The purpose of Christian Education
The article below was posted recently to the Kingdom Education Ministries website as part of Dr. Glen Schultz’s blog. It is a great reminder of the main purpose of Christian education.
Last week I shared how the majority of parents, church leaders and teachers believe that the main purpose of schooling is to prepare students for more schooling! They may not articulate this as the main purpose of schooling but in practice this is the reality. As a new school year begins, I believe it is important that Christians develop a few key objectives that should drive the education we give our children at home, church and school. It is essential that these objectives are achieved if we are going to fulfill God’s purpose for education and correctly prepare our children for the future.
Goal #1: Our Children Must Increase In Their Knowledge of God
There is no doubt about it. All education involves the acquisition of knowledge. However, too much of our educational efforts have to do with gaining more facts about a wide variety of topics. Unfortunately, most of this effort to know more “stuff” does not provide our children with the God-intended meaning behind all the facts they are taught. John Piper explains why just knowing the facts about something isn’t real education.
Modern people suppose that if they have the facts about a given thing, person, or event, they have the truth. They forget that facts are not meaningless or value free, and that if we do not associate the meaning with the fact, we do not have the truth.
J. I. Packer reminds us of why God created man in His image. He wrote,
Once you become aware that the main business you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall in place of their own accord.
All of the teaching that we give our children should aim at increasing their knowledge and understanding of who God is. This is what the Psalmist referred to in Psalm 19:1-4 and Paul was saying in Romans 1:20. Everything our children study is part of God’s creation and should tell them something about who God is. The late Albert Greene understood this when he wrote,
We must avoid the impression that academics represents the fullness of what school is all about. Knowing God in and though the creation is what is important…It brings no honor to the Holy Spirit if we then proceed to treat the ordinary school studies, which are derived totally from the created world, as if they had nothing to do with God. They are laden with meaning because they are all part of God’s way of giving Himself to us, of making Himself known to us.
Are your children increasing in the knowledge of God through their total educational experience? If not, we aren’t preparing them for the real future.
Goal #2: Our Children Must Hear God’s Call
In past posts I have shared how God places two calls on individuals. The first call that God gives to all people is His call for them to be saved. Scripture tells us that God is long-suffering because He does not want anyone to perish. However, God also gives each person a specific call. This is God’s call to a work or vocation. We have lost the concept of vocation in today’s world. Tim Keller explains this in his writings when he states,
We must recover the idea that work is a “vocation” or calling, “a contribution to the good of all and not merely…a means to one’s own advancement.”…Something can be a vocation or calling only if some other party calls you to do it, and you do it for their sake rather than your own. Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.
When the main purpose of schooling is merely preparing our children for more schooling, they may go through twelve or more years of schooling without ever understanding God’s purpose for their existence. Kevin Swanson puts it this way.
A successful education is achieved when a child is prepared to make maximal use of his God-given talents and abilities in the accomplishment of the child’s calling…The challenge of the first eighteen years of a child’s education is to find that calling…A fulfilled life will be determined by whether he/she has centered in upon his/her calling.
Do your children understand how God has gifted them with certain talents and abilities? Are they sensitive to God’s call on their lives? This has to be part of every child’s education from infancy all the way to maturity.
Goal #3: Our Children Must Pursue Biblical Excellence
In order to pursue true excellence, one must believe that there are absolute standards by which excellence is measured. Unfortunately, today’s culture refuses to believe that there are absolute standards for anything, including excellence. This means that excellence is totally relative and is only looked at from a horizontal perspective. This results in people pursuing an excellence that is only based on “comparison” and “competition”. One achieves excellence by being better or beating everyone else. Even today’s western church has adopted this concept of excellence.
A biblical understanding of excellence begins by setting God, Himself, as the true standard of excellence. Jesus is our model of excellence and our goal is to be like Him (1 John 2:6). Biblical excellence requires that the primary focus must be on character rather than performance or achievement. Our motive to be excellent in all things is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Gary Inrig explains how excellence in character is more important than mere perfection in performance.
…excellence of character rather than excellence of achievement must be the central concern of the believer…the priority of character is due to the fact that what a person is colors all that he does.
Performance takes on eternal significance when it is an extension of one’s godly character. Consider the words of Darrow Miller.
Because redeemed man is working for God, to fulfill God’s plans, the work is to be done with excellence. Our guidelines for excellence are found in God’s own nature. God is true, just, and beautiful. Our work, in both its means and ends, is to manifest truth, justice, and beauty.
Is the education you are giving your children teaching them that excellence is all about out-performing others? Are you educating your children in a way that challenges them to pursue excellence of character which will result in their best performance possible for God’s glory? We must realize that God’s excellence is not based on what He does but on who He is. That is why He expects us to be holy because He is holy!
These objectives must define and drive the education we give our children at home, church and school. If we do not achieve these objectives, our children will not be prepared for the future — regardless of what else they might learn!