Lecture 9: Who?
VII. Who Does the Work of Christian Education?
A. Three Levels:
The final question to look at concerns the who question. This can be looked on in three levels: whose job is it to teach, how do we organize those that teach and who do they need to be in terms of character in order to teach effectively? The who question reminds us of personal contact in ministry. If there isn’t a real face to face and heart to heart contact, real discipleship cannot occur. Jesus ultimately called his disciples to be with him when he calls the twelve in Luke. First of all, he calls them to be with him and this is part of the fundamental feature of Christian Education. Christian Education is more than simply giving a book to someone or a tape or video and saying here is the content that you need to know. It is about discipleship which involves relationships.
B. Who Is Charged with the Task:
First of all, in the Bible who is charged with the task of Christian Education? Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and also in chapter 11, the Biblical understanding is that parents will teach their children. The text in Deuteronomy says that the commandments as statutes must be learned. How? They are learned by speaking about them in all circumstances and environments. You talk about them when lie down and rise up; empress these things upon your children when you walk upon the road.
The whole picture certainly includes parents engaging their children. Parents are seen in the Old Testament and throughout Jewish history as the primary teachers of their children in terms of their faith. Fathers are uniquely charged with the office of teacher in terms of their children. The New Testament picks up on this right away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:4 when he says that fathers must raise their children up in fear and admonition of the Lord. Fathers and mothers, parents are the first Christian educators in the church. One of the great misconceptions of Christian Education today is that it is the task of the local church leadership primarily; Sunday school teachers will teach my children. Church Christian Educators, at best, can supplement and compliment and support what parents do at home. That means that if parents aren’t Christians, the church has a special burden on them to teach the children and do everything possible to help those parents become Christians and thus become the parents that they were called to be. Christian Education must be the job of parents first and foremost. Simply on a pragmatic level, think about the numbers of hours a week spent in church; it is nowhere near the number of hours spent at home. What someone may learn at church in terms of a few things that they are told or experience will not have the same kind of impact as what is learned by the modelling and environment at home. Churches should call parents to their Biblical responsibility and doing every possible thing to encourage and equip them in that. It would be wise to have frequent parent seminars, classes aimed at helping parents to do a better and more effective job in parenting their children.
The church should be walking alongside parents in difficult times when things aren’t going well with their children. Parents are Biblical teachers; however pastors are also called to teach. As we saw before, a lot of pastors think that Christian Education isn’t in their domain. But Biblically, certainly pastors are called to teach and they are key educators in the church. In the history of the church, parents and pastors relate in that pastors were seen as the key teachers when the community was gathered together. This was when the adults would learn. And then in the home, the parents would in turn teach their children. Pastors in the New Testament, I would argue, are equal to the term of elders; pastors and elders are equal to one New Testament office. As we see in the writings of Paul in 1st Timothy 3 and Titus 1, elders must be able to teach. We also read in Ephesians 4:11 that the pastor/teacher was an office that was given by God to the church for the sake of equipping the church for ministry. So pastors must teach in partnership with parents and ideally pastors should focus attention on raising levels of knowledge and understanding the faith of parents and then encouraging and supporting parents as they raise their own children in the home.
3. Gifted Teachers:
There are also gifted teachers. Paul talks about this in 1st Corinthians 12 and 14 and elsewhere about the spiritual gift of teaching. The supposition is that there are some who may not be in the office of elder or pastor or apostle and yet are still called to teach. They are gifted uniquely to teach. Hopefully those who are involved in the various teaching ministries of our church have teaching gifts of one form or another. If some are teaching who don’t have teaching gifts, perhaps this is necessary in some circumstances for a short period of time. But we should try and identify those with gifts of teaching and encouraging them to do that work.
4. Mature Believers:
There are also mature believers who can teach less mature believers. In Hebrews 5 and the beginning of Hebrews 6, there is a discussion where the author says in the negative that his readers should be able to teach others but still find themselves of being taught again in regards to the basics of the faith. What is implied here, as we grow in Christ, the more mature we become, the more we will be able to teach others. Titus 2, Paul says to Titus that the older women in the congregation should be teaching the younger women. 2nd Timothy 2:2 when Paul says that the things that you have heard from me entrust to reliable men who will be able to teach others. One of the ongoing principles in Christian Education are those who have grown and matured in the faith, they should love and care for those who are coming along behind them, the less mature in the faith and instruct them. They are to teach, mentor and disciple them.
