Folks at First Baptist Church Ponca City have experienced “a new way of doing church” lately. For the past two Sundays we have flipped our schedule – Worship service first (at 9:30) and Sunday School second (at 11 AM). The reason for the flip of the schedule? It is all about the theme of the day.
There is an old axiom in church that applies to Bible study – “We are educated beyond our capacity to obey.” If you have been one of those people who basically lived at the church by attending Sunday morning for Sunday School, then worship, then Discipleship Training (or Training Union or any other name for the 5 PM hour), then Sunday evening church, then Wednesday night prayer meeting/bible study, then you know what I mean by the statement “educated beyond our capacity to obey”. In one week of church you may have received 5 or more different lessons. I don’t know about you, but I can barely REMEMBER one of those, much less apply them all.
So we decided to try something different. We want Sunday School and worship service to carry the same theme. To hear God’s Word explained, then talk about it within the context of a small group of friends. The traditional schedule of Sunday School first, worship second just would not give us the vehicle to deliver our intended goal. So we flipped it. For the last two weeks at First Baptist Church we held “Church First”, then Sunday School – and we talked about the same theme. For instance, two weeks ago I preached from John 18 on Jesus encounter with Pilate when the governor asks the Savior “What is truth?” Truth was our theme. I preached on it in worship and the Sunday School classes talked about how to apply it. This past Sunday I preached from Matthew 22:34-40 on the subject of “The Great Love Project”. The task for our Sunday School leaders was to lead a discussion on various related Bible texts and think of tangible projects by which their class or individuals could demonstrate love in a selfless act of service.
We are two weeks in. The reports back have been great – actually, more than great. More like “glowing” reports. Discussion has increased, attendance has increased, and outreach has increased. Parents are talking about the weekly theme with their kids. Classes are posting challenges and applications on Facebook. Many who were skeptical are beginning to see value. Some who are still skeptical are willing to give it a chance. Traditions are to let go of when we try to make a change. But what if God used something as simple as a flip of the schedule to help more people become “doers of the Word” instead of hearers only?
We didn’t do this JUST for the sake of change. I don’t like change THAT much! We are exploring the opportunity with a purpose. I guess we will see if it works. Give it a try. Church First. 9:30. Oh, I almost forgot. There will be coffee in the foyer before church!