What Makes Our Teaching Christian?

Some time ago the “Fellowship” of adult educators at Faith Bible Church met for breakfast. Talk ranged from how we’d been doing in the past to how we could serve our participants better in the future.

Then, around the time I pocketed the check (see, there are live benefits to the group), someone asked the question: How do you build a lesson anyway?

That’s the question we’ll be addressing in a series of nine posts. (They’ll be released on this FaithWorks blog spot on this site, www.faithb.org.)

You’ll find response questions below each post so you can share your immediate thoughts. After we’ve been at it awhile we’ll do breakfast…Maybe I’ll pick up the check.

 

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Before we get to our question we have one matter to clear up. We need to answer an even more basic question:What makes our teaching Christian to start with? 

 

EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN ASSUMES PARTICULAR THINGS ABOUT GOD

Before we ever take our stand in front of our participants—or sitting alongside them, all depending on your method—we’ve assumed much about God.

 

Education that is Christian assumes that God is other than His creation.The word we need here is transcendent. When you stroll in the beauty of the autumn and stoop to pick up a blazing red leaf, you’re only seeing the fringes of God’s glory. Even then, you’re learning something about God. And when we teach in a way that is properly Christian we’re assuming that God has something to tell us—something that travels from one mind to another, something about Himself that starts with Himself.

 

Education that is Christian assumes that God has revealed Himself. This revelation—that’s the word we want—takes place in a general way through the order and design of nature. But even though we learn enough in nature to know that God exists, we still don’t know enough about God to really know Him.

For that we need Jesus, and all that is true about Him as told us in the the Gospel and the Bible.

 

EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN REQUIRES A RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died…was buried…was raised (proving that He is God)…and was seen. And just as all Scripture points to Jesus, the whole Bible points to the Gospel.

This message of the Gospel, together with the whole Bible, carries freight: There’s content that must be delivered from one person to another. This content includes facts—the facts that Jesus died and rose from the dead, and in a way that can be witnessed and reported. This content also includes the rest of the Bible that points to Jesus’ work in the Gospel. This revelation gives us knowledge of how to live.

This content takes the form of “head knowledge” (Yes! There’s a place for that) that must be delivered by the teacher and and responded to by the learner. Making certain this freight gets delivered is the job of the teacher. 

 

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Education that is Christian not only delivers this message through the teaching of the Bible but makes certain that the learner has, at the very least, the opportunity to respond. 

 

At its simplest this response might demonstrate knowledge (How does God show, in Genesis 1-2, that He is strong? Answer: He created the world.) Slightly more complex, this response might demonstrate understanding (What does God’s judgement of the world, in Genesis 6-9, tell us about sin? Answer: Sin must be punished.) At its most complex, the response might demonstrate evaluation (How have I, as a husband, and in response to Ephesians 5:25, loved my wife with the same love with which Christ loved the church?)

These responses require “head-knowledge,” because the Gospel (and the rest of Scripture) requires—for starters—a mental response to something that is true and has been truly revealed by the transcendent God.

But education that is Christian doesn’t stop with head-knowledge alone…

 

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EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN REQUIRES A HEART RESPONSE THROUGH THE GOSPEL

The Gospel also requires a “heart-response”. This response assumes the facts of what Jesus did, but includes our wills and desires, our attitudes, and the continuing change in our values that God brings about through the Gospel.

The teacher teaching Christianly—having delivered the head-knowledge—now challenges the learner to make a heart-response. The heart-response might involve awareness (How does God’s creation of the world, in Genesis 1-2, help me think about God’s ability to help me in times of trouble?), a change in values (How does God’s punishment of sin, in Genesis 6-9, change the way I think about sin in my life?) or a willingness to organize one’s life around the truth of the Gospel (How might I as a husband in loving my wife as Christ loves the church, and in response to Ephesians 5:25, adjust my work schedule to better serve my wife?)

Though the teacher can’t require a heart-response, he can indicate the response required. Education that is Christian presents the heart-response necessary. 

 

All of this takes place in response to the Gospel! And no part or particle of the learner’s life is out of bounds to the Gospel. What difference does it make that I’m a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ alone? the learner asks. Since every facet of the Christian’s life is being transformed in response to the Gospel, the scope of this question is nothing short of cosmic!

Money, relationships, time management, leisure, parenting, gardening, intimacy—nothing lies outside the cosmic scope of the Gospel. For the Christian learner every relationship is being shaped and molded by God’s continuing work through Christ in the Gospel.

 

Education that is Christian helps the learner live out the Gospel in all of life. 

The teacher teaching Christianly has the job of making these connections to all of life through the truth of the Gospel. This sets Christian education apart from other models that teach “head-knowledge” alone. This sets Christian education apart from other forms of learner that fall short of whole-life transformation by Christ in the Gospel. This answers the question: What makes our teaching Christian to start with? 

 

Have a look at our questions below and post your own response in the “comments” box. Then, join us for our next meeting of the “Fellowship”. (…I’ll pick up the check.)

Then, check back at FaithWorks next week. We’ll get back to our main question: How do you build a lesson anyway? 

 

Questions for discussion:

According to this article what sets teaching apart as uniquely Christian? Do you agree? If not, why? 
 
How much teaching you hear qualifies as uniquely Christian teaching? How about your own teaching?
 
What would be the dangers of teaching to the “head” but missing the “heart” ? (That is, teaching the facts of what Scripture says, but never getting to the attitudes, values and desires that God would change through the Gospel.) 
 
