While traveling across the state, I have noticed the roses are especially beautiful this year. New growth produces new buds that bloom into bushes bending under the weight of gorgeous, delicate roses. The keys to new growth are pruning the branches during the late winter months followed by rain and sun. Fertilizer and cultivation help to ensure a bountiful display for all to see. The dazzling array of flowers is a far cry from the leafless and unattractive bushes seen in the winter.
These beautiful rose bushes have caused me to reflect on the condition of so many churches that have gone dormant like a rose bush in the winter—no growth and no vitality. The problem is that years of no growth and lack of spiritual power has left them in a perpetual winter. Your church may be in this condition. Your church may have good fellowship, or give to missions or conduct meaningful worship services, but there is no new growth, no new followers of Christ and no penetrating of the community with the Gospel.
I believe every pastor and church long to see growth. I do not think any church finds joy in empty pews, no response at invitations or dry baptisteries. But I do think we become paralyzed and crystallized in our dormant state. Growth requires work—hard work and attentive work. So what can we do?
I propose going back to the basics and using a God-given tool that is already a part of the church. This tool needs pruning, fertilizer and spiritual water—it is in the DNA of Baptists. Dormancy has set in because we have let it happen. This tool works when we work it. What am I pointing to? Sunday School!
Recently, a group of Oklahoma Baptist leaders defined Sunday School in this way: Sunday School is a local church strategy to connect people to Jesus, His community, His Truth and His mission. The key to this definition is the phrase “connect people.” Sunday School is not just about fellowship and teaching, but is primarily about new growth, seeing people engaged with the Gospel and finding a place to belong.
There is a simple Sunday School principle. For every new unit (class or group) begun there will be 10 people added. Don’t believe it? Test me and see. Just like new growth produces roses, so new groups produce church growth. For too long, we have been satisfied with a static organization that produces no growth. Now is the time to stretch and grow.
As I speak to leaders across Oklahoma about our recent initiative regarding Sunday School, I find positive responses. In fact, as I talk about a renewed emphasis on starting new groups and revitalizing our focus on intentional and effective Sunday School, I see a clear affirmation from pastors who know deep down that Sunday School can be a part of the solution for producing new growth.
Work Sunday School and Sunday School will work. I hope to see in the days ahead churches filled with new people connecting with Jesus, His community, His Truth and His mission. Like roses in the spring, I pray for churches filled with new growth.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.