Sabbath School superintendents are expected to have power beyond that bestowed by the church that enables them to serve—Holy Spirit power. Have you ever felt so empowered? Have you ever felt powerless? Matthew 17:15-21 is the story about a power shortage experienced by Jesus’ disciples. I’ll run through a short version of the story:
- Jesus and His disciples were engaged with the multitude.
- A man kneeled before Jesus with a plea for his son who had a history of falling into the fire and water. The father’s despair was evident when he reported, “I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
- Jesus rebuked the devil, and the child was cured—that very hour.
- The healing was a glad-sad experience for the disciples, who went privately to Jesus and asked why they couldn’t rid the boy of the demon.
The disciples asked a good question. They were with Jesus every day. They ate with Jesus, and they resided with Him. They were constantly in His presence. They were the leaders of the then-known church. Yet they had insufficient power, a power shortage.
The disciples’ question prompts introspection. Sabbath School superintendents must be with Jesus every day through prayer, study of His Word as well as other resources that He has provided, plus application of the knowledge. A big question that each superintendent must explore is whether their time with Jesus is reflected in their service and their personal life—their “I can” and “go”—despite the constant onslaught of Satan.
Let’s look closely at the minuses (-) and pluses (+) in the disciples’ power source to see what lessons may be there for Sabbath School superintendents:
- Minus (-): Unbelief (Matt. 17:20). The disciples didn’t have that “mustard seed” kind of faith that can move mountains. Are you still struggling with issues from last month, last quarter, last year, or problems of many years’ duration? Every superintendent’s faith must permeate each program, every Sabbath School council meeting, every session of the church board, and every period of class facilitation for all age groups, as well as interactions in the halls and parking lots. All areas of ministry must reflect the higher-than-us wattage with which the Holy Spirit enables and sustains vibrant, productive ministries of the Sabbath School.
- Minus (-): Disconnect (Matt. 17:21). Apparently, another “loose wire” in the disciples’ attempt to heal the boy was that they had not “fasted” before addressing the problem. When superintendents want the Lord to do tremendous work within and through the Sabbath School, there are situations that require them to “turn their plates down”—to fast—as they seek the Lord with all of their heart, spirit, time, and effort. Some wise ones suggest that fasting should be a regular part of the life of leaders who never know when they will be confronted with a situation that requires it. Also suggested is that leaders may need to “get back” to the situation, taking time to fast before attempts to resolve challenges.
- Plus (+): Prayer (Matt. 17:21). As a superintendent pours out his or her heart to God in prayer, the challenge will become smaller, and so will the superintendent’s role as God’s will and way come to the forefront.
- Plus (+): Persistence and Transparency (Matt. 17:14-16). When the disciples failed to come through for the father, he pursued Jesus. Superintendents who persist in seeking God’s intervention and in taking Him at His Word as the father did access the power that removes obstacles and opens doors. The father in Matthew 17 let Jesus see and hear his helplessness and feel the trust he had in His power to change his son’s condition. So the father experienced a power surge.
A humble, teachable spirit enables superintendents to access the power of God (Ps. 51:17). And if superintendents know how to give good gifts to their children (team members and church members), how much more willing is God to do even more (Matt. 7:11).
Power: God knows the needs. You know the requirements. Are you having power surges or shortages?
Gina S. Brown
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists