Bob is a devoted husband, father, hard worker, and member of a church I served. He attended church services every week, sitting with his wife, and was a great handyman who worked in construction. Bob and his wife are wonderful people, and friends. They enjoyed having people in their home. I loved the times Pam and I were invited into their home for a meal & conversation. The one thing I just didn’t get about Bob was he did not regularly attend Sunday School (small group Bible study). Was there something missing in Bob’s Christianity? I mean, certainly according to the standards of mainline denominations you couldn’t be a real committed Christian unless you were actively involved in Sunday School, right?
Now, I am a Sunday School guy. I truly believe in it and that everyone should be involved and engaged in the Christian life through an Open Small Group Bible study. And this is how God used Bob and taught me a valuable lesson that churches need to understand and learn coming out of this Covid-19 pandemic.
Bob began a larger remodel project at our church. He was there every day after working his construction job. He would arrive about 3:00 or 3:30 each day and stay until, well, long after I was gone for the day. But I made it a point to go to the area of the church he was working and spend some time with him. Bob and I were friends, but I wanted him to know I appreciated him for using his gifts and to help if I could. And I thought I might get to talk with him about Sunday School.
In my almost daily visits with Bob at the church worksite, God began to reveal to me a lesson He wanted me to learn through Bob. I learned that Bob stopped at the same restaurant every morning (Monday through Friday) and he always carried his Bible in and studied while eating breakfast. This drew attention and gave him opportunities to pray for the wait staff and others and spiritual conversations. I learned of other things Bob was doing outside the church demonstrating his Christianity. He was always serving others with his skills and abilities.
The first lesson God taught me through Bob was, he was probably getting more Bible study than 90% of the people attending Bible study classes. The second lesson, Bob was actually putting his Christianity into practice – every day. Bob was doing for others, using his gifts and talents serving those who had needs. This is what we want taught in Sunday School, yet, it is rarely practiced in such a manner by attendees. Few members of any church I’ve served gave as Bob gives.
The main lesson God taught me through Bob was, it’s not always about attending what I want people to attend. It is about truly serving God, what we teach in every Bible study class and every sermon. God’s question to me, “Which is more important, people in class or people out demonstrating the love of Christ through obedience and service?” The answer is simple and straightforward. The Christian life is about serving. God was teaching Bob through his daily Bible study at breakfast and at night in his home.
I am still a small group Bible study man, and I am so grateful God put Bob in my life to teach me valuable lessons. As we look to reopen our churches, let us also rethink what it means and how to lead in new directions of Christianity – everyone using his/her gifts to serve outside the church building.
George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.