Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.1 Timothy 6:18-19
I miss teaching. Or rather, I miss facilitating classes at church. There is something wonderful about research, preparation, prayer, framing questions, finding illustrations, and organizing a 60-minute conversation with other curious students of the Christian faith.
I love to tap into the natural curiosity people have regarding their relationship with God, and to help people move from the posture of being told what to believe to discovering truth within the framework of Reformed (and reforming) Christianity.
So – starting today – I am introducing a weekly post (Friday or Saturday) under the general heading of “IF I WERE TEACHING SUNDAY SCHOOL THIS WEEK.” Here is my general purpose:
- A good read for anyone;
- Commentary that brings scripture and life together;
- Faith exploration;
- A resource for teachers who want to lead a series with an established Christian author;
- Something helpful as a class for those “last minute” Sunday school leaders!
Let’s begin with a weekly series that will run through Thanksgiving (though each week could be stand alone if needed). Then, if this is well received, I will offer a short Advent/Christmas class followed by something for the New Year.
“A Charge of Life” – week 1 (of 12)
Several years ago I received an exciting phone call. “Derek Maul?” the caller said “are you available to speak at our national conference?”
I was thrilled. If there is one thing even better than publishing a book and knowing people are reading it, then it’s having one of those people ask you to talk about the content of said book with 300 of their friends!
“I serve as the president of The National Council of Presbyterian Men,” he said. “We would like you to keynote next year’s national conference.”
Each of the 16 synods were expected to send 20 men, he said, with the conference needing 150 registrants to be viable. “As an organization, Presbyterian Men needs a shot in the arm,” he continued. “We will assemble the men; we would like for you to provide the shot.”
“That’s a spectacular assignment!” I said. “I am honored to accept your invitation.”
I will tell you how the event turned out at the end of this post. But first let’s open this class with prayer and then talk about that shot in the arm.
How to deliver a shot in the arm!
First, I prayed. Then I prayed some more.
I know from experience that active, engaged men’s ministry is either struggling or non-existent in most Presbyterian congregations. In fact, other than the more conservative (dare I say male-chauvinistic) men’s work in evangelical churches, few moderate Christian congregations have much going on for men that is vital.
So I framed my prayer around asking God what men in Presbyterian churches need. The answer was clear and very much to the point. “THESE MEN NEED A CHARGE OF LIFE!“
Questions for discussion – applicable to both men and women:
- “Let’s brainstorm some ideas. Everyone come up with two things that could possibly bring a charge of life to a Christian? There are no wrong answers, just lots of ideas!” (leader, write them down)
- “Now let’s sort the list. Weigh in, and try to narrow it down to the top five.”
- “What on this list resonates with you, as you consider what it means to follow Jesus?”
What did I come up with?
My guess is that, depending on the number of people in the discussion, there are a lot of great ideas when it comes to connecting people of faith with more life and vibrancy.
As I prepared for the keynote and a workshop, I created a working list of 25! But two factors came into play. First, we live in a world obsessed with “top-ten” lists. Then there was the practicality of engaging 300 men in an inspirational message they could follow, and from which they could draw inspiration.
So – again, very prayerfully, I outlined my presentation around what I called, “10 Life-Charged Words for Presbyterian Men.” But not just men, these are ten areas of focus for all Christians looking for a charge of life in their journey as disciples.
Here’s my list for a life-charged faith:
So here is my outline for the keynote talk. It’s not necessarily a better list than yours, it’s the one that fit the occasion. And it is going to be our outline for the next ten “IF I WERE TEACHING SUNDAY SCHOOL THIS WEEK” posts/lessons. Then I promise I will tell you how the keynote went!
- Prayer (and transformation)
So what happened?
Boy, was I ever stoked! My first invitation to keynote a national conference, and for the denomination I love no less.
I prayed a lot. I worked hard. I prepared a simple but powerful PowerPoint to go with the talk. I searched the scriptures. I practiced. I prepared a workshop for those who wanted to go deeper into the message. I prayed some more. I purchased my plane tickets, I registered at the hotel, and I even signed up for the conference golf tournament.
Then, around three weeks out, I received a phone call from the point person. “We don’t have enough people signed up. The weekend is cancelled.”
Talk about some disappointment.
But don’t be sad! Next week I’m going to share what creative miracle God worked to redeem the situation. And we will talk about JESUS, the most critically important and undergirding source of this charge of life we are talking about. Who is Jesus? And who is Jesus to you?