Targeting Comprehensive Christian Education

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It never ceases to amaze me that anywhere in the world you say “Christian Education” people automatically think Sunday school. Is this the only Christian education the church does? If it is, then we are in big trouble. Let me explain.

In teaching the Christian Education (CE) courses in South Africa for eight years, the student’s first exercise was to list every church activity, i.e., worship, soup kitchens, Bible study, missions, etc. The challenge was for them to tell me which one was not CE! As you read further, that is my challenge to you, because the way you understand the educational ministry of your church will determine its spiritual depth. You disagree? Then my challenge is to prove my point.

Let’s start with missions. My contention is that missions is a sub-set of CE! What do missionaries do? They share the Gospel. To share the Gospel means to teach the meaning of the Gospel – this is CE! When there is a group of converts a church is started and training leaders is a number one priority. Training is CE! How about worship? Worship is leading people in worship to understand the importance of what they are doing. It is not only the sermon (which in itself is CE), but it is instructing the people to understand what they are singing and why. A well planned worship service is led by one who understands what it means to keep the people focused and aware of what they are doing. This too is CE!

View and download the complete Equip to Disciple Issue 1, 2011 (Acrobat Reader required).

Think about every ministry in your Church. Is there one thing that isn’t in actuality Christian education in some way?

So what is the point? In any good education program there must be good planning and coordination. This is where it appears that many churches fall short in seeing the big picture of what is really taking place.

If you had asked your child’s teacher what she was going to cover that year, how would you react if told she will figure that out as they go along? Imagine 12 years of this? Would anyone ever get an education? Then why do we think that we can do this in the church? This leads to a further challenge.

I will use several examples:

Youth: What are they being taught? Why? What is the plan? What should they know, be, and do after 4 years? Or is your group like most, simply teaching one topic this week and another the next; somehow hoping they will eventually develop a healthy Christian worldview by themselves. Is this what you want for your young people who will be going on to university where they will be confronted with philosophies that are not only not Christian, but in many cases anti-Christian? Have you really prepared them? This is like that teacher with no plan.

Bible studies: What is being studied? Why this study? What are you trying to accomplish in this group and study? At the end of this study what will they know, be, and do? Think about this – if you have no objectives then your objective is to accomplish nothing. But you say, “Our objective is to study the book of Romans.” Great! But what does that mean? If you ask the group at the end what they have learned about Romans you might be shocked that little was learned or remembered. Worse yet, little has happened to change anyone’s life. The goal for CE (discipleship) must be transformed lives! If our only goal is to cover a book, or to know a doctrine, then true discipleship has not taken place. Discipleship is moving people ever closer (by the work of the Holy Spirit) to being like Jesus (Rom. 8.29). So I ask you again, in your teaching, what are your goals for your group becoming more like Jesus? Will they see Jesus in every verse? Will they grow in their relationship with Jesus as a result of interacting with Romans?

Another area focuses on – preaching. Are your sermons planned for the next year? Why not? What are you trying to accomplish? What really “scares” me about wellmeaning preachers is when they say they believe they are discipling their people through their sermons. That is scary because you have already told me that you do not have a plan for what you hope your sermons will accomplish. How does your sermon connect with other teaching going on in the church? You have one ‘goal’ for this sermon and another for the next. If your people don’t know your objective, how can you expect them to figure it out when you haven’t? This is not discipleship; this is a hit-and-miss approach to giving disconnected information, with no thread to help the people tie it all together! This again is like the teacher you would not allow to teach your children.

Continued…

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Having spent the last eight years in Cape Town, South Africa, as academic dean of the Bible Institute of South Africa and serving there as a PCA missionary, Dennis and his wife Cindy, his son Dustin, daughter Bena, and son Innocent have returned to the states to rejoin the staff at Christian Education and Publications where he served for eleven years prior to going to South Africa.

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