I got back from Nashville last night, well it was really this morning (Friday). We were delayed getting out of Atlanta because our plane's weather radar was functioning. Here was my weather forecast for the flight – COLD!
Dr. Thom Rainer started the day for everyone with an address in Van Ness Chapel (yes, the spotlessly clean chapel that still feels like you're meeting in an old southern church building). His message was Zechariah's message to Zerubbabel. Here are the three key words from Dr. Rainer's message. "Messengers of hope." Folks, we are the church, and we are messengers of hope to this world. Let's not relegate the message of hope to the government or NGO's.
We started our affinity group with some great information and a super challenge from Dr. Ed Stetzer. You know, I appreciate Ed because he can tell you what you don't want to know and help you feel good about it. Here are the four points from his presentation:
- Maturity best takes place in small communities. Yeah, we know this, but our church growth models apparently do not. Most of our churches are still designed around "come and watch" rather than "participate and grow" models.
- Sunday School is in numeric decline and small groups have not filled the void. Ed went on to say several things on this point. a) SS has moved from being the churches front door to the side door; b) the small group movement has yet to really become a movement; c) research indicates that 25% of Americans are involved in some type of small group; d) Churches with SS have more people in small community, churches with small groups have better relational connectedness.
- There needs to be a shift in what Sunday School looks like. Classes with 30, 40, 50 or more people present are not small communities. "Mini-worship is not small group".
- Every expression of the church should own the mission of the church. The day before, our group had a discussion about the purpose of Sunday School. Back in the day, Sunday School was described this way, "Sunday School exists to do the work of the church". Nowadays, I just say that "whatever the mission of the church is, that is the mission of the Sunday School". One thing that is sorely lacking among most of our SS classes is a sense of purpose, a calling to being the church in the community.
Two great quotes from Ed: "The greatest sin of the church is that we have hundreds of people in sitting pews and doing nothing, and we call them Christians." "Sunday School is a goal for most churches, rather than a tool we have for transformation."
Following Ed's presentation, our SS affinity group tackled a key question, which you can see in the image to the right. Yep, that's right… it says, "Is it time to bury Arthur Flake?" I know that is like anathema to any Baptist who has grown up in Sunday School. Let's just say it got mixed reviews! I'll have a post on the blog next week under this title and share some of our discussion and also my opinion about Flake's resting place.
For the rest of the day, we had Brett Robbe, who I think has the toughest job at LifeWay – adult publishing. This guy manages our curriculum and wow, you talk about a thankless job. However, I like LIfeWay's emphasis in adult curriculum, going with the "Connect-Grow-Serve-Go" direction they have instilled into Bible study curriculum. We also had Sergio Arce share with us about Hispanic Sunday School. Our convention is making great strides in reaching ethnics and especially Hispanics. LifeWay is developing more resources for these churches.
My input on this year's Summit: excellent theme and I appreciate how the Summit Steering team kept us focused on the theme of transformation. In a joint session between the discipleship and Sunday School affinity groups, I was really encouraged with the heart and attitude of the participants. One comment really stood out for me in this joint session, "We must move from producing results (numbers) to changing culture". I sensed a yearning for more depth in our purpose than program or resources.
As state convention leaders and a key SBC agency, it is essential for us to tackle our issues openly and transparently. That was one of the reasons I decided to blog the Summit. I think that it is vital for Southern Baptists to know what their leaders are discussing and also get a feel for the heart of the discussion. Our Sunday School affinity group created a Twitter hashtag for our meeting, and you can see some of the tweets there (#ssag).
Any questions or comments? Feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to respond.