To raise up the next generation of Christ-followers, there are threads of faith that must be well-woven together if we hope to create a durable fabric of faithfulness of sufficient strength to withstand the stresses of life in a fallen world.
A Real-World Faith
Our kids need to experience the real world. Hiding them away in a “bubble” does a disservice to them and will inhibit them in life. Christian schooling is not a bubble. Rather it is, or should be, a boot camp. Christian schooling is about equipping children and young people to engage in the war that is raging all around them. Doing that takes time and specific preparation. To simply send anyone into battle without adequate preparation and effective tools is a crime.
Those of us engaged in Christian schooling in all forms recognize that one of our primary responsibilities, and thus one of our key goals, is the preparation of children and young people for the battle in which they will engage on a daily basis. We recognize that that battle takes place in the “real world” of commerce, culture, and community. We should be reluctant to send off ill-equipped little missionaries only to watch them become casualties of the battle for which we failed to prepare them. But if we are to prepare our students for life in the “real world,” we must first understand what is actually happening in that world. It is hard to prepare someone for a task without a clear understanding of what that task entails and the context in which they will be engaging in that task.
A Reasonable Faith
Without a solid foundation, everything eventually collapses. We need to equip our young people so that they are, as 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) says, “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” It is important to note that Peter’s admonition is given to those who are living in a hostile environment, who have been maligned and mistreated. Learning to “make a defense” is a key component of discipleship.
Consider how often, instead of dispensing content, Jesus chooses to ask questions. His approach was consistent with how the rabbis of His day taught. It was also much like the Socratic method of inquiry that was and is central to a classical approach to teaching and learning. We see echoes of that in the project-oriented approach currently finding favor among many educators. As all of us know and have experienced, the joy of learning is not primarily found in just hearing content. It is only when a student experiences truth that he or she can fully grasp and embrace that truth, whether the topic is mathematics, science, geography, literature, or the gospel.
An Integrated Faith
It is never enough to just “know.” We must also understand and then act on what we know to be true. Failure to integrate what we know into how we live is one of the primary reasons why the church is making such little impact on the world around us. We need to do more than just get the facts right. We need to help our students wrestle through the implications of those facts and then encourage them to find ways to bring those truths to life in a broken world so desperate for living proof that what we say is true. We as adults also can’t fulfill that responsibility until we ourselves have acted wisely and well on what we know to be true.
By the way, that is exactly what God did when He sent His Son into our world. Without the incarnation, we would never know God as we do. It is one of the primary reasons Jesus came to earth. It is why He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” It wasn’t just an affirmation that the Son and the Father are equal. That is certainly true—but there is more. The Son was an absolutely accurate reflection of the Father’s nature, character, and qualities. It has been left to us to carry on that mission. We must reflect in our lives and interactions with people the very image of the One we claim to embrace as our Lord. Failure to help our children and young people understand and act on that reality invalidates all of our efforts.
A Willing Faith
God gives us commandments. The scriptures are filled with things we are to do and things we are to avoid. God didn’t send Moses down from the mountain with the Ten Suggestions. Rather, He gave us the Ten Commandments, ten clear concepts around which faithful followers of Yahweh and His Son need to shape their lives.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus the question, “What is the greatest of the commandments?” He didn’t hesitate in His response: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, ESV). It’s what we are called to do. It’s what we are instructed to do. It’s what’s expected of us. It is a command, not a mere recommendation.
Like any command, however, we have choices. We can obey, we can distort what appears to be plain, or we can simply choose to disobey. It happens all the time, every day, all around the world. It’s why we have penalties attached to decisions to violate the law. What intrigues me about this reality is that God never forces His will on anyone. He never says, “You must.” It’s always, “You should.” However we understand the concept of free will, the fact remains that we do have the choice to obey God’s commands or to say, “I’m not really interested, thank you.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we’ve all been at that point sometime in our lives, and probably multiple times. And if we are equally honest, we have all experienced the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the clear teaching of the scriptures, the pressure of our surrounding community, or our personal experiences, which the Holy Spirit uses to move us in the direction of obedience. We will never be able to help a student fashion the fabric of faithfulness without that student’s willing participation in the process.
Read more about threads of faith in Dr. Alan Pue’s new book, Rethinking Discipleship.
[Editor’s Note: This blog is the first of three in a “Summer Reading List” series, which spotlights three new books for Christian school educators to consider for their personal summer booklist.]
About the Author
As president of The Barnabas Group, Inc., Dr. Alan Pue draws on an extensive background in Christian school leadership to provide strategic planning, leadership development, and governance improvement assistance to Christian school leaders and boards. He is the author of three books, numerous articles and book reviews, and is the proud grandfather of seven beautiful granddaughters. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.