Tag Archives: Southern

Interview: LifeWay Southern Baptist teacher David Francis about Sunday school, the strong program, by Peter Menkin

Interview: LifeWay Southern Baptist teacher David Francis about Sunday school, the strong program, by Peter Menkin

In a letter via email, LifeWay’s David Francis, Director, Sunday school, Discipleship, Church & Network Partnerships, LifeWay Church Resources, supplies a response to this writer’s inquiry regarding Southern Baptists, the Sunday School Church.   He responds in part to questions asked of Sharon Ely Pearson of the Episcopal Church in her earlier interview. The answers themselves provide a context for his statement. But note his email carries this quotation: “As God works through us . . . We will help people–through churches–know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.”   The questions with answers are found below this email letter, an informative and full reply that has the mark of inspiration and spontaneity:   The email letter: Sunday school remains a strong program of ministry in Southern Baptist churches. On a typical Sunday in our denomination, about 6 million people will gather for worship in SBC congregations. About 4 million will attend Sunday school, or two out of three worshipers. My estimate is that these folks will attend one of more than 400,000 Sunday school classes. Well over half of those who attend one of these classes, typically meeting on Sunday mornings before or after a worship service, will be adults.

In an analysis I conducted with Eric Geiger, co-author with LifeWay President Thom Rainer of the popular book Simple Church, we found that in a sample of the SBC’s most vibrant churches, over 87% operated Sunday school–or its functional equivalent by another name–as the critical “second step” in their church’s discipleship process. 50% of these groups simply called the program “Sunday School.” The rest used a different term, although I would agree with one of the comments made in response to the Episcopalian article that most of the folks still just call it “Sunday School” regardless of any new, official, cool name!

The other 12.5%? Those churches’ primary “Step 2” strategy was off-campus small groups–at least for the adults. This is a shift in Southern Baptist church practice, to be sure. Nevertheless, Sunday school remains very strong.

In terms of broader “faith formation,” the term preferred by your Episcopal source, Sharon Ely Pearson, Southern Baptist churches have traditionally operated another program ministry to help members grow more deeply in their faith, defend its doctrines, and equip themselves for ministry and missions.   This program is typically called “Discipleship” or “Discipleship Training.” That name has evolved more than “Sunday School.” It was originally “Baptist Young People’s Union,” then “Training Union,” then “Church Training,” then “Discipleship Training,” and now typically just “Discipleship” or some name that includes the word, such as “University of Discipleship.”   Typically, the occasion for “Discipleship” offers a variety of elective options. That occasion has typically been on Sunday evenings, before an evening service. In some churches, the occasion is Wednesday evenings. In others, these elective courses are offered at various times throughout the week.   The important thing to note is that in terms of “faith formation,” this program ministry represents sort of a “third step” in a discipleship process where worship attendance is step 1 and a Sunday school class or small group is step 2. Hope that makes sense! Or provides you some ammo for a probing question!

Part of our assignment at LifeWay is to provide curriculum materials for both Sunday school and Discipleship groups. Our full name is LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we are governed by a Board elected by the convention, and are therefore an SBC entity. We enjoy a broad base of customers from many denominations, however.   LifeWay also operates a chain of LifeWay Christian Stores and produces Bibles and trade books through our B&H Publishing Division, along with the products and services offered through the division where I work, LifeWay Church Resources.       The Interview: Is salvation individual, and if it is how the congregational or Church experience does enter into the experience and faith formation process? In what way does LifeWay introduce a concept of individual salvation and the salvation of the congregation and Church?

Salvation is individual for Baptists over against a “covenant” understanding of salvation held by those in some faith walks (such as the Presbyterian Church in which I was raised!). Here is a link to the article on “Salvation” from the Baptist Faith & Message, a statement generally agreed to (but not a creed that is binding on) by Southern Baptists.Jerry Vogel, Director of Childhood Ministry Publishing at LifeWay, wrote: “Salvation is definitely an individual response/decision. The church experience for children should include some type of small group learning experience. LifeWay resources begin at birth to lay the foundation upon which God’s Spirit can work and draw each child unto Himself in a personal relationship.    These concepts from birth through Preteen are represented in our Levels of Biblical Learning document showing the natural progression of learning precept upon precept by children. Significant adults in the church congregation provide the environment of unconditional love and trust building needed for children to begin their faith journey.   A well-planned scope and sequence provided in LifeWay childhood resources (continued throughout all of LifeSpan, providing foundations for salvation for all focus age groups beyond childhood) helps guide teachers along a balanced journey of creating learning environments for children to “hear, know and do” God’s Word.)”

