by Sellers Crain
Like many in my generation in churches of Christ, I grew up when the adult Bible school curriculum was the Bible. One would think that was a good thing, but how many times have you heard the teacher say, “Now where did we get too last week? ” Once I attended a class where one of the elders was teaching on the book of Revelation using B. W. Johnson’s People’s New Testament. He would read the scripture text, then read Johnson’s comments at the bottom, and then ask, “Are there any questions? ” After which he would repeat the same process. It helped me to realize there has to be a better way.
It has been my good fortune to write adult material for most of our brotherhood publishing houses. It is my conviction that a guided curriculum that covers the entire Bible in four or five years is the best approach for adult classes. We just completed a four-year cycle called Bible Study Guide for All Ages. As with most guided materials, it rotated from the Old Testament to the New Testament. It was suggested that this material be taught in all of our classes from the children to the adults, and with a few exceptions we followed that model. Their point was that if the parents, grandparents and the children were studying the same material it would provide an opportunity for the parents or the grandparents to discuss the lessons with their children. At least some of our people said this worked out quite well. The material was good, but the approach was even better, and I recommend it. However, at this time we have gone back to a guided study for all of our lower grades, and different studies for our adult classes.
During most of the year, I teach three classes, two once a week, and another class which meets twice a month. Our Tuesday morning class, which is made up mostly of older male and female retirees, is called The Faith and Works Class. We are studying this session some lessons I wrote several years ago on Parables from the Old Testament. Before beginning a new study, I first ask the class what they would like to study and if there are no suggestions, I will usually make two or three from which they will chose one. My two suggestions this time were The Parables of Jesus, and Parables from the Old Testament.
When I asked my Wednesday night class if they would like the study the biblical background for the problems in the middle east, most of them seemed eager to do so, and we have had some people attending who have not been attending the Wednesday night class. Personally, I feel this was a much-needed subject due to the problems we are facing in our world and in our own nation. There are a lot of good materials out there on this subject. Some of the resources I am using are:
- “Biblical Backgrounds of the Troubled Middle East” by Guy N. Woods (Gospel Advocate 1991)
- “The Quran Unveiled: Islam and New Testament Christianity in Conflict” by Dr. Dave Miller (Apologetics Press 2005)
- “Sharia Law for Non-Muslims” by Bill Warner (Center for the Study of Political Islam 2010)
- “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)” by Robert Spencer (Regnery Publishing, Inc.)
Thus far we have studied the Biblical backgrounds involving Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, and their descendants, the Arab people and the Israelites and the early life of Mohammad, and an introduction to Islam. At this point in time, there is a lot of interest n this subject, and it is one that is much needed. In further studies we will examining Sharia Law its meaning and implications for us, the difference between Allah and Jehovah God, the difference between Mohammad and Jesus Christ, and compare the Quran (Koran) and the Bible.
My class, which meets on the second and fourth Thursday nights, is engaged in a study of The Life of Christ. While I am using many resources in my preparation, our primary source is a study guide on the Life of Christ: The Life and Teaching of Jesus from the Gospels written by Richard Rogers (Sunset International Bible Institute 1995). Since it is divided into outline form it is an easy guide to follow. I am also using materials from my own study done over fifty-one years in ministry. The number attending is small, but this allows for a lot of participation and discussion.
Here are some suggestions I would make for developing an adult curriculum for a local church. First, find points of interest. Ask what people are interested in studying. Second, give the class some options. Suggest three or four things you might feel are needed, and again, be open for any suggestions they might make. Third, lessons from current events are usually very appreciated because it relates to things class members are thinking about. One example is the
Muslim study. Fourth, do not shy away from good material. Admittedly, as I have said, I write a lot of my own material for publication, but then I always use that material here in classes or in sermons. We have several good publishers, and they offer a wide variety of materials for adult study. Fifth, Jesus used the question and answer method of teaching, and it proved very effective. I would not suggest using this type of study for a long period, but it can be a useful change of pace.
Brother Ira North is credited with saying, “As the Bible school goes, so goes the church.” He did say that often, but he rightfully gave the credit to C. J. Garner. The adult classes should be the best example of meaningful Bible study.
Sellers Crain serves as an elder and minister for the Rivergate Church of Christ in Madison, TN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.