Category CSE Magazine
Title Promoting Discipleship Within the Curriculum
Author/s ACSI Global staff
Preview We must help students experience the heart of God and challenge them to be part of something larger than themselves.

The staff of the International Ministries Office of ACSI prepared this article. The International Ministries Office serves the constituency of ACSI by providing resources that help teachers promote a global perspective about what God is doing in the world and how our students can be a part of His mission. I n the book Passion for the Heart of God, Jamie Zumwalt writes that "the secret of Christianity is not asking Jesus into your heart; it is Jesus asking us into His heart" (Zumwalt 2000). God wants to mature us past our inviting Him to be involved in our life and dreams. He is inviting us to be involved in His life and dreams. Loren Cunningham notes that "we will not be able to seek the mind of the Lord until we receive His heart" (Zumwalt 2000). If we grasp His heart, we will know the person of God. And what this generation needs the most is to know who God is.

Communicating God's heart and purpose to our students is essential to their spiritual formation. According to Dallas Willard in his book Renovation of the Heart, there has been a widespread and intense interest in spiritual formation. He believes that this interest has occurred mainly because of a "realization-confirmed by thorough and careful studies-that Christianity has not been imparting effectual answers to the vital questions of human existence. And spiritual formation has not presented itself as a hopeful possibility for responding to the crying, unmet need of the human soul" (2002). The authors of How Now Shall We Live assert that the "church's singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to seek Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence and speaks to both the moral and physical order of the universe." According to the authors, "we must show the world that Christianity is more than a private belief, more than personal salvation. We must show that it is a comprehensive life system that answers all of humanity's age-old questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaning and purpose?" (Colson and Pearcey 1999).

If we as Christian educators accept the responsibility to develop spiritual formation in our students, we must guide them toward a greater understanding of how their life's meaning and purpose should fit into the greater purpose of God. We must help them experience the heart of God and challenge them to be part of something larger than themselves. Regardless of the subject we teach, we need to determine how what we teach can contribute to a child's development as a participant in God's purpose or mission. And as the giftedness of students unfolds, it is our task to help them develop a framework of questions that will help them to think biblically and to understand their personal level of responsibility as a Christian.

Often our focus in the Christian school is on personal piety, skill development, and cognitive growth. But being moral, skillful, and smart is not the essence of spiritual formation. When we talk about God's call on the lives of students, we tend to limit the call to certain activities, such as missions or evangelism. We don't speak of God's call as being obligatory for all His children. It is important that we communicate the allencompassing nature of God's call, emphasizing that it is not for a chosen few, such as those called to missions or the pastorate. It is the invitation from God for all His followers to be part of His purpose.

We join God in His purpose as the Spirit transforms our hearts, because this transformation results in a desire to see Him glorified. He is glorified as we devote our skills, our resources, our minds, and our lives to His teachings and purpose. Discipleship that affects students in an all-of-life way requires that we weave these principles deeply and developmentally into our teaching. Otherwise, we will have students who are intelligent and perhaps law abiding; but many of them will walk away from their faith or become detached from God's perfect plan for their lives, a plan that includes them as a part of what He is doing in the world.

We must help students relate their faith to every area of life. We need to teach them that faith is not merely one of the things that we do in life; it is the basis of all that we do.

To help students integrate faith, we need to include experiential as well as cognitive learning. But more than anything else, we as educators must exemplify integrated lives. Our lives must be marked by a personal faith that directs our daily living.

Classroom instruction provides students with the proper foundation for experiential learning. But if we want learning to take root, we must lead students out of the classroom. Experiential learning transforms the classroom lesson into the proven knowledge of God. "It is here where children step out of their comfort zone and engage a real enemy. They find themselves in situations that are beyond their control, where their ideas and beliefs will be challenged" (Hohmann 1997). These two elements of cognitive and experiential learning depend on each other, and together they provide a complete learning experience.

In regard to spiritual formation, do we make sure that our students are attaining the outcomes we expect? We develop outcomes for math and science, but do we develop outcomes for spiritual formation as well? Have we identified strategies for helping our students achieve these outcomes? Do we have a way of measuring whether students have attained these outcomes? Do the learning activities regarding spiritual formation build on one another and prepare students to advance from one grade level to the next?

Recently a team was formed to offer an integrated scope and sequence that will enable schools to incorporate these concepts into the units of instruction that they are already teaching. Beginning in the late fall, the ACSI website will include this information, along with activities that will help schools integrate these principles and ideas into their programs. The team is also working with other groups within ACSI that are developing assessment strategies for the expected student outcomes introduced last year.

We invite you to contribute to this ongoing project. Visit the ACSI website at and select Global Perspectives under Shortcuts. You will find out what is available and how you can contribute. We look forward to hearing from you!


Colson, Charles, and Nancy Pearcey. 1999. How now shall we live? Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Hohmann, Peter. 1997. The great comissionary kids. Springfield, MO: Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade, Assemblies of God.

Willard, Dallas. 2002. Renovation of the heart. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Zumwalt, John. 2000. Passion for the heart of God. Choctaw, OK: HGM Publishing. 

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