the marshals of dodge city
STEWARDS OF LAW, ORDER...AND NOW THE CLASSROOM
by Ron Hunter
Shadows are short as the noon sun pauses directly overhead on a blistering day. A bead of sweat trickles down his forehead onto his nose. He wipes it away and idly hopes it will not cause his trigger finger to slip.
They stare at each other down the empty, dirt street that moments earlier had been bustling with people, horses, and the clatter of the arriving stage. Only Marshal Wyatt Earp and Clay Allison remain, although hundreds of eyes peer from behind curtains and peep over swinging doors. Everyone knows that trouble has come to Dodge City.
The outlaw had ridden into town alone on the previous evening, but it wasn’t long before a rowdy group gathered around his table laughing, drinking, and swapping stories. His influence spread, and the crowd grew ugly. One thing led to another—and now—at high noon of the following day, the deadly gunman crouches, twenty paces away, ready to draw and fire at the marshal.
WHILE WE MAY DREAM OF A SIX-GUN strapped to our hip and a lightning draw, few want the marshal’s job. His responsibility extends far beyond the glamour of a “gunfight.” He is charged with creating a protective atmosphere of law and order by ridding the territory of villains.
When I think of Sunday School curriculum editors, I never picture them in ten-gallon hats and spurs, wearing “peacemaker” Colt forty-fives. However, these men and women personify the marshals of Dodge City. They protect truth and content. Editors are the best friend of pastors and churches as they protect congregations from the following four infamous villains.
Fake growth occurs when the members of a Sunday School class learn good Bible content without learning to apply that content to their lives. Anyone who has ever purchased an item marked “some assembly required” understands that unassembled contents are just parts. Ownership is not user-ship. The same is true of Bible knowledge without application.
Curriculum with biblical content reinforced by application will help teachers change lives and impart knowledge. A good editor must combine biblical content with application to communicate tough truths in an easy-to-understand (and teach) manner. Editors protect Sunday School classes from unapplied truth—knowledge without application—that nonbelievers see as hypocrisy.
Occasionally a Sunday School teacher says to me, “I teach only from the Bible.” In other words, they do not use a curriculum. I quickly ask them what they are teaching. Their reply, three times out of five, sounds something like this. “I am teaching in Genesis (or some other book), and I am in chapter nine.” When I ask how long they have studied that particular book, the typical reply is “a year and a half.”
This unbalanced spiritual diet poses a problem to the class. While bananas are a healthy fruit, no one would consider a three-year diet of them. God gave us 66 books, and teaching our select favorites limits Him. Further, visitors will have no desire to join a class midway through a four-year study. Sunday School curriculum allows them to join mid-quarter and feel right at home as they review what the rest of the class has been learning.
Carving out a new lesson from scratch each week also robs teachers of time for relationship building, evangelism, and their families. While curriculum requires diligent study, you can be sure that our team of editors has balanced content with depth.
Very few teachers (even those who “teach only from the Bible”) prepare their lesson without consulting reference material or commentaries, whether online or in printed form. While many great commentaries are available, do teachers know which ones teach five-point Calvinism, dispensationalism, Armenianism, conservatism, liberalism, or other areas that require careful discernment? If teachers cannot distinguish core issues, their classes may unknowingly head down the treacherous path of false doctrine. It is frightening to realize that even when false doctrines are caught and corrected, teachers have already influenced the belief system of their students. False doctrine is often unintentional. Pastors cannot sit in every class as a “doctrine watchdog,” but our Sunday School editors guard every class through our curriculum. Editors insure both biblical accuracy and theological integrity. While it is true that curriculum should be treated like a commentary, it is also good to know that our curriculum is written and edited by people you trust. Editors fight the villain of false doctrine that changes your beliefs even if the church sign stays the same.
Finding good teachers is difficult. Most people are scared to speak in public—much less teach—no matter the age of the class. Good editors boost the confidence of teachers by providing solid and proven lesson plans and helpful, creative ideas throughout the curriculum. They ensure that each teacher will have a sound approach, options that fit the class, and the tools to communicate profound points to the class. The work of editors makes finding and keeping good teachers much easier.
With a blur of motion, the sudden crash of guns brings a startled gasp from onlookers. The gun battle is over in a moment. As the smoke clears, the crowd sees the outlaw Allison lying at the feet of Marshal Earp. The marshal grimly thumbs the empty cartridges from his six-shooter and replaces them. His eyes scan the crowd briefly; then he turns slowly and walks away, pausing to pat a wide-eyed youngster on the head. The hollow sound of his boots on the weathered boardwalk fades slowly as he turns the corner toward his tiny office…
Randall House takes the stewardship of Christian Education very seriously by screening and hiring the most capable editors to protect your church! The villains are “headed off at the pass” by excellent editors who produce trustworthy curriculum with Biblical accuracy and theological integrity. Our editors are to churches what Marshal Earp was to Dodge City—the first line of defense.
The next time you ride through Nashville, come see this incredible team at work. Just be sure to tie your horse at the door.
Ron Hunter, Jr. is the General Director of Randall House Publications. He and his family live in Joelton, TN.
Contact ron by email at email@example.com.