Appreciating Sunday School Teachers
Some people in my life have put me where I am.
I would probably have never become a preacher were it not for Dad. Dad, you see, was a preacher in the congregation where I was raised. But Dad didn’t preach full time until I was a sophomore in high school. I saw him leave a nice job at Coca-Cola to do what he believed he needed to do in the kingdom. His faith and determination have greatly impacted my life.
I would probably never have earned a doctor’s degree were it not for Mr. Miller. John Miller was my fourth-grade teacher at Camargo Elementary. I wasn’t doing well academically when I entered his classroom. But Mr. Miller wouldn’t take “I can’t” as an answer. He pushed me to limits I didn’t even know I had and beyond.
I might never have become a Sunday school teacher were it not for Ruth Newkirk. I had Ruth as my Sunday school teacher back in the day. I can’t remember a single lesson Ruth taught—maybe that’s disappointing to some of you teachers who work so hard—but I remember her love of Jesus and His Word. If you can have students who remember your love for Jesus and His Word 30 and 50 years from now, you have gone a long way in impacting their lives!
A few years after I had had Ruth as a Sunday school teacher, I was a junior in high school. Ruth was teaching a class of five-year-olds on Wednesday night—her grandson and her brother’s granddaughter were the only two students in that class.
For some reason or other, Ruth needed to step aside as the teacher for that class. She called Dad at home to tell him that she needed a break from teaching. She had a recommendation as to who should start teaching that class—me! Because Ruth believed in me, I became a Bible class teacher. I can remember coming home from school and working diligently on that class—I had a responsibility, you see. That was my first real experience of working in the kingdom, and it’s all because Ruth believed in me.
I’m confident that each of you has Bible class teachers who have greatly impacted your life for the better. Maybe you had a teacher who made Scripture come alive and awakened in you a thirst for the Word of God. Maybe you came to the Lord later in life and you had a teacher who made the Word so accessible and easy to understand.
I learned a great deal from Basil Overton during my time at International Bible College. Brother Overton would say, “I love what I’m doing, because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Is that not so true when it comes to teaching in Bible class? We never know what we’re doing. We do not know what lives we are touching. We do not know how many future generations may be taught the truth because you touch one heart and that student teaches his family the truth you taught him. We do not know how many more souls may be in heaven because of the work that you do.
The work in which you are engaged is some of the most important work in all the world. Some researcher may discover a cure for cancer, but you take your students to Jesus Christ, the cure for sin. The President of the United States may have great power to sway the course of human history, but you hold up the power of the gospel, power that can convert the souls of men.
2 Timothy 3:10-15
Paul here speaks about the life of the teacher. “You have carefully followed. . . .” I can’t remember a single lesson that Ruth taught me in that classroom at the back of the Camargo building, but I can remember her life.
Paul also speaks about why we need to teach. “Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” As Paul makes clear in this text, the antidote for error is truth. You and I have the truth and may we ever teach the truth as an antidote for error!
Paul also speaks about the accessibility of Scripture. “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures.” I hear folks sometimes say that the Bible is difficult to understand. I know that Peter says that Paul, in his epistles, said some things that were difficult to understand. But, on the whole, Scripture can’t be too hard to understand for Timothy had known Scripture from childhood.
I know firsthand how disheartening it can be to have students not paying adequate attention or to feel as though truth isn’t getting through. At those times, we must keep on keeping on, knowing that in due season, we shall reap a great harvest.