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Renewed Direction for Christian Education
Hello, we are going to be discussing today the teaching ministry of the church. I would like to begin by speaking to the fact that there are a number of ways in which the whole Ministry of Christian education is at a crossroads today. In many respects, I think it is fair to say that Christian education is a ministry trying to rediscover itself or a ministry at a crossroads looking for direction about its future movements. There have been many people in the field of Christian Education who have taken approaches in one direction or the other, but it’s been my experience and my resolute conviction, having been in the field for a number of years now that the Christian education and the teaching ministry of the church really needs to recommit itself or reaffirm its commitments to three different things.
I would like to begin our discussion to day speaking about these three commitments: Three commitments to be reaffirmed or rediscovered in the teaching ministry of the church. I think this will provide an appropriate introduction to our time together. We will just look at these briefly.
The first of these commitments that I believe Christian educators need to reaffirm is a commitment to a Biblically based starting point. Christian education in my conception is really nothing more or nothing less than great commission work. I really believe that we need to take our lead as teaching leaders and teaching ministers in the church, we need to take our marching orders from the Biblical texts themselves, and especially, I believe that the Great commission is a great place for us to start. You remember that in the great commission Jesus said to His church on the eve of His or nearing His departure and His ascension into heaven. Jesus said to His disciples and believers that they were to go into all the world make disciples of all nations. In the Matthew text, Matthew 28 vs 18 -20 it reads this way. “As you go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
This Matthew version of the Great commission is obviously very familiar to us. It is also a widely used to give introduction to the ministry of evangelism in the church and also to the work of missions in the church. In the same way I believe it is very appropriate foundation for the teaching ministry of the church. Remember that in the text there is one imperative, actually there are several verbs or forms of verbs in the passage, but there is really only one imperative form of a verb and that is the command to make disciples. Make disciples, make people who will be followers of Jesus Christ, but as that making of disciples that command to make disciples is unpacked in Matthew 28 it’s unpacked by three participles, they are going, baptizing and teaching. The church should be in the process of going away from its own base in the world into all nations. We should never get too comfortable were we are at and just think it is just our job to just settle in and be comfortable and quiet. The church is a church on the march it’s a church that moves; a church that reaches out in love, constantly.
A church ultimately according to passages like Acts 1:8 that’s going to the very ends of the earth. As we go we make disciplines by means of baptizing and teaching. Baptizing into the triune name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching to observe all that I have commanded you. We don’t have time right down for a full unpacking of those ideas, but baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit really speaks to the ministry of initiating people into the body of Christ. As we go with the gospel. We find people who have not yet heard or have not yet received the gospel and we share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. And as they receive that message they are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So they are baptized as a mark of their initiation into the body of Christ into the Family of God. Baptism really is a Christian symbol of initiation into the covenant community.
I think it is therefore appropriate to link this part of the great commission with the ministry of evangelism. We go, we evangelize, that is we share the good news of Jesus with the hope that people will receive it, and be baptized, initiated into the body of Christ. But the great commission is not only a ministry of evangelism; it’s not only worldwide evangelization that we aim at when we obey the great commission. What we aim at again is making disciplines people who will be genuine followers of learners of Jesus Christ and in order for that to occur after someone has been baptized into the body they must be taught. Jesus tells us what it is they must be taught. They must be taught to obey whatsoever he has commanded, all things that he has commanded.
That part of the great commission is really the fundamental basis for the teaching ministry of the church. The church of course has various tasks that it must attend to always; evangelism is certainly one of those. The teaching ministry of the church, partners with those who are primarily involved in the task of evangelism. It helps people who have been brought into the church, through the ministry of evangelism and outreach, to be brought up in the church that is to be brought up in the faith. Taught to obey all things that Jesus had commanded us. Notice not taught simply all that Jesus has said, or taught all that Jesus has taught or all that Jesus has commanded. Not taught simply the information, but even more challenging taught obedience to all that Jesus has commanded. So, that people will indeed begin to look like the one that they call Lord, Jesus Christ.
I believe that the Great Commission is the foundation for the educational ministry of the church or the teaching ministry of the church. It should be our starting point and then informed by lots of other Biblical texts. In the teaching ministry of the church, this may seem obvious that this would be our starting point. But in practice today in many circles it’s not the starting point. I think there are many who are driven in the educational ministry of the church or teaching ministry of the church driven from different starting points.
Often the starting point is, runs something along this line. People will look at the word teaching or look at the word education and begin the process by saying, “what do we mean by education,” “what is education,” “what is teaching” and after that has been defined and explored then the next step is taken. Well, if that’s education, what would Christian education be? If that’s teaching, what would Christian teaching be? It’s a movement from education to Christian education. When that kind of movement is in place people will begin their exploration often by studying the social sciences, by studying the educational theorists, get an understanding of what teaching is, what education is. Then will try to inform that understanding of education by appeal to the scriptures. I think actually that’s a very unwise way for us to proceed in this particular ministry. It’s not unique to Christian education that people would do this, it happens in all kinds of ministries. Someone looks at the ministry of counseling and basically borrows ideas from secular approaches to counseling and then adds scriptural components to support that ministry. Or leadership, people take leadership models from corporate America and then try to inform those models scripturally. The same thing happens in Christian education a lot. People take secular models of education which are not bad in and of themselves. I’m not trying to suggest that at all. But will take those models and then essentially baptize them with scripture, borrow and baptize, is what we are talking about. That might be appropriate in some tasks that the church has to be engaged in, but I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate in the task of Christian education. Because the reality is that the Bible has laid a firm foundation for us. In what it is that we are to be about. The teaching ministry of the church is easily supported and the foundation is very clearly laid in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
So my argument is that we really need to let theology -Biblically formed theology -scriptural texts themselves we need to let Biblical texts themselves drive the ministry – the teaching ministry of the church. To change the analogy a little bit, let the scriptures pilot the ship. The Good Ship Christian Education, the teaching ministry of the church needs to be piloted by the scriptures. Once we have established the pilot, the captain of the ship is to be the scriptures. Then I think it is very appropriate that in terms of hands on deck we can appeal to the educational theorists, we can appeal to the social sciences, any other kind of general information that God has graciously provided man. To help us figure out how to work this ship in the broad picture.
But let’s begin with the Biblical texts themselves. As we’ll see in a little bit, there is very clear direction to us from the scriptures even beyond the great commission. So, the first commitment I would urge us to reaffirm is the commitment to a Biblically based starting point; Educational ministry the teaching ministry of the church driven from the Bible.
The second commitment I would urge us to reaffirm, in the teaching ministry of the church is the commitment to obey and teach the faith; a commitment to obey and teach the faith. I’m emphasizing the definite article “the” very intentionally. There is a lot of discussion in the church, of course, and in educational ministry circles about faith. But, typically, when we speak about faith in Christian education or CE as I may refer to it.
Typically people are thinking about faith formation or faith development and that’s a vital area. Of our educational thinking we should indeed be thinking about faith development. When we speak about faith development we are speaking about only one aspect of the Biblical understanding of faith. That is the subjective and personal faith that individuals have. Each of us grows in faith and has a faith that we must give in obedience to the Lord. This is spoken of in the scriptures for example Hebrews chapter 11 when we read “Faith is the evidence of things hoped, for the substance of things not seen, by faith we understand that the world was made from things that are not. Without faith it is impossible to please God. He who comes to God, must believe that he is.
Well, faith in that sense is subjective personal response to what God has revealed. That kind of faith is critical to us, we really do need to be helping people response properly to the revelation of God and grow in faith in that sense. That’s not the only understanding of faith in the Bible. Another way to speak about faith is to speak about the faith. For example, the little epistle Jude vs. 3, Jude says that we must earnestly contend for the faith, that was once for all delivered to the saints. When the Bible speaks of the faith in those terms, speaking of our personal subjective response to what God has revealed. It’s rather speaking to the objective things that God has revealed. God has revealed the faith, the gospel in all its implications that must be believed and must be obeyed. God has revealed according to Jude 3 once and for all.
The scriptures speak about this in a number of places. Again, I think the best way to understand what the faith means is speaking about the gospel and its implication for life. So, the faith has been delivered to the church once for all. Paul speaks in Galatians 1 about this once for all delivery of the Gospel faith by urging the Galatians to reject any other gospel. That varied from the gospel that he had brought them at the beginning. The same kind of spirit in which Jude said, the faith once delivered. (through 14:07 in the lecture)
More coming ...