Understanding Non-Sunday School Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads

This installment includes just five suggestions for first-reads about one sub-set of acapella Churches of Christ.  Navigate the ‘First Reads Series‘ link in my Categories list to find earlier installments.  This brief list is in response to a request made in the comments on a February 2010 post, ‘The Situation in Tennessee.’

1. Thomas A. Langford, “N. L. Clark: Early Firm Foundation Editor and College President” in The Christian Academic: Exercising Faith in the University Setting. Ketch Publishing: Bloomington, Indiana, 2007.

2. Larry Hart, “Brief History of a Minor Restorationist Group,” Restoration Quarterly 22 (1979), pages 212-232.

3. Thomas A. Langford, “An Insider’s View of Non-Sunday School Churches,” Restoration Quarterly 45 (2003), pages 181-192.

4. [Roy Deaver and Lester Hathaway] Debate on the Bible Class Question and Women Teachers in Some of Those Classes. Chronicle Publishing Company, Inc.: Abilene, 1952.

5. [L. W. Hayhurst, Alva Johnson, Logan Buchanan and Van Bonneau] Debate on the Bible Class Question J. R. Chisolm and Jimmy Wood: Brownfield, TX, 1950.

Comments and additions to this list are earnestly solicited.

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23 thoughts on “Understanding Non-Sunday School Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads

  1. Unfortunately my copy is in storage so I can’t give an exact citation but the Clark-Whiteside debate on Sunday School (Bible classes) is a must read for an understanding of the issues. It took place at the beginning of the last century when the issue and divisions were still in its embryonic stage.

  2. The non-sunday school and one-cup Church of Christ have always contended for the ancient faith, viewing those that worship with the traditions of men such as individual loaves and cups, sunday school, instruments of music as digressive, like the dog that has returned to is own vomit. May I suggest a book by Ronny Wade “The son will shine again some day.”

    • Thank you Greg for the comment and the nod to Ronnie’s book. I have seen it and read in it, but do not own a copy. It is on my want list though. What periodicals (either currently in print, web-based or otherwise) do you suggest? What other books or materials should one read? Thank you again for the comment.

  3. I was raised in a non-sunday school church of christ and look back at those times fondly. They are very nurturant and loving people by and large. When the church shut down due to most of the people getting old and passing away the few families left went to the two more mainline churches.

    I think the non-classers were right on many things making them suspicious of the Sunday School—-not that there is anything wrong with studying the Bible in groups before or after church worship—its just that I have noticed the classers are inconsistent on many things when defending their sunday school. First, they affirm the classes are not part of the assembly, but then I hear some of them turn around and say that you sin if you don’t go to Sunday School because you forsake assembly. Also, I never could understand why women couldn’t teach men in the classes if they are not part of the assembly–women are forbidden to teach in the assembly only—and for the sake of argument if a woman remaining silent forbids her teaching men in the classes somehow then it also forbids her asking questions in class, and other things she does there she will not do in the worship assembly per the verse about silence and not teaching.

    Again, in my opinion there has been right and wrong on both sides of the issues. Both sides have had their own inconsistenties between what they affirm and what they actually do and both sides have behaved in a rather poor way towards each other on the personal level.

    I just don’t think sunday school is worth fighting over. Even if you can prove the Sunday School used by most Church of Christs somehow is an unscriptural form of assembly violating Hebrews 10:25 it’s still biblical to study the Bible in an non-assembly form in small groups at the church building before or after the scripturally observed assembly.

    • What About Sunday School?
      Do you know that there are many Churches of Christ who do not have Sunday school?
      Do you know that there were no Sunday schools in any churches until about two hundred years ago?
      Do you know that Sunday school is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible?
      Are you surprised? Most people are. Yet all three of these statements are true.
      The Encyclopedia Britannica says that Sunday school basically had its beginning in 1780 (Ready Reference, Vol. 9, page 672). A thorough search of the Bible will find no mention of Sunday school or bible classes or any practice similar to it. So churches today, who believe they should use the Bible as their guide, do not have Sunday schools.
      How did the church of the Bible do it’s teaching? They taught in two ways: (1) individually, where ever they had opportunity and (2) collectively in the assembly.
      Individually: Paul taught from house to house Acts 20:20. Older women were to teach younger women Titus 2:3-5. Fathers were to teach their children Ephesians 6:4. A husband and wife taught a preacher Acts 18:24-26. And Peter teaches a crowd that gathers when he heals a lame man Acts 3:11-26. In individual teaching, there seems to be little limitation given except to speak the truth in love Ephesians 4:15, and other regulations along these lines.
      But the church, collectively, was given very specific instructions on its teaching. They were to assemble together: Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is,…” See also: Acts 20:7; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:30; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 11:17-20; 1 Corinthians 14:23, 26. The together assembly is also referred to in Acts 11:26 and James 2:2.
      Some very specific instructions are given in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 to govern the teaching assemblies of the church.
      Verses 3, 12, 19, 26 – The goal of the teacher is to edify the assembly.
      Verses 7-11 – The teachers are to speak so they can be understood.
      Verses 23, 26 – The arrangement of the assembly is “TOGETHER”.
      Verses 23-25 – Conversions can take place in the assembly.
      Verses 27-29 – Tongue speakers are to be silent unless the tongues can be interpreted.
      Verses 29, 31 – Qualified men are allowed to speak in the assembly.
      Verse 29 – While one speaks, the others are to judge what is being taught.
      Verse 31 – The teachers are to speak to the assembly one by one.
      Verses 33, 40 – All things are to be done decently and in order.
      Verses 34, 35 – Women are to be silent in the assemblies, not even asking questions. Also see 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
      Verse 36 – These instructions are given to all churches everywhere. Also see chapter 4:17.
      Verse 37 – These instructions are commandments of the Lord.
      Verse 38 – If anyone does not acknowledge these commandments, he is not to be acknowledged in the assembly.
      Verse 31 – This verse says that if these commandments are followed in the assemblies, all can learn and all can be comforted.
      When God gives us commandments this specific for the teaching assemblies of the church, we cannot improve on them. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Also see 2 Peter 1:3; Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27; Isaiah 55:8-9.
      We cannot improve on God’s commandments, and we should not even try to improve them. Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Also see Galations 1:6-9 and Revelations 22:18-19.
      Man has invented Sunday school in an attempt to improve on the church which God has designed and built. When God does something, man cannot improve on it. He will just mess it up. God’s church does not need man’s Sunday school. Hope this helps you.