5. Teach One Another:
There is a command to teach one another in the church. There is a sense where every member of the body is called to the teaching ministry of the church; not just the leaders, the older members but all of us. The Scriptures say that we are to let the Word of Christ dwelt richly in our midst. Colossians 3:16 says that as we teach and admonish one another or as Paul says in Ephesians 5:18-19, we are filled by the Holy Spirit as we speak to one another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. There is a one another component of our teaching ministry.
6. Building up Ourselves:
We are also responsible for building ourselves up in the holy faith. Build yourself up in the most holy faith, the Scriptures say. Not only should we be looking to others to provide input into our lives but we must take responsibility for ourselves. 2nd Peter 1, Peter urges his readers to add to their faith goodness and to their goodness knowledge and to their knowledge self-control. We must all take responsibility for our own faith as well. So lots of people engage Biblically in the task of education. We could certainly think of others.
C. The Holy Spirit:
We all, ultimately, submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the true teacher in the Christian Education ministry of the church. Jesus made this clear in John 14:16 when he promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of Truth would be in us and with us forever. He is called the Spirit of Truth and he has promised to be the one to guide us into all truth. John picks that language up in 1st John 1 when he says that every believer has an anointing from the Holy Spirit; we know the truth because of that anointing. The Spirit is the true teacher. Saint Agustin, a marvelous human teacher urged that all human teachers would constantly understand that Holy Spirit is the true teacher. For Agustin, that meant that even as I teach, I need to be also a petitioner and hearer; I need to be a hearer even though I am purporting to teach others, I must be a learner myself, eager to learn and constantly growing because the teacher is ministering in my life as well through my life. I also much be a petitioner; a praying person. I must constantly pray that God would teach the people I am teaching. If indeed the Holy Spirit is the true teacher, I cannot be effective in my own right; the Spirit of God has to teach. As Paul models for us throughout his letters; think how often Paul begins his letters with prayers. In many cases, as soon after the greetings, he launches into a lengthy prayer for the sake of those he is writing to. That seems to be Paul’s norm, but if he is really mad, the yells at them like in Galatians 1. Typically, he prays for them like the prayer in Ephesians 1 and in chapter 3 and then in Philippians 1 and Colossians 1. Paul prays beautiful prayers; may the eyes of your heart be opened. May you have power to grasp the love of Christ and may you grow in the knowledge of God. Prayers like that; may you bear fruit in every good work; to the glory of God. Paul prays these things because he understood that the true teacher was the Holy Spirit.
Even in his own explanation of his teaching ministry, Colossians 1:28 as we saw; I teach and admonish all men so that I may present all complete in Christ. I do this with energy that he works so powerful in me. Even as I teach, it is by the empowering of Spirit of God that I teach. It is only by the gifting of Spirit, the knowledge that I have has been given by the Spirit. Apart from the Spirit of God, it is all foolishness. Christian teachers must be utterly dependent upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We should be very clear about that.
D. Character of the Teacher:
In addition to being dependent upon the Holy Spirit in our lives, Christian teachers must understand that the conduct of our life is more important than the content of our teaching. It is a reality about how people learn; they learn more from watching and seeing thing modelled than from all the things we will say from them. Paul, therefore, could say to the Corinthians to follow his example as I follow the example of Christ. This is a bold statement and Paul could make such a statement. His claim was that he was following and pressing on after Christ and as I follow him, you follow me. That is the bold declaration that all Christian Education should be aiming to make. Follow me as I follow the example of Christ. Someone has said in a very old poem, I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I would rather have you walk with me than simply point the way. The reality is, people are learning by watching us, modelling is absolutely critical. Richard Baxter, the great puritan pastor warned his fellow pastors in his famous address written in the book, the Reformed Pastor, about these things. Baxter said to take heed to yourself, lest you unsay with your life all that you have said with your mouth and become yourself the greatest hindrance to you ministry. That is a good word to end on as we think about the ministry of Christian Education. Be careful that we live the things that we profess lest we unsay with our lives all that we have said with our mouths and become great hinderers of our own ministry.
So this is a brief overview of our seven questions; an introduction of the teaching ministry of the church. May God bless you richly as you seek to be faithful to him in service for the sake of the church and to the glory of God. Amen.