The Christian person is a builder. The building he is working on is his character, and the plan for the building is God’s revelation.
It is necessary for a builder to study the details of a plan in order to construct a building that corresponds to the plan. Something like this should be taking place in Sabbath School classes. The detail of God’s revelation is studied and discussed with a view to building character according to the plan. “Many fail of imitating our holy Pattern because they study so little the definite features of that character” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 393). The Sabbath School class is one of the occasions to study the plan revealed in the life of Jesus and in the Bible.
But study of the plan will not construct the building; and study of God’s revelation will not of itself build a character. The members of the class must apply the detail of the revelation to their daily living. The theoretical and the practical must be combined by the learners in order to advance their goal of character development. Ellen White has also observed that the virtues of Christ’s character are borrowed from Him by having a knowledge of His habits, words, and lessons as observed in the written Word. (See Signs of the Times, October 30, 1884.)
Character development requires acting on what one has learned. Fortunately, the process by which character is developed corresponds to a principle of learning motivation. This principle is that learners find significant meaning in a class where they learn new ideas that are related to actual life and about which they can make a commitment to act.
It may be helpful to examine briefly the main points given above, and what the implications are for the Sabbath School teacher.
Discuss specific details of the lesson. It is not effective to deal only in generalities. For example, instead of noting that Jesus was a loving person generally, discuss the specific ways in which He was loving; or instead of noting that Jesus was a forgiving person, discuss the specific instances in which He forgave people.
Lead to new ideas. The class session should result in the learners’ finding of new insights into the Bible. If nothing new, where is learning? It is thus important that the teacher be constantly searching for fresh new thoughts from the Word, and new approaches to the subject are being studied.
Do not confuse novelty or cleverness with good sound ideas gleaned from the study of the Bible. Not all new thoughts need originate with the teacher. The students can be motivated by the teacher’s example to bring to class their new understandings of Scripture.
- Emphasize practicable ideas. Since the doing of the truth is a step in the process of character development, and since character development is the goal of the Sabbath School class, then ideas should be developed in the class that can be practiced in daily life. These practicable ideas should be developed in such a way that each class member will see clearly the relation between the idea and everyday life.
- Lead to commitment. Lead the class to a commitment to live out what they have learned. This commitment to doing the truth is preferably a commitment to do it at the first opportunity, and before the idea has faded from the learners’ minds.
The action that follows religious learning does not necessarily appear to be religious action. It is the action of everyday life allowed by the holy principles from which it derives. The practice of honesty, truthfulness, kindness, etc., may not look religious, but these are the practice of religious principles.
Life is not meant to be spent in continual thought, nor in unrelenting activity. It is the blending of thought and action that gives reality to the thought and meaning to the action.
The blending of thought and action in your Sabbath School class can spark a new interest in the Bible.
W. Richard Lesher
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists