelation or oracle. Without the word of God, the people perish indeed! This completely harmonizes with Hosea 4:6. We are in dire need of being taught exclusively “the law of the Lord” which is perfect converting the soul (Psalm 19:7), the “engrafted word” which is able to save the soul (James 1:21), and the “gospel” in which we can stand (I Corinthians 15:1). It is sad to note that some people seek to drink at the fountain of knowledge while others simply gargle thereby. What we do with the word of God determines in many ways the quality of our Christianity.
As a Christian, the Bible class teacher has an enormous opportunity and responsibility. Are our Bible class teachers willing to count the cost of their efforts? When families fail to teach their children the Bible, as they ought to in the home setting, the Bible class teacher must seize the opportunity. It is going to take leadership to provide what may be lacking in the home with respect to Bible instruction in order to prevent the church from continuing in this downward direction. What type of leadership is needed of the Bible class teacher? Let us look at what occurred in Nehemiah 8 with Ezra and the remnant that returned from Babylonian captivity and notice the solid pattern for leadership therein. This author hopes that the following will provide a simple pattern for us to follow.
Leadership in Manner of Life
In approximately 458 BC, Ezra the scribe lead the second group of captives back to Jerusalem. The eighth, ninth, and tenth chapters of the book of Ezra tell us much about his character and trust in God. Ezra was a leader among the people. No passage may say more about this scribe than what is found in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” This should be a model for all Bible class teachers to want to follow. There is no reason to doubt why when the congregation gathered together, as is recorded in Nehemiah 8, they wanted Ezra to bring them the Law of Moses. I am sure that this people, who desired a restoration of the law of Moses, had no problems with the character and loyalty of Ezra. Likewise the church today is in need of respectable, godly, and honest Bible class teachers.
Some congregations think that the best thing for a struggling Christian is a Bible class to teach. This is a grievous error in judgment. The youth of today are not ignorant. They will refuse to listen to those in whom they can place no confidence. Can you blame them? Paul charged the young preacher Timothy to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation (manner of life), in charity, in faith, in purity” (I Timothy 4:12). The Bible class teacher first of all is to lead through his/her life!
Leadership in Method of Instruction
Notice that Ezra did not read from anything but the text of the Torah (Nehemiah 8:1-3). Bible class teachers are to be exactly that, teachers of the Bible. There comes a point in time when particular topics should be studied that may, and I emphasize “may,” call for some outside sources, especially for the early ages of childhood. However, the church needs to place emphasis on having a “Back to the Bible” class program and not just “Back to the Bible” emphasis from the pulpit.
Secondly notice that Ezra not only read from the Torah, but he read from the text “distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (v. 8). The Bible class teacher is to convey a message to the class. The Bible class teacher is to assist in communicating and causing students to understand the word of God. He read distinctly so that it was clear for all to hear. He told them what the Torah meant so that they could make a personal application. Ezra’s discourse was not one of personal testimony, discussion of Jewish political status, nor a conglomerate of “feel good” stories to alleviate worry from the congregation. He taught them the will of the Lord and nothing else. Our Bible classes today must emphasize the text and not testimonials, application and not acclamation, godliness and not gimmicks. We too must be taught the will of God so that we can make the proper application to our lives and live as God commands.
Leadership in the Message Presented
As was emphasized above, Ezra read to them from the word of God. It is to be noted once again that the message was not of man but of God. God was the source of the divine message. At that point in time, it was God’s pattern for the Jewish people, and they must therefore understand their purpose and live accordingly. The Bible class teacher in this day and age must teach the class not necessarily what it wants to hear but what it needs to hear. People may want to study something other than the text, yet it is “the word of life” (Philippians 2:16) that furnishes the Christian completely “unto every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). As good as some outside resources may be, when the text is shoved aside for something else, we may be setting ourselves up for disaster.
You may be saying, “Brother Young is sure against outside resources for a Bible class” but such statements must be taken in view of our present condition. There are many Christians who cannot point another person to the passages in the New Testament that teach what a person needs to do to be saved. How many in our congregations actually can tell the story of the Old Testament to illustrate the plan God utilized to bring Christ into the world? Please understand that this author is not saying that the entirety of the church is ignorant of the Scriptures. But there are many among us like those of Hebrews 5:12, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.” The problem of Hebrews 5:12 may be the most serious problem the church is to face in our time. We cannot over emphasize the need for the text to be taught.
If each individual congregation centered itself upon utilizing good, sound, and solid teachers, we can control the direction we are heading. Remember, the Truth of Proverbs 29:18. Likewise, the Psalmist recognized the value of having the word of God within the heart (Psalm 119:9-11). The New Testament likewise seethes with passages describing the need for the word of God to be a part of our lives. We must meditate upon God’s precepts. Leadership in the Bible class can fill a void in people’s lives that may change a person entirely. The word of God has that kind of power. Let us utilize the mind of God, for it is before us on the pages of Holy Writ, to make a difference in our Bible classes!
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