  4. What is a “non-assembly form?” The only way Sunday schoolers can justify their unscriptural practice is to make it a non-assembly. Then they proceed to make it an assembly. What is worse however are their seminaries which “aren’t really seminaries”. Wow! How do you keep up with what is and what isn’t? Must get complicated trying to restore to the 1st century principles with denominational practices.

    • Dear Mark,

      In your opinion, if it were possible, how can people study the Bible at the church house and it not be an assembly of the church?

      • If the elders / leadership did not call the assembly and regulate said assembly. That is why women are not allowed to teach a baptized boy in your Sunday school. You recognize that Sunday school is an assembly of the church. Why not apply all the regulations of I Cor. 14 to this assembly? It would look a lot like what you call the worship assembly.

  5. Dear Mark,

    Thank you so much for replying. Like I said earlier, I identify with you concerning Sunday School a whole lot more than I differ.

    So, as long as the elders did not call or try to regulate the bible study group or groups at the building (and by regulate I mean apply the rules governing the assembly i.e. women being silent, ect) then you would have no problem with such bible studies?

    Also, please remember I said it was inconsistent on the part of the class brethren to do such things like try to ban a woman from teaching a man in the class because of the verses forbidding her to speak in the assembly, and then turn around and say they don’t believe the classes are not part of the assembly. It is illogical.

    • The scenario you give is truly a private assembly. You should know the location has never been at issue. What constitutes the church Bible classes as an assembly regulated by I Cor 14 and I Tim 2? What might be the better question….what element is missing from the classes that makes them free of regulation by these verses? I don’t think any element is absent. I believe they are regulated, and because of the practices within them, are in violation of the scripture.

  6. I might add to your comment “I don’t think Sunday school is worth fighting over”.
    When will instruments not be worth fighting over? Or the pastor system? Who knows we might end up with a “president” of the church of Christ. The apostasy of the early church should demonstrate all truth is worth fighting FOR. It is truth that is at stake here.

    • So, it is okay to study the Bible in groups at the building , as long as you do not try to bind anything from I Cor 13 or I Tim 2 to them.

    • The reason I said Sunday school is not worth fighting over is because there has been right and wrong on both sides, and instead of fighting each other each side should work to fix the error in their own camp as well as the other.

  7. It is okay to study the Bible anywhere. But when we assemble under the call of the church (come together in one place) we must follow God’s directives. This is where church Bible classes fail. Regarding fixing the error….every discussion I have had with the class churches their response is “take it or leave it”. So many of us left it and I personally am thankful for being free of the denominational dogma that created this error in the first place.

    • Dear Marc,

      I know what you mean. People can be very arrogant and mean sometimes, especially over religious issues—things you think people would want to be kind and willing to listen to another.

      I’ve enjoyed this discussion and hope I behaved in a godly manner toward you. You treated me in a very humble and godly way for what it is worth.

      Maybe we can discuss other stuff as they come up on the blog.

    • I attend a congregation that has Sunday school. We have worship service at 10:50. We have school classes for all ages of children and adults alike, before we start our worship service. Now someone tell me what in the name of common sense could or would be wrong in this Sunday school.?? It is a good time for kids to come together to learn and play. If anybody could find something wrong with that using the bible I would love to hear about it. The man or men or women who first did this is to be given a pat on the back. I think God, and the bible agrees, would be please to see Kids learning about His Son, and every other aspect of the church.

      • With your reasoning it would be fine for a congregation to have “children’s church” or a piano in a Sunday school to help teach singing or it would be ok for a woman to teach a baptized male. All of these scenarios are rejected by class churches on the same grounds we reject segregating the assemblies of the church in what as known as Sunday school. It is a violation of the pattern for teaching God’s word. The pattern: all together, one speaking at a time, women in silence. I Cor. 14 and I Tim. 2,

  8. We would welcome you to seedsofhopeonline.com forum as well. Most, if not all contributors are made up of the brethren with “no class”. (Pun intended). Blessings ….

    • Mark, BH: thank you for a fine little exchange. If either of you would like to add any suggestions about reading material (print or digital or both) about non-class churches of Christ, I will be most happy to post them. If either of you would like to write up a longer post/s about the essense of the non-class position or about any aspect of non-class history, I would be happy to post that as well. If you have items such as tracts or other ephemeral items (notices for gospel meetings, etc.) I’d be happy to post scans of them so that more of us can learn from them. Grace and peace, Mac

  9. A read I would highly recommend : “Church Bible Classes—are they assemblies of the church and are their practices regulated by the Bible?” by Pat Mannon

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