Farmville Enterprise August 8, 2018
August is upon us and students are about to embark upon a new school year. Church Christian Education committees around the country will begin implementing plans for upcoming Sunday morning and weekly Bible classes. Many of us know the important impact these sessions can have on not just children and youth but adults as well. In high school I began attending a Sunday morning youth class where the foundations of Christian theology, spiritual development and Bible memory were emphasized. A teacher recommended “What the Bible is All About” which packs a lot of information and background about each book of the Bible into one volume.
The book’s author, Dr. Henrietta Mears, grew up in a spiritually rich family where they started each day together with Bible reading, prayer and hymn singing. After graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1915 Mears taught Chemistry at a rural high school and volunteered in a local Methodist church with the Sunday morning and weekly youth programs. A few years later she returned to Minneapolis as a high school chemistry teacher and a volunteer at First Baptist Church. She taught the “Fidelis Class” which grew to an enrollment of 3,000 attendees by the end of her decade there. Mears implemented a system of small groups made up of five girls and a leader. Once the group grew to ten girls one girl left to start a new group.
In the fall of 1928 she felt a sense of God’s calling and accepted the position as Director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, CA. Mears was passionate about the power of Sunday School to teach the Bible and the importance of presenting a clear Gospel message to young people. When she arrived in Hollywood the church’s Sunday School attendance was 450 and after her 35 years of ministry there is reached 6,500. Mears was known for her passion for God, high degree of organization, commitment to Christ-honoring excellence, reliance on prayer, Bible-centered teaching and habit of wearing brightly colored hats. She taught the college age program herself but trained countless others to teach and lead. When she surveyed Sunday School materials current at the time and found them lacking she began to write biblically-focused and Christ-centered curriculum herself. Three colleagues joined her in founding Gospel Light Press publishing company in 1933 with an emphasis on quality, student appeal and life application.
Hundreds of women and men went through her Sunday School program and later entered full-time Christian ministry. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and his wife Vonette attended Mears’ class and lived in and worked out of her home for the first ten years of that ministry’s existence. Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, Louis Evans, Jr., the organizing pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church, and Frederick Dale Bruner, biblical scholar with well-known commentaries on the gospels of Matthew and John all learned under Mears’ tutelage. Billy Graham said about her, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence on my life. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have known.”
Whether we are learning or teaching about the Bible in a small setting or a large one, let’s make every effort this fall to make Christian education a priority each week. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3: 14-17)