Is Sunday School Biblical?
COPYRIGHT ©2019 - James M. Frye
All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.
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Many people are not aware of this, but Sunday school is a tradition and doctrine of men (Mark 7:7) which was invented by a man named Robert Raikes in 1780. For the first 1700 of Christian churches did not have “Sunday school”, not having found such a practice in the Bible. Here are some of the main problems with Sunday school.
First, let me point out that I do not have a problem with churches who take additional time beyond the Sunday morning meeting for educational purposes. Churches should teach their people as much as possible. Although, the reason that this time is required in many/most churches, is because Sunday morning has been taken up with witnessing to the lost. The bringing of "witnessing" (evangelism) into the church is another error common today in many churches. Many Christians instead of going out and witnessing to the lost as is the biblical pattern (Acts 8:4), simply invite people to church for the pastor to tell them how to be saved. Because of this, the time that should have been used to teach and train believers (Matt 28:20, Eph. 4:11-14) is instead taken up with witnessing.
After all, how can a pastor not witness to the unbelievers that have been placed before him. So people do one thing in an unbiblical way (bring evangelism into the church), and then must create another unbiblical program (Sunday school) in order to solve the problem (lack of teaching time). But they themselves have created the problem by not following the biblical pattern in the first place. It is almost as if man thinks that he can create a better way of doing things than that which was given to us as an example by the Holy Spirit in Scripture. On second thought it is not ALMOST that, it is that.
Churches are to teach their people to witness on their own outside of the church. If they get a convert, they should then baptize them and bring them to church. Search the scriptures and you will find this to be the biblical pattern [Matt 28:18-20, Acts (all of it), etc.]. By eliminating man-made practice number 1, we do not then need man made practice number 2. In other words, by eliminating the error of bringing evangelism into the church, we do not need to create the man-made solution for the lack of teaching in the church - “Sunday school". Pastors need to train their people (Eph. 4:11-14) that every Christian is a minister and has a ministry, and that a main part of the ministry is the responsibility to witness (2 Cor. 5:17-21).
Second, Sunday school removes the teaching of the congregation from the pastors to whom Christ gave it (Eph. 4:10-11) and gives it to teachers (who are usually far less qualified) to whom Christ did not give it. I have known a number of people who have been Sunday school teachers and most of them didn't know enough sound Bible doctrine to be more than dangerous. As a matter of fact, many of them were entirely clueless. What is the excuse for doing these things especially when Scripture clearly teaches otherwise - man knows better than God? Instead of splitting the time in half and having 45 minutes for Sunday school and 45 minutes for preaching, why not give the pastors the entire time (the full hour and a half) to preach and teach the word of God?
Third, I have a problem with segregating the congregation by age for teaching purposes. You will not find any such thing being done in either testament. We only find one proposal for doing so in Scripture (Mark 10:13-14) and it was quickly put down by Jesus. Jesus, along with every other teacher in scripture, taught the people together as one group made up of all ages. If God wanted us to do things differently, why would He give us the opposite example? Jesus had many women who traveled with him and helped him (Luke 8:2-3). Why did He not appoint them all as Sunday school teachers and ship the children off to them? Because he did not want things to be done in that fashion (Mark 10:13-14), that's why.
Fourth, Scripture places the responsibility for training the children upon the parents (Deut. 6, Eph. 6), and not upon the church. Isn't it interesting that Scripture tells us that it was given to us to show us how to do things perfectly (2 Tim 3:16-17) in the church, yet there is not one instruction given to teach children. The idea that we need to come up with our own inventions in the church strikes at the very heart of the Biblical teaching on the sufficiency of Scripture. Did God give us a handbook for doing things in the church and then forget and leave something out? Is the Bible flawed? Is it lacking something that needs to be added by men? Does it fail to tell us all that we need to do in order to please God and do things the way he wants us to? God forbid!
The whole thing comes down to a matter of men thinking that they know better than God how to do things in His church. They may not see it as such, but that is the problem. All too many people have a very low valuation of the pattern and example (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1; 2 Thess. 2:15; Phil 3:17; 1 Tim 3:15; etc.) of Scripture. There is a pattern laid down for us in Scripture as to how things are to be done in the church. God laid that pattern down for a reason and expects us to follow it.
It is interesting that for the first nearly 1800 years of Christianity churches did not have Sunday school. During that time no one ever got such an idea out of reading God's instructions in Scripture. Since that time people have come up with all sorts of man-made practices and programs in the church. And look at what has happened to Christianity. It is an apostate mess. We need to get back to the purity of doctrine and practice of the early church, and drop all of the inventions of men. God's way is best.
For more on why our church practices are to be limited to those authorized by scripture, please read my article on that subject at the link below.