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How should we school them?

Genesis 47:27–31 (ESV)

Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.

And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.

Israel has walked the whole road—from snake to saint. He has seen his favorite son lost and seen him found. He has watched Joseph’s older brothers go from murderers to penitents.

Now he comes to the end, and he’s focused like a laser beam on the covenant. He knows where his true home is and he insists on being buried there. He doesn’t say “please” with this one; he exacts a pledge.

Jacob wasn’t particularly faithful to God; God was faithful to Jacob. Over the span of almost a century and a half, the LORD taught Jacob, painfully, what it means to be a man of God. To his credit, Jacob didn’t resist or ignore the lessons.

He wasn’t a great student, but at least he didn’t cut class.

It’s the same with us. God knows He’s teaching sinners. We don’t start out as saints; we’re saints in training. We’re merely expected to stay in school. That a pretty low standard, but we struggle with it.

A church is a school. We tend to think of this in terms of the children’s Sunday School program, but churches educate all kinds of Christians, new as well as mature. They need to offer a range of things to stimulate their congregations (and the whole community) to learn and grow in Christ. It’s a tough job.

The challenge with adults is that their level of knowledge varies so much. With a Sunday School program for third graders, you have a good idea what they know and you can design a curriculum for them.

But adults are all over the map. Some are beginners, while others are anything but. How can you design a curriculum for that?

You almost can’t. If a church is large enough, multiple “tracks” can offer something for everyone.

Churches need to be more intentional about this. Assess the “students” and then figure out how to best move people forward. This can get as serious as a Greek or Hebrew class on Wednesday nights. That’s not a specific suggestion; it’s just food for thought.

I’ve seen it done though.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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