Note: The Levels of Biblical Learning document Vogel refers to is quite impressive, and is a great visual depiction of how LifeWay approaches 10 basic biblical concepts from a developmental view.  

Together, these documents illustrate our approach to “Faith Development.” We have similar guidelines that guide our approach to students (youth) and adults:

How is Sunday school Christian oriented? That is student and teacher?

Sunday school teachers must be Christians. The students need not be. That includes adults. We promote Sunday school as “open groups practicing open enrollment.”   I have coined a five-word definition of an open group: “Expects new people every week.” An open group is an intentional mixture of believers and unbelievers, Baptists and non-Baptists, veteran and “rookie” church-goers. In fact, any person can enroll in any Sunday school class at any time, without making any obligation–to become a church member or even a Christ follower.   The way I say it is “Enrolling in Sunday School does not make you a church member or obligate you to become one.” I also have a five-word definition of this concept of “open enrollment:” You can belong before you believe.” Even if you never choose to believe. These principles are two of the distinctive of how Sunday school is practiced in many Southern Baptist churches.

What new directions are taken with students, re previous decades? Please speak to the new wave experience of Cell Groups.

I actually “debated” LifeWay’s small groups specialist, Rick Howerton, in a live on-line format recently on the topic “Sunday School vs. Small Groups.”
The number one challenge for the small group movement is the question, “What do you do with the kids?” Or, more seriously, at least from the standpoint of faith development, “What do you do meaningfully with the kids?” LifeWay has a brand new resource, Small Group Life that attempts to address that question.   In addition to inexpensive Bible study guides for each participant, who are flexible enough to be used either every week or every other week, free online helps are available for Bible-centered activities with the kids–written in such a way that a teenager can execute the plans–that connect conceptually to the material being studied by the parents. Samples available here. 

Does praise of God enter into the equation of Sunday school? What component does this hold in the formal Curriculum?

Music has historically been an important element of Southern Baptist Sunday Schools. Back in the pioneer days of the Sunday school movement, when Sunday Schools met many places where there was no organized church or formal worship/preaching experience, Sunday Schools conducted “opening assemblies,” where participants gathered together before going to their individual age-group classes. Singing was an important part of this “general assembly.”   Fewer and fewer churches continue this practice today, but some do. In terms of curriculum, all of LifeWay’s Sunday school materials for preschoolers and students include music as an important element. Preschool music is available as a separate resource, a CD-ROM that includes additional teaching materials as well as music.   My wife and I teach pre-K kids in our church. Yesterday, we began a unit on prayer. I put the CD in the player and set it to repeat a song about thanking God. After hearing it all morning, the kids were ready to sing it when we gathered for “large group time” to hear the Bible story. In LifeWay’s curriculum materials for elementary children, the music CD is included in the Leader Pack. Words to all songs on the CDs are printed in the back of the leader guides. LifeWay’s innovative curriculum for youth, KNOWN, includes an mp3 playlist: 

Music as well as serial dramas are a feature of LifeWay’s DVD-driven youth curriculum, called Fuel.

I am looking for paster Raul Ries of Calvary Church out of Southern California he is coming to Las Vegas?

Question by Deborah Darlene Dawson: I am looking for paster Raul Ries of Calvary Church out of Southern California he is coming to Las Vegas?
he is coming to Spring Valley,Nv. to do a sermon with 2 other pasters

Best answer:

Answer by Ahal
Try the yellow pages in NV.

Give your answer to this question below!

Southern Baptist Seminary Guest Speaker Examines Sin: Admirable Talk In An Ongoing Series Of Subjects By Peter Menkin

Southern Baptist Seminary Guest Speaker Examines Sin: Admirable Talk In An Ongoing Series Of Subjects By Peter Menkin

Southern Baptist seminary guest speaker examines sin: admirable talk in an ongoing series of subjects
by Peter Menkin

Guest speaker examines sin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California for 40 minutes speaking before students, their friends, and the public with the theme, “We can win in our war against sin in our life.” Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick tells how belief influences behavior, citing Romans 6 the Bible during his admirable talk. Readers can hear the sermon in its entirety here.

Part of an ongoing series of sermons by speakers as well as faculty spokeswoman for the Southern Baptist seminary says, “…we often have music (songs and instruments) prior to the sermon – with the attendees singing – very much like a church worship service.” Upcoming guests can be found on the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) website here. “Attendees include students, staff and faculty. The public is welcome, and depending on the speaker, others may attend. For instance, Robert Wilkins will be the speaker selected by our African American Christian Fellowship. He is Young Adult Pastor, Allen Temple Baptist Church and President and CEO, YMCA of the East Bay, located in Oakland.”

Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick (Crosspointe Baptist Church) Vancouver, Washington, spoke with this writer.

Note that remarks from the sermon are briefly reported, then significantly followed by comments from Pastor Fitzpatrick on his sermon, as given in an email interview with this writer. Pastor Fitzpatrick answered the questions from his home in Vancouver, Washington, which is near Portland, Oregon.

The preacher starts off by preaching, “’While we’re always told to live a holy life, Romans 6:11-14 tells us how to do so. You can win in your war against sin.’”
Dr. Fitzpatrick is a Doctor of Ministry graduate of Golden Gate Seminary, an adjunct professor at the Seminary’s Pacific Northwest Campus.

The statement from GGBTS ends its report on the sermon with, “Fitzpatrick concluded by urging his listeners to ‘begin new every morning; to commit yourselves daily and to surrender your body and your mind – to offer yourself before the Lord. That is the way to win in your war against sin.’”

The Interview with Pastor Jim Fitzpatrick

From your sermon you say your favorites are Romans 6-8 (two of them). Will you tell me which quotes they are, and cite them or give me the text? These 3 chapters, Romans 6,7, and 8 are my favorites because of their emphasis on growing as Christians to become the holy people God desires us to be. I especially like chapter 8:1- therefore, there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus and 8:31-39 which teaches that believers are secure in Christ. The chapter begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation for believers.

Do you refer to the Bible as reference and source frequently when speaking in the pulpit at Golden Gate Theological Seminary because of the imperative directed by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and others who want Southern Baptist seminaries to rely more heavily on Biblical statement or source? Or are there other reasons? No, I was not aware of what Dr. Mohler said. My belief is that the Bible is God’s written communication to us. It is the source of authority. My comments as a pastor/teacher have no power on their own. The power/authority comes from the written Word of God (The Bible). I am one of many who are considered expository preachers. I always preach directly from the Bible and typically work my way through entire books, line upon line, precept upon precept.

Does your work with youth leadership lead you in this sermon as you find relevance for seminary students, though all may not be so young? Still, they are students. What is your focus for seminary students, as a tone? I just know that all of us, regardless of age struggle with the same issues. For the believer who deeply desires to live a godly life, sin and temptation are continual enemies. I felt it made sense to speak to this particular audience on this topic of Victory over Sin because it is something all Christ- followers desire in our lives.

You say, “You can win in your war against sin.” I note you use Romans 6: 11-14. What specifically tells you this is so? Why Paul, and do you lean towards Paul in your own faith and work as a pastor? These verses are very clear. God wants us to have victory over sin. Each of the four verses clearly teach that or allude to it in some way. Victory over sin does not mean we will ever be sinless in this life, but we can sin less and less as we apply the concepts found in these verses. I don’t necessarily lean towards Paul in my preaching, although I do like the 13 books of the New Testament that he wrote.

Though this question has been touched on, How did you find the seminary listener different from others you’ve had the opportunity to address in a sermon? I am not sure. Again, my feeling is that all people have similar questions, issues, hang ups etc. I do know that I presupposed some Bible knowledge and understanding that I may not have assumed with an audience that does not know the scriptures as thoroughly as this audience does.

Tell us a few words about man as sinner, and why did you choose this topic? We are all sinners. We were born into sin and we willingly choose sin. I chose the topic because we are all in the same boat. We all sin, we all struggle, and we all need help beyond ourselves to defeat sin.

I did like your statement on belief influencing behavior. It is compelling and promising. Is there more to say on, Why or how does our belief influence behavior? Will you say a little more for readers? We act on what we truly believe. If we say we believe something but never act upon it, my guess is we may not really believe it at all. For example, as a follower of Christ, I believe there are not many ways to God but one – faith in Jesus Christ. Because I believe that, I am motivated to share this truth with others.

You don’t mention the devil, as I recall. Is sin created by the devil? So many people would like to know what you think who will look at this article about your sermon on sin. I did not mention the Devil, only because he is not mentioned in this passage. However, I certainly believe in the Devil – the Bible speaks quite a bit about Satan. We see from other passages that the Devil is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver etc. He certainly influences people to sin, although we are responsible for our own sins. I don’t believe it is correct to say the Devil created sin. Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of the serpent (the Devil) of their own free will. Jesus was tempted by the Devil, but did not choose to sin.

A logical follow-up to the previous question, at least as it occurs to me: Why can’t man ever be sinless? In a Bible study I attended recently in San Francisco’s Bay Area a man declared more than hopefully that because of Jesus Christ we are forgiven of sin. He believed that and wanted to believe it. We can never be sinless in this life because we are all born with a sin nature = a desire and an ability to sin. The sin nature does not go away when we come to Christ. I would wholeheartedly agree with the man from the Bible Study. Jesus Christ came to bring forgiveness of sin. When we put our faith and trust in Christ as our Savior, we receive the forgiveness for all of our sins – past, present, and future.

