Hello, my name is Michael, and I’m a Sunday School teacher.
And by God’s grace, I really like being a Sunday School teacher. But I haven’t always.
Once upon a time, I preached sermons with some regularity. I’ve never been a senior pastor, but there was a day when I had dreams and aspirations of being the “have Bible, will travel” guy. That’s the guy that pops in for a weekend, delivers a slam bang sermon, and then pops out. I did that quite a bit in those days, and more weekends than not I was away from home during the year. Sure, there are still some opportunities to do that kind of thing (and I’m grateful for those), but they are much fewer and further between than they once were. As I started preaching less and less, I more and more became a “regular” church member. And in my most honest moments, I resented that.
I missed the notoriety of being on the stage. I missed having a folder full of airplane tickets. I missed feeling important because people wanted to listen to me.
But then I got an opportunity that the Lord has used significantly in my life: I got to be a Sunday School teacher at a local church.
I got to walk through the Bible, week by week, with my friends, not as a professional Christian, but as a church member who had been entrusted with this particular responsibility for this given time. And slowly, I began to see that something significant was happening in my own heart through the process. I was discovering the truth, both for me and for others, that following Jesus is more about stringing together a series of common, everyday choices to believe in particular situations than it is about some earth-shattering moments of clarity.
This, I think, is one of the ways we tend to complicate following Jesus. We look for the great revelation, the further knowledge, the emotional engagement, while all the while God is calling us, as Bonhoeffer said, to “make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living.” What I’ve found through teaching Sunday School is that opportunities like this are the guts of discipleship, both for the teacher and for those in the class itself, because I invariably end up learning more during our hour and a half together than the rest of the folks do.
There is such value, and dare I say, honor to regular and quiet commitments like these. It makes me think of those faithful saints who taught me as a snot-nosed fourth grader at the old Baptist church in Canyon, Texas. It makes me think of those college Sunday School leaders who for years have invited students into their homes, out of the dorm rooms for a while, so they might know what real hospitality is like. It makes me think of the “lesser parts” of Christ’s body who, though they might be less visible, are no less important than the more visible. And in thinking about all those people, it makes me thankful that in a small way, I might be counted in their midst.
Don’t avoid the regular. Don’t look passed what’s right in front of you. Embrace it and watch what God can do in your own life as well as in the lives of those you minister.
Michael Kelley lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Jana, and three children: Joshua (10), Andi (7), and Christian (5). He serves as Director of Groups Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources. As a communicator, Michael speaks across the country at churches, conferences, and retreats and is the author of Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God; Transformational Discipleship; and Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life. Find him on Twitter: @_MichaelKelley.