“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
We can’t just decide on the basis of ignorance or prejudice what a church’s educational program should look like. We will have to ask what the Bible says about the process and aims of such a program. As it turns out, the Bible places a great deal of emphasis on this subject!
It is our responsibility to ensure that future generations know God’s great deeds and God’s expectations. Parents have a primary role here (Ephesians 6:4), but the church plays an important role, too. “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the deeds he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children” (Psalm 78:4-6).
Teachers must take their responsibility seriously. They should prepare themselves
- Over their lifetime: Their overall Bible knowledge, their character, their personal commitment to Christ and the church should be developed.
- From week to week: No tearing out the lesson along perforated lines three minutes before class starts! No opening class up to ill-informed discussion of prejudices and opinions! Better to ask directed questions that bring out the meaning of the text than a “pooling of ignorance” where everyone expresses ideas that have not been thought out and studied! What about the babes in Christ who are listening? The weak and discouraged? They need to hear something thought out and studied. The souls we shape and teach deserve better than this! And God expects it. Pray. Study. Dig deep. Do your best, for you give it to the Lord himself!
Ultimately we are developing not just church adherents, but leaders for the future – teachers, preachers, elders, deacons, missionaries: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Our curriculum should be well rounded – textual and topical, milk and meat, Old and New Testament, convenient subjects, and inconvenient: “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20 NKJV).
The aim is to “make disciples:” This includes two parts, outreach and an effort to teach “everything” that is commanded (Matthew 28:19,20).
God’s expectation is for us to grow: He commands it. Our education program should be aiming at growth, not stagnancy. We should be aiming for the very highest, and not settling for average. Again, we offer this to no less than God himself (2 Peter 3:18).
A place should be reserved for the babes in Christ. Milk – first principles – should be offered to them, but Our Goal Should be to Develop them into Mature Christians: We want them to grow beyond the milk. We should bring them up to a higher standard, not dumb down the church to their standard! You don’t run a church according to the ideas of the weakest, most immature members! It often happens that while people chronologically should be growing and leading, spiritually they aren’t. But the Bible is clear that this is not good enough! We fail at the point of education – where teachers continually teach milk, or perhaps students continually demand milk (Hebrews 5:12).
We can’t be satisfied with “good enough:” We need to teach and encourage our members to grow! Bible knowledge, informed leadership and character development should be our (and their) aim!