 
 

 

14 thoughts on “What Makes Our Teaching Christian?”

  1. Bryan, one other aspect that’s unique to Christian teaching is the role that the Holy Spirit plays. When the teacher, the student, and the material are all Christian, the Holy Spirit can move is such a way that God Himself is part of the lesson, from creation to reception and reaction. He can overcome our limitations and weaknesses in accomplishing His purpose through Christian teaching.

    Hendricks has a great article on “What Makes Christian Education Distinct” that can be found on christianitytoday.com or in the book “Mastering Teaching.”

    1. I’ll pick up the article, Mike. I’m not familiar with it …

      See the string below related to Chris’ comment. It’s helpful for me to remember that I can’t demand that the Spirit work in peoples’ lives, nor can I require them to do business with Him. I can require that participants answer the appropriate questions from the text that will allow them to be in the place to do business with God.

  2. Christian teaching is unique because of the linkage between hear, mind and volition in the life of one who is “in Christ”.. It teaches there are no God acceptable alternatives to this even though it is not required for our salvation. It is essential to our life to be consistent whit our salvation and pleasing to God while in the fleshly temple. I argee with the teaching

  3. Most teaching I hear is either self-help and/or problem-solving according to scriptural referenced basis. In past years teaching has focused on intellectual or academic approach to the scripture. This sort of teaching was a blessing to many and led to life changes because it was understood to be about what pleased GOD.The teaching of Pleasing God went hand in hand with the teaching and was a necessary part of the proof on was saved. That aspect of the teaching fades and only the data of the scripture remained. When teaching any age, tried to make the teaching be a life-force I the conscious being of the student and myself.

  4. Most teaching I hear is either self-help and/or problem-solving according to scriptural referenced basis. In past years teaching has focused on intellectual or academic approach to the scripture. This sort of teaching was a blessing to many and led to life changes because it was understood to be about what pleased GOD.The teaching of Pleasing God went hand in hand with the teaching and was a necessary part of the proof one is saved. That aspect of the teaching fades and only the data of the scripture remained. When teaching any age, I tried to make the teaching become a life-force I the conscious being of the student and myself.

    1. I love hearing you think, Dan. In my approach, I want to make clear the meaning of the biblical passage before ever talking about the reader’s “head” or “heart” response. I like to do this in a “big idea” statement that (very important) summarizes the particular, biblical argument in the world of the text.

      We’re actually going to walk through the mechanics of this in a future post.

      1. In this blog setting of communication let’s try the next level. Here goes:

        I see your point about setting the big meaning first. I have only experienced the recursive teaching method in the school/college humanities class room. In that setting the teacher has reasonable assurance of a continuum with the student. In the church settings of a class or a congregation it is a different problem. There is a volunteer and interrupted relationship more casual than the scholastic institutional one.

        OPINION – Continuity is tough to attain in a multilayer unfolding. It is like a spiral that must build its strength on each turn of forward movement. In each spiral the teacher must set the hooks for the expanding or recursive treatment of the text. The need to sensitize the “heart and head” aspects is there from the beginning of the study series.. Sometimes this employs spiritual nuggets embedded in the “big meaning” development and expressions of the “big idea”. Full development of the nuggets is in the later spirals of the study, “What Makes Our Teaching Christian”.

  5. If the “teaching” does not probe and disturb the attitudes, preferences, decision making, and deliberative components of the believer’s heart, mind and soul, there is a serious situation with the teaching and potentially within the believer. Contentment/complacency without constructive concern for pleasing God within the Christian should be a personal alarm and a danger signal to the teacher. Christ intends life-change to increase the joy and maturity of those “in Him”.

    1. Love it, Dan, especially the last line about all this taking place “in Him”. Good teaching puts the believer in a place to be “offended” by the Gospel, doesn’t it? Though the Gospel is rooted in fact, just transferring this content isn’t sufficient to make our teaching “Christian”, is it?

  6. COMMENT on the process: The Reply Page is VERY hard to use on my PC. The font color is not controllable, and it is of avery lite grey. Thus it is hard to see what is written. I am writing in the WORD program and then pasting it into the reply field..

  7. Bryan, this is a very helpful article for The Fellowship. You note that it begins with how we view God, first. How we view everything flows from the way we see God. This is so true in the way we educate as well and whether it is truly “Christian.”
    You also root the importance of Christian education as it relates to the gospel. If we don’t accurately come to the gospel and then are changed and empowered by the gospel, we will stop short of Christian education. I think the greatest danger to this at FBC, especially in adult education, is the informational lecture or Bible content download, without the challenge to respond through the gospel. Continuing to challenge people to heart-change through the gospel is not easy work.

    1. Chris- We thank our Lord that FBC has the teachers willing to do the hard work. Even evangelical Christian Teaching has long been performed on the assumption that Salvation injects a person with irresistible God-ward-ness. The assumption is untrue.

      The Holy Spirit equips the believer through the Word and enables through His presence. We must respond in His Power, and that is choice of our will and heart. Satan the world and our flesh are at war with our new nature and the Spirit that challenges, Christian teaching helps us to understand and live in the war-zone.

    2. You know I’m with you her, Chris, don’t you?
      I’d point out that we can require learners to respond to “head” knowledge. And, often, anyone – Christian or not – can demonstrate cognitive learning. Where it gets truly “Christian” is when we start dealing in affective “heart” knowledge. Here we can only help the learner identify a response required by the text. The real change takes in the learner’s response to the Holy Spirit through the word. The teacher can’t grade it, quantify it or demand it.

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