The purpose of Christian Education is to teach God’s directives and to equip the believer to understand the importance of being a part of the mission of the church, which is to take the word to the lost. Where do I fit in, is my question? It is important for one to understand their philosophy of Christian education and discipleship in order to answer the question of where one fits in. The purpose and goals of Christian education and discipleship coupled with an understanding of individual learning styles adds to the success of educating the body. My personal philosophy in light of the new learning I gained from this course focuses on living a life of authentic Christianity.
The author, Gailyn Van Rheenen, in his book, Missions: Biblical Foundations & Contemporary Strategies, states, “Few Christians are able to describe vividly in biblical terms what God desires the church to be. Without biblical undergirdings, the church is swept along by the ebb and flow of culture and in various forms degenerates into a social fraternity. When this happens, the church more nearly reflects the world than the nature of God and has little that is distinctive to offer the world” (28). The first step then is for the church to understand what her purpose is and who initiated the mission. “The church is not a human organization. It is the result of a mission or a sending that began with God. The mission of God, initiated through Jesus Christ and continued through his disciples, led to the formation of the church” (Van Rheenen, 29). The web site, Mintools.com (Ministry Tools Resource Center), in its resource, Christian Education Ministry Overview, states, “Christian Education Ministry involves the administration and coordination of programs or strategies to facilitate the spiritual growth or discipleship of believers into Christ-likeness” (1).
The purpose and goals for Christian education and discipleship are to teach God’s directives so that individuals are equipped to live holy lives as well as become ambassadors to the lost. To understand these basic instructions, one must go to the Bible. God’s word gives all his children what they need to make it in life. One important reason to teach the word of God to believers today is to help them fulfill the mandates of God in their lives. When adults, for instance are taught, they can teach their children. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and whey thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” Deuteronomy 6:7 (Deuteronomy 11:19 states a similar mandate). The scripture shows how important it is to God that parents actively teach their children the way of the Lord. However, the church must play a vital role in the preparation of the believer so they can be successful at this assignment. In the book, Introducing Christian Education: Foundations for the Twenty-first Century, one of the writers, Judy Ten Elshof states, “Family life education should be centered in the home, supported by the church, and grounded in both biblical theology and strong intimate relationships with God and others. This means that guiding, training, and educating the next generation’s spiritual lives is primarily the responsibility of parents in the home…Therefore, a church that ministers to families recognizes this and elevates its service to meet the diverse needs of the contemporary family.” (195).
It is, however, difficult for a parent to teach their child(ren) what the word says, if they are not being taught and developing their own personal walk with the Lord. “Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths” (Psalm 25:4) and “Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies” (Psalm 27:11). The church, being led by the Holy Spirit, is the avenue that God’s people will be taught the plain path of God and equipped to stand against the enemy (Satan) and all his devices that are to destroy the effectiveness of the church and her people.
“Parents need to learn to teach what they believe, model Christian attitudes, and model values that they want their children to have when they are adults…As the modern family continually departs from biblical values, that used to be engrained in secular mores, the cultural repercussions become increasingly evident. Unfortunately, the Christian family often reflects the trends and values of current culture or marginalizes itself against society, rather than being an agent of change in a wayward culture” (Ten Elshof, 198).
Education needs to play an important part in the lives of the family. The church must teach the answers that God has regarding the culture one lives in. God’s answer is, “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” (2 Timothy 3:16) and “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with my eye” (Psalm 32:8). When the church has shown the individual how to teach their children, how to live a holy life and how to withstand the cultural pull on one’s life, they are now ready to learn how to be a witness to the world.
The church is responsible for teaching individuals (both young and old) that witnessing is a mandate of God. “The basis of all mission is sending. Unbelievers cannot call on God until they first believe; they cannot believe until they hear; they cannot hear without a preacher; and preachers will not go unless they are sent. The messenger’s feet appear ‘beautiful’ to those hearing and receiving the word of Christ” (Van Rheenen, 31). Many believers are afraid of the word, witness. The church needs to teach how to witness so that believers will be more comfortable doing what we have been called upon to do. The first way we witness is in the way we live before others. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Peter 2:24) and “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6). When believers are taught they must live a holy life and what that entails they become a witness of God’s goodness before the people. The second way is when individuals witness to others about how God’s word changed their lives. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). God is calling for his people to tell everyone about his goodness.
Christian education and discipleship is concerned with individuals being taught so that they can continue the teaching and reaching process. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). This is the ultimate goal of education within our churches. Teach every believer so they can continue to spread the word of God daily.
Once a church understands what they are trying to achieve, they must set goals to teach the Christian faith to accomplish this purpose of the mission. The first place to start any task is with prayer to allow God’s spirit to direct in the way one should go. It is acceptable, however, to look to resources to help one get started in developing a successful education program. On the website mintools.com, in one of it’s resources, Christian Education Ministry Philosophy, states, “When a philosophy of ministry is developed from a biblical or theological basis, the potential for coming into the same heart and mind of these matters increases. God’s Word is the standard, not tradition or a certain leader’s bent” (2). The resources list some important aspects such as, one should have an overall purpose (from the acquisition of knowledge to the application of knowledge, from adherence of traditions to the pursuit of transformation; from outward conformity to inward change), the role of the word (from unimportant to central, from truth that is relative to truth that is absolute), and teaching-learning processes (such as from teacher-centered to student-centered, from passive learners to active learners) (1). (Come back next week for the next installment)