Some sage has been credited with saying that “true confession is good for the soul.” In tandem with that thought, I will confess a few of my long-held and now very-dispensed-with Sabbath School suspicions. (I am a lifelong Adventist who has lived more than half-way toward 100 years!)
I confess that I used to think Sabbath School was all about a creative secretary’s report, a creative program, lengthy superintendent’s remarks, special music by those who could not qualify for prime-time performance, and teachers who figured they had to “say it all because they knew it all.” (Let’s not forget the unique ways of reporting daily lesson study.)
For years I thought these components were the model James White had in mind when he initiated Sabbath School in Rochester, New York, in 1853. After all, I had seen, felt, or heard very little else.
It is good that we serve a merciful God who responds to our needs even when we do not know what to specifically request. In time I came to learn the basic objective that the Holy Ghost was targeting with the establishment of Sabbath School. Ellen G. White states it in Counsels on Sabbath School Work: “The object of Sabbath School work should be the ingathering of souls” (p. 61). There it is! The basic objective of Sabbath School is soul winning – by any legitimate means necessary!
It occurs to me that to the degree that we prayerfully rivet our Sabbath School focus on our greatest ministry privilege, joining Christ in the soul-winning process, our atmosphere, attitudes, and service will be charged with productive energy.
I am happy to be a part of a Sabbath School System that emphasizes going back to the basics of facilitating a strengthened Sabbath School by emphasis on the Sabbath School class as a wholistic prayer, nurture, reclamation, fellowship, study, and outreach cell of the local congregation.
I am happy to be a part of a Sabbath School system that emphasizes going back to the basics of emphasizing, in all operations, these four objectives of Sabbath School:
- study of the Word;
- community outreach; and
- world missions.
I am happy to be a part of a Sabbath School System that acknowledges that we can tend to minister most efficiently when grouped with persons with whom we may share similar sociological interests. For instance, what if those with a fellowship, study, social service/activist, or multi-interest social orientation had particular Sabbath School classes - with the ultimate basic objective of soul winning and soul strengthening?
I am happy to be a part of a Sabbath School system that encourages the teacher to serve more in the role of a leader/facilitator of a group process.
I am happy to be part of a Sabbath School system that encourages growth:
- Through print opportunities, such as Sabbath School Leadership
- Through internet and satellite television sites, such as these:
- Cool Tools for Sabbath School (http://cq.adventist.org)
- Sabbath School University (http://Adventist.tv)
As the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School moves beyond year 150, it is a comfort to know that the coordinates for our Sabbath School system are set to guide us deeper into the Holy Ghost-designed objective of “the ingathering of souls.”
In this case “true confession is good for the soul.” It is my privilege to confess to you that I am filled with “Jesus joy” when I experience Sabbath Schools that have gone back to the basics. My prayer is that more of the next 150 years will be spent celebrating Sabbath School with James White and Jesus in heaven!
J. Alfred Johnson, II
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists