Written by Pete Lowman.
How can our church’s teaching programme be as fruitful as possible?
For the maturing of our church we need a long term strategy that helps our members grasp a broad range of the key issues in life, doctrine and discipleship.
But what are those `key issues’? What are the issues we would feel uncomfortable about if someone said: `I attended your church for seven years, and yet I never received any serious teaching on [... prayer, sex, money, work]`? Or indeed: `I attended your church for seven years, but the only teaching I ever got on [prayer, sex, money, work] was a five-minute application of a passage that gave me no more than you can do in five minutes’?
(For example: some of our own church members felt speechless when good friends who were lesbians asked why they couldn’t have a baby dedication in our church. So that’s an area we had not taught about effectively.)
Below we’ve attempted to make a possible starter-list of `key issues’. There are about 70. (Our first attempt at such a list was considerably longer; some topics we’ve omitted are vital ones but we felt they were likely to be well covered in almost any year’s expositions, eg the lordship of Christ or the importance of holiness).
We suggest it’s reasonable to aim to cover each of these over a specific number of years. But experience shows we need to be concrete; that is, each year the church leaders make it a deliberate goal for that year to properly teach a proportion of these, along with Bible exposition. (In some cases that might well be a short topical series, say at the end of a series on a Bible book.)
The choices should be made early in the year so that they genuinely happen! Planning ahead also makes it easier for a particular topic not only to be preached on a sunday but also to be explored in homegroups. (And it gives time to think about relevant books to recommend, possible handouts, etc.) The preacher might help the homegroups by offering a discussion outline – either writing one themselves, or getting someone else to do so. In this way we can learn about the issue both through what can be gained in a large-group, preached context, and also through the small-group, practically-applied context. The result will be that the `people of God are thoroughly equipped for every good work’, both with a well-informed `big picture’ and also with the personal life-connection that comes from discussion.
Every church will have its own set of priorities that will shape such a list. But here is a possible list for coverage (obviously not in this order!) over a certain number of years, perhaps between five and eight years. (Of course some of these topics deserve returning to more frequently than that; but the idea here is to start to ensure breadth in our learning.) How can your church improve on this list?
What is God like?
What's gone wrong with the world? (the fall, the human problem)
Why did Jesus die?
What is a real Christian, what’s the new birth? (the meaning of real repentance, and salvation by faith)
Reasons for faith:
Why believe in God?
Why do we believe Jesus is God?
Why do we believe in the resurrection?
FAQs: Answering the most common objections (probably in a workshop format)
Why do we trust the Bible?
In a multicultural society is there really only one way to God?
Science and faith
Who is the Holy Spirit and what does he mean for me?
How can I be sure I'm a Christian?
Deliberately learning to grow as a Christian
Being filled with the Spirit
Growing in Bible feeding
Old testament overview in 30 minutes
Growing in prayer
Prayer and spiritual warfare
Growing in worship
Developing your God-given gifts, finding your role
What is the Church, the Bride of Christ?
Growing in church involvement (growing as a church member)
Caring for each other (including hospitality)
Caring for a younger fellow-believer (discipling/ followup)
Growing older, relating to the elderly
Learning to forgive, receiving forgiveness, learning to have a clear conscience
Why homegroups/ Growing as a homegroup member
Dealing with temptation: should I or shouldn't I, and how do I decide?
Coping with the media and the web
Suffering – why do bad things happen to good people, and how do I cope?
Mental/emotional wholeness; depression
Self-acceptance, self-worth, finding our identity in the Lord
How does God guide? - making godly decisions
Personal evangelism: why? what? how?
Reading the Bible with a not-yet-Christian
Relating to muslims
The Christian and work; the meaning of vocation
Handling work pressures
Stewardship of money, lifestyle, tithing, debt
Stewardship of time, sabbath, leisure
Being a better friend
The five love languages
Growing in marriage
Growing as parents
Why world mission? Growing practically in global vision
Overview of the gospel's state-of-play worldwide
What is the `missionary call'?- preparing to serve
The Gospel and secularized Europe; what’s encouraging? what needs doing?
The Gospel and the Muslim world
The Gospel and Latin America
The Gospel and Africa
The Gospel and Asia
Angels and demons
The occult, deliverance from past involvement, overcoming evil
Heaven and hell
The second coming and the end of the world: what will happen and what does it mean for us?
Social action issues:
Global warming and care for the environment
Global trade justice
Working for religious freedom
There are many other topics that could be included, but we have to be slightly ruthless in selection for this strategy to work. We will still need to listen for God’s direction regarding issues needing coverage now that we have left out…
© Pete Lowman.