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Vantage point

Whom should we invite?

Sunday school, once the mainstay of the local church, is no longer in vogue in some quarters. Where it continues to be a priority, it continues to have an impact … as you will clearly see in the pages of this issue.

It has been more than 200 years since the birth and phenomenal initial growth of Sunday school, yet it is still a vital and viable option for both discipleship and evangelism.

That’s right … evangelism too. The first Sunday school, begun by Robert Raikes in 1783, was not aimed at the children of believers. It was aimed at the "wretchedly ragged" youth Raikes found in an impoverished slum in England. Sunday school was a social movement for the betterment of society that did so by teaching Christian principles and leading young people to Christ.

It made such a national impact that the king met with Raikes and told him he wished that "every child in my kingdom should be taught to read the Bible."

Seventy-five years later, Dwight L. Moody was building his Sunday school in Chicago by rounding up the U.S. version of Raikes’ ragged youths.

Sunday school has changed in its more than two centuries, expanding its ministries and including all ages. But in quarters where its value is no longer recognized, its heritage has been forgotten.

There are many great Sunday schools today. And there is great potential for the Sunday school movement as a whole. Wherever lay leaders and ministers recognize the opportunity it presents and invest time, resources and energy in producing a top-quality ministry, the kingdom of God grows.

Sunday school plants seeds, cultivates them … even harvests souls.

Sunday school has become the church’s leading discipleship vehicle and a prime people builder. But we must remember that it has shined in some of its finest moments as a ministry to the down-and-out, the neglected. In our effort to reach people in what many have deemed a "post-Christian" generation, we must not focus merely on "respectable" sinners.

Christians commonly pose the question "What would Jesus do?" Sunday school’s history demands we build — at least in part — by bringing in the needy. What an opportunity for growth!

I believe that’s the kind of Sunday school Jesus would have run.

– Ken Horn

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