Believers will probably be right with you when you say, Sin is slavery. One is free to go, when emancipated, as your story of Abraham Lincoln explained. What does free mean? I did hear you say in your sermon, it means, “Free to live with Jesus.” Anything else? Someone who is free has choices. Believers are free from the control of sin. We don’t have to choose to sin. Instead we are free to make choices that honor and please God.

Your sermon is more than upbeat, it is positive in its statements of promise regarding sin and Jesus Christ. You say, We can win in our war against sin in our life. Have you known anyone who is losing in their war against sin in their life? What has it done to them? I think many believers live defeated lives. The reason for this is often we do not fully embrace the new life we have been given. Christians are not just improved people, they are transformed people. I regularly deal with people who struggle to walk with God and live the kind of life God requires/desires.

Your sermon ends with how sin is a matter of the heart, not the mind. You tell a good story to illustrate this belief. In the sermon that lasts about 40 minutes, and a Southern Baptist sermon can be longer, is that not so? My question becomes: Is it the pastor’s job to help the heart solely, and that of your typical Baptist in the pew? I think effective preaching engages the mind, heart, and will all at once. Christianity is a religion of faith, but our faith is not some crazy leap in the dark. It is more of a step into the light. Christians used to be at the forefront of intellectualism in our society. I think some preaching is strong in volume, but weak in content. The issues we face in life are matters of the heart. We struggle sometimes because our wills are weak. Therefore, it is essential to go after the mind, heart, and will in preaching.

To the final question, and there is a long quote from Luther at the end, so stay with me if you will. Your thoughts and wisdom are invited. Question: Is there a similarity in the different ways Christians see sin. As an example, the following quotation found on an internet discussion list, Yahoo’s Monasticlife. Please comment: Grace is the key word in understanding all that motivates God to be involved in our lives. Grace

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

Interview: Theology Professor tells about cell groups and Sunday schools in Southern Baptist Church by Peter Menkin

