|Category||Christian School Education|
|Author/s||Mitch Evans, EdD|
|Preview||Christian educators realize that the ultimate goal for their students is not to be like them, but to be like Christ.|
A student will spend approximately 17,000 hours in an educational context before graduating. During that time, teachers have a chance to develop relationships that can affect students on a professional and eternal level. While is it important to understand the practical limits of student/teacher interactions, teachers can develop a culture of discipleship in their classrooms through their daily lessons.
Redeeming Classrooms: God's Plan for Your Students
God has called His people be holy and to train others to be holy (Barclay 1959); it is His redemptive plan for humanity. From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures illuminate how God works through human lives to redeem His elect. Too often, however, Christians fail to appreciate how God's redemptive plan encompasses all we say and do. We force a dichotomy between sacred and secular. Christian education is no different: Christian educators cannot think of teaching from a secular perspective; they must desire to see their students grow closer to Christ because of their leadership in the classroom. Education apart from God's plan of redemption is empty and hollow, begging to be filled with the purpose that comes from the fulfillment of God's plan.
As Christian educators, we must understand that our classrooms are an aspect of God's overall redemptive plan. While many Christian school teachers understand the necessity of a theocentric mission and vision, Jim Van Yperen (2002) takes the concept to a deeper level. To him, the mission of the school is how it fits into God's overall plan of redemption. In consultations with leaders of Christian organizations, he often asks about the organization's history. When leaders answer with their organization's start date, Van Yperen challenges them to acknowledge the effect of Christianity throughout history, effectively tracing the institution's origin back to, "In the beginning, God..."
What happens in our classrooms is an important aspect of God's overarching plan. Teachers must realize that they are advancing not merely a curriculum but a divine redemptive plan for their students.
Copy-Center Classrooms: Likeness Education and Your Students
A few weeks ago, while reviewing photosynthesis, one of my students asked the question no teacher likes to hear: "When are we ever going to use this?"
The situation made me reflect on how much of my own high school education I do not use. I can no longer find the integral of a calculus equation or accurately describe iambic pentameter, but I vividly remember how Mrs. Crawford and Mrs. Schemer brought passion to their respective subjects every day. This is not a reflection on their teaching ability; it's the reality of education. But the fading of certain skills and facts from my memory does not define my relationships with my former teachers.
Jesus described discipleship in terms of likeness education in Luke 6:40: "a pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (NASB). Thomas Hudgins (2014) explained that discipleship is the association of a teacher and learner for the purpose of transferring knowledge and experience. This association is more than a simple cognitive relationship, but "knowing what the teacher knows as well as knowing his character and works." Modern educational structures are so curriculum-centric that the impact of the teacher on the pupil is secondary at best. We have moved away from the Greco-Roman model that emphasized imitation of the sage as the primary purpose of education.
Christian educators realize that the ultimate goal for their students is not to be like them, but to be like Christ. Two verses from Paul's letters demonstrate this principle. In his letter to the Corinthians, he instructs his readers to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul highlights the negative example of Peter leading Barnabas into a hypocritical lifestyle through poor teaching, demonstrating "just how quickly a person's character/actions can become like those of someone else" (Hudgins 2014). A teacher should not point to himself as the standard, but humbly to how his life points to Christ. The goal of any discipleship between teachers and students should be for the student to be more like Christ than like the teacher.
As Christian educators, we should demonstrate how we, as experts in our respective subjects, use our understanding in our own spiritual development. If my biology students don't recall the particulars of photosynthesis in 20 years but still remember how my love for nature pointed to the vast glory of God (Psalm 19:1-4), then I have done a worthwhile thing. Teachers who follow Christ, and incorporate that into the material they teach, will bring their students along on the journey as well.
Culturally Engaged Classrooms: Shaping Your Students' Worldview
With Luke 6:40 and likeness education in mind, the challenge before Christian teachers is to teach their subject from a truly biblical perspective. Teachers cannot impart what they do not possess (Hendricks 1987). It is vital that Christian educators hold a worldview centered on biblical principles and convey those same principles to their students, lest they impart a philosophy that runs counter to the Bible (Colossians 2:8).
Frank Gaebelein (1968) described Christian school teachers as Bible teachers in a secular area: every subject is best understood within the framework of a biblical philosophical system. D. Bruce Lockerbie (2005) echoed Gaebelein's thesis and offered four practical suggestions to infuse biblical teaching into a standard classroom.
First, teachers must know God's Word. Second, they must be experts in their subject matter. Third, teachers must combine these two fields to show how their subjects can help students understand the truths of the Bible. Last, teachers must display how their instruction applies to the culture and world of their students. This may include discussions on how the material can inform one's view of God, man, morality, or truth. The effect of sound Christian teaching is a student equipped to engage the culture in a biblical way.
While there are many different resources teachers can use to increase their skills in the classroom, they are meaningless if those skills neglect the primary needs of the students being taught: namely their salvation and sanctification. Educators cannot abandon their craft in the name of simply preaching the gospel. Rather, they should incorporate their craft into the redemptive plan of God. Christian teachers must always be cognizant of how their teaching is guiding others to a closer relationship with Christ.
Barclay, W. 1959. Train Up a Child: Educational Ideals in the Ancient World. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.
Gaebelein, F. E. 1968. The Pattern of God's Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.
Hendricks, H. G. 1987. Teaching to Change Lives. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.
Hudgins, T. W. 2014. Luke 6:40 and the Theme of Likeness Education in the New Testament. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
Lockerbie, D. B. 2005. A Christian Paideia: The Habitual Vision of Greatness. Colorado Springs, CO: Purposeful Design.
Van Yperen, J. 2002. Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict. Chicago, IL: Moody.
Mitch Evans, EdD, MA, is the middle school science department head and teaches AP and honors biology at North Raleigh Christian Academy. Originally from Orlando, FL, he has over 14 years of experience in ACSI schools in both teaching and administration. He currently resides in Wake Forest, NC with his wife, Dawn, and three children.