Sunday school wasn’t a part of this Catholic boy’s formative years. Catechism class was the closest I ever came to that. I learned something of Catholic dogma there, but the Bible was closed to us.
The Sunday routine was quite different for my daughters; we all attended church services and Sunday school “religiously.” In fact, my wife and I even taught four-year-old Sunday school for a while. Not bad for a Catholic kid, eh?
One thing I’ve observed in my forty-plus years as a non-Catholic churchgoer is the effect Sunday school has on many kids: Too often it serves only to fill their heads with Bible stories and facts that are unrelated to any of their young life’s experiences and issues. It’s as if the Sunday school Quarterly authors have no idea of what being a kid is like. And my own experience as a Sunday school teacher reinforces that observation; I was content to shovel out to the kids undiluted, Quarterly pabulum. Like medicinal immunizations, small doses of watered-down gospel truth serve only to make them immune to the gospel.
When they’re old enough to leave the nest, too often they exit like baby birds, flapping their newly independent wings in a futile effort to soar, or even just to somehow stay aloft, only to crash to the hard, cruel ground. For some, that rocky ground takes the form of college or university, and for the others, it’s entry-level employment or the military, which is its own sort of entry-level employment.
Unless they land in a conservative, Christian college that requires students to live Christ-honoring lives, they will encounter innumerable forms of unbelief, ranging from hypocritical religious folks to outright atheists. If they are among the minority of Sunday school kids who enter the world with a solid foundation of faith and an abiding personal relationship with Christ, even the atheistic professors will reinforce their faith in, and knowledge of, God’s Word. Tragically, few former Sunday schoolers will receive any reinforcement for their fledgling faith once they leave the nest.
Frequently, the best anyone can expect of graduated Sunday school kids is Sunday school adults. They’re the grownups who continue the habit of sitting in church a couple of hours each week, while the rest of the time what faith they had continues eroding through neglect and worldly entertainments.
Some religious traditions refer to such nominally Christian churchgoers as, “Carnal Christians,” while others brand them as “backsliders” or “false brethren.” Whatever you call them, they are like dead-standing trees, spiritually diseased and in danger of falling. Jesus gave his disciples a lesson involving a fig tree that was out of season, but still in leaf.
Mark 11: 12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Was Jesus angry with the fig tree? Not at all, he was always ready with object lessons based on agriculture, as he lived in an agrarian culture. This is what Apostle Paul taught his coworker Timothy: … preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:2) Some will say God is unfair to expect that of his followers, but during wartime, everyone must be ready to defend themselves, including non-combatants. Satan’s flaming arrows, like enemy artillery shells, respect no one’s readiness — or lack thereof — to fight or take cover. And in spiritual warfare there are no bunkers; your only protection is God’s full armor:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, …
In fact, in spiritual warfare there are no non-combatants. Everyone takes sides; whether they know it or not, everyone winds up fighting for God, or for the enemy. Just because it’s most often an invisible war doesn’t mean it’s trivial. Casualties in that war are dead eternally.
Are you a Sunday school Christian, thoroughly immunized to the Gospel of God’s love? Or are you armed to the teeth with God’s armor, ready to fight at a moment’s notice? That’s the only way to survive this life, ready to see your Savior in the next, face-to-face.