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‘Transformational teaching’ at heart of LifeWay’s 21st-century plans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“The leader is the lesson.”
That’s the philosophy behind an instructional design for Sunday school in the 21st century developed by LifeWay Christian Resources and scheduled for introduction in the fall quarter of the year 2000.
“We, as leaders, must model the truth that God transforms lives day by day,” Richard Barnes, director of LifeWay’s youth Sunday school ministry department, told almost 70 writers gathered in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 15-19 for a “21st Century Writers Conference.”
“Then as we teach people God’s Word, we move beyond transferring biblical information and calling for discussion about application to walking with our learners in obedient, Christ-centered living. … In short, we teach not just to inform, but to transform.”
Spiritual transformation must be the goal of content developed for LifeWay’s 21st century Sunday school curriculum, Barnes told the writers, who began working on the first quarter of lessons during the conference. He defined spiritual transformation as “God’s work of changing a believer into the likeness of Jesus by creating a new identity in Christ and by empowering a lifelong relationship of love, trust and obedience to glorify God.”
“If one word were to capture the goal for teaching people the Bible, that word might be ‘Christlikeness,'” Barnes said. “The goal of Bible study and biblical instruction is transformed lives that exhibit love for God and others.”
Randy Millwood, professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said to effectively use the resources as a tool for spiritual transformation, “leaders must understand they need to let God change them first.” In developing the curriculum, he said writers and editors must grapple with “how we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in changing the lives of those who study the material.”
In the Feb. 15 opening banquet, Gene Mims, president of LifeWay Church Resources Division, said LifeWay’s 21st-century curriculum must go beyond cosmetic changes in appearance. He urged writers and editors to produce materials that confront “culturized Christianity.”
“People come to church as consumers. They take what they want. They are receivers, not givers,” he said.
To impact this negative trend, Mims said LifeWay’s materials must change from a focus on meeting the “felt needs” of learners to content designed to inspire them to live lives of self-sacrifice and Christian service.
“We need a Bible study curriculum that lifts up God’s Word, not only as infallible and inerrant, but as alive and sweet and wonderful and good,” Mims said. “That’s not an option; it’s the answer.”
In a session, “Teaching that Transforms,” Barnes told the writers the first essential for effective Sunday school teachers is to be prepared.
“Learners will long remember the character of the leader more than the content the leader presents,” he said.
Through their lesson plans, Barnes told writers they must challenge teachers to prepare personally for God to use them to teach his Word.
“Use God’s Word as the textbook for Sunday school and for personal spiritual development,” Barnes said. “As you prepare for the Bible teaching session, ask God to speak to you personally about your own walk with him.”
In recent years, Barnes said “almost everyone” has insisted that Bible study resources apply the Bible to life. But effective 21st-century Sunday school teachers, he added, will realize application means more than making a mental connection of biblical truth to a life issue.
“Faithfulness to God’s Word is the ultimate application,” he said. “Both leaders and learners recognize that people do not complete their Bible study until they obey the Bible in real life.”

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  • Chip Alford