We talked by phone of the design of the Southern Baptist Church, and I note that it is comprised of more classroom and educational setting than worship space. That isn’t to say worship space is small. We also talked about cell groups, a recent phenomenon of Sunday school where people gather to study scripture and other related Church matters in a small group, sometimes in a home setting.   Will you tell me something of the beginnings of this “movement” in the Southern Baptist Church, and how it has grasped the imagination of Church goers?   Southern Baptists were formed in 1845 around values of winning souls, educating and training members for effective Christian living and service in the US and around the world. In 1909, a man named Arthur Flake was recruited from Mississippi to work for the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville. At that time, there were about a million persons in Southern Baptist Sunday schools. In forty years, that number would grow to six million and well beyond. Some of this growth was due to a book Flake wrote entitled How to Build a Standard Sunday School, which was studied by over a million Southern Baptist workers. This book taught Flake’s famous five-fold formula for Sunday school growth:   1) Know the possibilities, 2) Enlarge the organization, 3) Enlist and train leaders, 4) Expand the space, and 5) Go after the people. Southern Baptist pastors often recited the Flake mantra that “the formula works only if you work the formula!”         Who came up with the Cell Sunday School, or small group, and how have Sunday School students of various ages responded to this?   Can you tell us where in the Bay Area or even California or the U.S. where this is more popular, and something of the character of the Southern Baptist Church that takes this methodology of direction.   (I know, methodology is a big word, so if you want to provide an example to help take it out of the professional level that only the Sunday School teacher really grasps, please do. Or do most Southern Baptists grasp this Small Group or Cell Group Sunday School method today?)   Southern Baptist innovative pastor Ralph Neighbour Jr. first brought cell groups to the attention of SBC churches. He studied the tremendous growth of cell group churches in Korean and published a book called “Where Do we Go from Here?” He later backed away from the argumentative tone of the book, which really argued that cell groups and Sunday school were incompatible in the same church. His book lays out the principles and best practices for starting and multiplying cell churches.    The attraction for Southern Baptists for the cell or small group method has been fourfold. First, Southern Baptists are pragmatists and love to look into if not imitate what’s successful. It’s hard to argue with the success of the Yoida Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea with its near 800,000 well disciple members.   That church is based on cell groups.   Second, Baptists love what’s biblical. They want to be “New Testament churches.” The cell group or house church appears to be the norm for the spread of Christianity in the first century through the ministry of the apostles and other early missionaries.   Cell groups look more like those New Testament house churches than do Sunday School classes on church property, so many SBC churches are moving in that direction.  Third, buildings cost so it is more cost effective and less limiting to growth to simply have cells meet in homes.    Fourth, people wanting to explore Christianity are thought to be more comfortable in a home of a friend as opposed to a classroom on church property. So many SBC leaders believe that cell or small groups meeting in homes is the better way of reaching new people with the gospel.         The education of a Southern Baptist starts in the baby years, and goes through childhood to adulthood, a Discipleship program of some magnitude in conception, and thought out in a curriculum and almost systematic consideration for periods of human development. So I understand in my conversations with various people in the Church who are knowledgeable in the training and education of members, including the education of ministers. You educate ministers at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary located just north of San Francisco in Mill Valley.   As one knowledgeable in such, will you talk a little in this email correspondence about how this helps to make Southern Baptists the “Sunday School Church,” and talk a little of the emphasis for each age range in what they study or look to learn about. Please say something of the Biblical imperative, and the evangelical imperative of the Southern Baptist, if you will.   Southern Baptists (SBs) made their Sunday Schools a center for both evangelism and discipleship and built their campuses accordingly with educational space for all ages equal to or greater than worship space.    To assist  this focus of the churches, the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called LifeWay Resources) publishes age-graded Bible teaching literature organized around a cyclical curriculum to cover the sixty-six books of the Bible over a five year period.    SBs were and are serious about sharing the gospel and its implications through the Sunday school and small groups. Most Sunday school leaders are trained to be aware of developmental issues at the formative stages of human development and how the gospel and knowledge of Scripture is best acquired and applied at that stage.    Churches receive coaching and training from their local or state networks called associations at the area level and conventions of churches at the state level. Most of these training events are led by women and men trained in education ministry and human development at one of the many Southern Baptist colleges or six Southern Baptist seminaries for graduate theological education and ministry training.   Most Southern Baptist pastors have a “heart for souls” meaning that they believe God’s Spirit works in the hearts of persons who receive a clear presentation of God’s love and so are drawn into a personal and enduring walk with God.    SBs believe that the mission of Jesus as God’s Son was to remove any barrier to relationship with the holy and loving God through His sacrifice on the cross outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago. It is the Spirit’s work to make that event current as conviction and commitment in lives today.    Southern Baptists are the most self-critical when it comes to whether or not people are being baptized and new churches are being started.         How can a baby go to Sunday School, or a small child? What does this mean for the baby or child?   Infants and young children go to Sunday School as brought by their parents. They learn experientially that church is a safe, loving and interesting environment. They hear music and songs of Jesus and this lays down a rich positive affective memory for their later development as they become more abstract thinkers and are able to read and learn in primary school.         The Sunday school is a large part of Christian life in the Southern Baptist Church. Please let us know why is there so much time spent on Biblical study, and how does a child get to be introduced to the Bible? Can you tell us what you tell the Sunday school Ministers what it is in Christian formation that is key to Sunday school for adult disciples and young people. Tell us, too, what is new in the life of young people in their Christian education. I understand from what I’ve been told this can mean going into the world in a missionary way to help others. What is the lesson here, and what is the need for this for a member in his religious life as a member of the Church?   One of the more interesting changes that is occurring in Sunday School and small group ministry among SBs is the movement, from students to adults, to practice “what we preach” by going on mission locally, regionally, nationally or internationally to show and share the good news.    Teenagers, college students and committed adult adults in many SBC churches regularly build homes and churches, aid at disaster relief sites, conduct training conferences related to health, life and Scripture, and conduct soccer and basketball camps.   This has become so effective that 80% of all meals cooked at Red Cross Disaster Sites are cooked by Southern Baptist volunteers. In preparation for these mission events, the volunteers are trained in personal spiritual formation.    Often called “having a quiet time,” SBs are taught and exhorted to spend time with and for God each day. Many practice the spiritual rule of well known SB evangelist, Billy Graham, “fifteen minutes a day to listen to God (read the Bible), fifteen minutes to talk with God (prayer) and fifteen minutes a day to talk with people about God (gospel evangelism).   Because SBs believe in regenerate church membership (you must have been converted to be a member) and in priesthood of the believers (all members are ministers together), pew sitting in not enough. And the key instrument for mobilizing the members into ministry has been the Sunday school.       What is the role of the Sunday School teacher or staff member in the experience of practicing what is preached?   Church leaders, whether Sunday School teachers or staff members, are the early adapters and eager interpreters of the Sunday sermons. Sometimes the subject of discussion during Sunday School is the sermon. In those instances the teacher leads the members in thinking through the