Teaching adult Sunday School is one of the joys of my life. In this particular class we’ve spent three weeks exploring faith and poetry. The point I want to make isn’t about the subject matter, however, it is about the participants.
What I have found (consistently over the years) is that the classes tend to grow in numbers from week to week, and the questions and discussions among the participants are phenomenal. These classes, I believe, are so lively for one simple reason: The people in our churches are hungry to be taken seriously. They are eager to have placed at their disposal the rich treasury of resources our faith provides for dealing with life.
I say this because I believe many Protestant churches tend to trivialize the faith of, and are habitually condescending toward, their members. Many religious leaders treat the people of God as though they are morons. They most certainly are not.
The adult class I’ve been teaching lately is fairly representative of adults in most of the churches I have taught over the years: teachers, business people, accountants, bankers, lawyers, and medical professionals. The classes are made up of people from all walks of life and various educational backgrounds. There are people in the group who have been Christians for many years; others who have only recently come to church and are new to the Christian faith. But here’s the thing. I am a lay person in all of their fields, and am much less capable of conversing knowledgeably about the work they do than they are about theological matters. They are sharp, inquisitive and eager to learn more about their faith, and many of them already have deeper understandings of faith than I have. They are people who seek to understand their lives and the world around them faithfully and truly. I think most of them deserve a medal for putting up with the pabulum dispensed to them week in and week out.
They deserve better, especially if we believe – with St. Paul – that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ by the renewing of our minds.
Michael Jinkins is dean and professor of pastoral theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas. He blogs regularly on The Presbyterian Outlook blog — www.pres-outlook.org/blog.html.