Editor’s note: The following is from the papers of Professor Bruce M. Metzger (1914–2007), America’s greatest biblical scholar, who served as a Sunday School Superintendent early in his career and cared deeply about making disciples.
Observation reveals that religious instruction is still very much a matter of conveying religious facts, and that this concern with religious knowledge is a Protestant characteristic. If I were a church school teacher again, I would seek constantly to emphasize the importance of Christian duties.
1. The Christian Duty of aying Grace.
Saying grace is a beautiful and assuring Christian custom. If the scholars were young, I should teach them simple poetic graces for their own use––verses that express the gratitude we all should feel to our Heavenly Father for His good gifts.
2. The Christian Duty of Prayer.
I should begin and end my class with prayer. I should give the scholars simple prayers to learn by heart. I should have one of the scholars say a memorized prayer in class. I should try to impress the beauty and restfulness of the habit of nightly prayer before one lies down to sleep. Perhaps we should together form a prayer, and agree to say it each day for a week or month; and I should tell them Jesus’ habits of prayer.
3. The Christian Duty of Church Attendance.
I should endeavor to teach my scholars the meaning of the church, and the value of church attendance. I should take them with me to church. I should ask them to notice the hymns we sang, and the Scripture that was read, and the text the minister used. The following Sunday we should find that text, and recall the main message of the minister.
So that my scholars might enter into the hour of worship as fully as possible, I should urge them to say a little prayer when they took their seats in the sanctuary, such as: “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord.”
4. The Christian Duty of Confirmation and Communion.
I should see that my scholars did not join the Church until both they and I were sure they wanted to know Jesus Christ in their personal experience, and walk in His ways. I should set forth the privilege and solemnity of that moment of confirmation when they would appear at the altar before God and His people, and take their stand with Him and them. I should try to make it, what it is, one of the great days of their lives. I should tell them the tragic story of the first communion in the Upper Room. How terrible to be a Judas! How wonderful to be Jesus’ friend! I should see that they went to take the bread and the wine at their first communion with “the full assurance of understanding,” treating it as a rare privilege, reserved for the friends of the Master.
5. The Christian Duty of Bible Reading.
I should treat the Bible lovingly, and be enthusiastic about its contents. I should be true to its traditional doctrines, and yet to modern scholarship, so that no future knowledge might cause my scholars to doubt its religious value.
I should see that each had a Bible of his own. I should also encourage them to find some treasure in its pages to show me.
6. The Christian Duty of Service.
This would be exceedingly important. I should not despise the habit of a daily good deed. I should try to lead them to have pity––for the poor, the sick, and the suffering––and tell them of the great agencies of mercy, whose work they might assist, and I should be careful to relate all their services to their Master, by considering all as in the light of His presence.
Published with permission from the Metzger Literary Trust.