Welcome to Equip for Ministry. We have especially enjoyed putting this issue together. It focuses on what we believe to be some helpful thoughts and ideas regarding your church’s ministry, particularly as it relates to education and training. In the 60s and 70s, the late Francis Schaeffer cautioned that we may be sending our children “naked into the world,” spiritually and intellectually, ill equipped to handle the challenges the world throws at them. Allan Bloom was also on target when he wrote The Closing of the American Mind in the late 80s. He stated that the only absolute most incoming college and university freshman have in place is the conviction that there are no absolutes.
As a Christian educator, I am becoming increasingly aware that we must be strategic in our education, training, and equipping to avoid two extremes. One is to be so regimented and programmed that we do what Neil Postman warns against in Building a Bridge to the 18th Century. We can program people, just like computers, to respond exactly the way we want and never train them to think critically. Or we can go to the other extreme and make no effort in this area but simply encourage, allow, and teach “free thinking” (no boundaries or limits), again never really training or equipping our children, youth, and adults.
The Equip Tip in this issue underscores the importance of asking questions and the importance of being willing to listen and respond. Encouraging and using questions has always been a key technique in the learning process. The article on mentoring underscores another important part of that process. We do learn best from our friends. While it is not impossible to learn from a stranger, normally we learn best from those with whom we have some kind of relationship. One of the tragedies of modern education is that an air of “professionalism” among teachers and professors has discouraged them from building relationships. Though I did not come to faith in Christ until my freshman year in college, I did attend church with some regularity as a youngster and I remember well the personal contacts with my Sunday school teachers. They made an impression on me.
It is disheartening to visit PCA churches where Christian education and training are almost side issues in the church. The lack of intentionality and sense of mission are discouraging when we know how the Lord wants his people to be trained and discipled. The lead article discusses this problem and suggests some ideas that can move your church to the next level.
The book reviews in this issue also were chosen to fit into this general motif. Introducing Christian Doctrine by Millard Erickson deals with the foundation of all education. Dan Dorianni’s book on applying that truth to life touches on another essential part of the process. The two books on illustrators are also valuable tools to assist in making the preaching and teaching of the Word as clear and understandable to the student or the person in the pew as we humanly can.
I read an article in the May 15, 2001 Wall Street Journal which referred to the 2000 Census results. The article quoted well-known social commentator William Bennett who concluded from the statistics regarding the home and family that “we are losing; there isn’t any question about it.” We cannot afford to loose. We must train and equip the next generation with the truth of God. They must know how to live in a relativistic, pluralistic, and postmodern culture. Discipling, including evangelism, education, and training, must have top billing in the local church if we are to be transformed and not conformed to this world. The vision of a generation of PCA people trained to think Christianly and live as salt and light keeps me motivated with a sense of urgency.
Recently someone said to me that a pastor in a sizeable church said to him, “We are so busy with our adult program that we do not have the time or resources to take seriously the challenge to reach the rising generations.” I responded that that church probably is not truly training and equipping adults. If they were, they would have a good ministry program to children and youth because God instructs us to pass on our faith to the next generation, and that requires a willingness to commit time and involvement.
At CE/P, we constantly monitor, evaluate, and study the social trends, including religion and ethics. Our training and resources are carefully designed to assist local church leaders in planning the best possible training and education programs. But in all of this, our focus is to help facilitate “teaching the truth in the context of vertical and horizontal relationships.”
Our prayer at CE/P is that local church leaders will take seriously the challenge to pass on the faith to the next generation and that they will be willing to make whatever sacrifices and commitments this will require in their churches. We further pray that churches will not rest until they have strategically put together the best Christian education and training program they can possibly offer their families. We encourage you to read this edition carefully and draw from the thoughts and ideas in a positive way that will bring good results in your church. Can we afford to do less for the Lord?