Does Education Impact Discipleship?

ROBERT – Your question might be too general for me to answer. By discipleship do you mean spiritual formation of an individual or intentionally being a means of spiritual growth for someone else?

MELVIN – My answer to your question would be “both.” My purpose is to promote thinking on the topic, especially among pastors, educators, and parents.

ROBERT – It is certainly a topic well worth thinking about. I guess part of my thinking goes to the fact that both my wife and I along with both of our kids have a Christian world- view because it wasn’t just at church, but in our daily lives. I also feel the term Christian worldview may be too vague. For example, some think Obamacare represents a Christian worldview, others do not. So what exactly is a Christian worldview, and how are instructors screened to be sure they support it? Third, are the instructors trained in discipling, which is much more than instruction by a Christian teacher? I offer these questions to further our discussion, and perhaps even improve the quality of what is being done.

JEANNE – Education to be complete must include P.I.E.S. physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Ignoring any one of these areas may hinder not only cognitive but spiritual growth in children and teens. The home is where this begins. Parents are as much or more responsible than educators to see that this growth takes place. It is easy to leave the whole education up to the system and church today, however, I do not believe this is God’s intended will. The church has and must take a serious responsibility to disciple those who enter the doors as well as the surrounding community. Many homes neglect responsibility out of lack of direction or priorities, among other areas. God forbid that the church fail to heed the command to nourish and disciple these young ones.

MELVIN – Jeanne – totally agree! Robert – good points. Check out www.renewanation.org/about-us/what-is-a-worldview.

ROBERT – Jeanne, thanks for your comments. While I agree that the church should not neglect the call to disciple, I fear that most have. The church is God’s ordained vehicle to carry out His mission, and we do not have the luxury of leaving that to any other entity, no matter how well intentioned. We are called to make disciples, but most are woefully unequipped to do so.

DAVID – I like the Josh Mulvihill article. Thank you for linking to it. The idea of 16,000 hours of impactful education is astounding. When one looks at the issue in light of real, meaningful numbers the obvious influence is unavoidable. It appears Pastor Mulvihill is a great advocate of Christian education in the Eden Prairie area.

My wife and I understand the value of Christian school. We have a daughter recently graduated from our local Christian high school, and our last child at home graduates in a couple years. The leaders at their school partnered with us throughout their educational tenure. Not only did they receive Christian instruction, they received great college preparation, as well.

One additional thought on education as it relates to discipleship: I believe, whatever age, believers must educate themselves about their intended audience. Anthropologically and culturally, missionaries throughout the ages immersed themselves in the nuances of the culture they were trying to reach. My oldest daughter and her husband, missionaries to an African country, understand the over- whelming need to educate themselves about the culture they are trying to reach. To evangelize and disciple effectively, we believers must not shy away from understanding our audience. Paul’s experience on Mars Hill presents the practical use of cultural education so beautifully, along with many other examples from the early Church.

MELVIN – A hearty amen!

ROBERT – So Melvin, to further this discussion and follow up on some of the other posts, what specific training are your educators given to both understand their audience and be more effective as disciplers? Also, I understand what you mean by worldview, but how do you relate that to specific issues which Christians seem to differ on?

MELVIN – Robert, great questions. The majority of work we do is actually in the context of K-12 education (schools). There are a number of good resources we are aware of which are very helpful, among them: The Truth Project – Tackett (general Christian worldview) and Kingdom Education for the 21st Century – Glen Schultz (DVD assisted training for Christian educators). We continue to learn of others. Perhaps you have some you’d recommend. Basically, good resources like this can be applied for work with families, schools, churches, even business cultures.

Your last question is especially relevant. The challenge I believe we have is a tension between Christians whose basic and final authority on Truth is carefully sought for in scripture and those who embrace truth shaped largely by church teachings that try desperately to create inclusion and embrace the culture.
I am not against inclusion or embracing elements of culture. But I contend that any opinion or worldview that is contrary to the whole of scripture or compromises the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ from confronting the soul and delivering it from sin, is not dependable. The mind clearly has a strong influence on the soul.

DAVID – Melvin, I agree with you concerning the pertinence of Robert’s questions. And, your last paragraph well exposes the crucial juxtaposition all sincere believers wanting to share the Good News face: the balancing act of keeping the integrity of The Message intact while making it easily understandable to the culture in which we find ourselves.

I am currently reading the book, Peace Child by Don Richardson. He and his wife moved to New Guinea in 1962 to live among the Sawi people group who, at the time, practiced cannibalism. He is an engaging author, and it is a fast read. What I am seeing is a great lesson for me, and perhaps, Christians in America.
Richardson goes into great detail as to how he and Mrs. Richardson painstakingly learned the Sawi language and culture to take the never changing Gospel to this people group so far removed from the peace of Jesus. The two of them, obviously, did not let the Sawi culture influence their Christian ethic. What Mr. and Mrs. Richardson did do however, was totally immerse themselves with great, detailed focus in the customs and language of the Sawi so that they most effectively introduced Jesus in an amazingly understandable way.
I want to remember the story of the Richardson family and many others who so effectively presented the objective, uncompromising truth of the Gospel in culturally understandable ways. It is a tough challenge to present the whole, liberating Truth, but I believe it is a challenge worth taking.

Thank you so much for your post and for this whole discussion. I find it challenging and stimulating. I am learning and for that I am grateful!

MELVIN – David, your introduction to the great story, Peace Child by Richardson is very timely and certainly well applied to the conversation. That is indeed the challenge we have of making the gospel real in our culture and one cannot retract from culture and reach it. The gospel, in its essence though, must transform culture and not be transformed by it.

I have spent about half of my life living and working in Africa, SE Asia and E. Europe. Cultures vary widely, but the gospel was in many ways easier to share there than it is in much of America today. The difference? There was and is a belief in and certain fear of God … whatever their concept
of Him.

But in W. Europe and now strong elements of the American culture, there is a strange absence of the belief in and fear of God. I believe it is a result of aggressive teaching by secular humanists who have gradually expunged the very idea of God and the reliability of scripture from the mind. In some sense, materialism has become the measurement and man has become his own god. Too often now, the work of sharing the gospel has to begin with the reality of God and reliability of scripture. This is a long hill to climb (though it can and must be) when the very foundation of one’s world- view (truth claims) shouts that to be false.
That is why I am helping to lead a ministry called Renewanation, where we are doing everything possible to promote education (home, school, church, etc.) that helps to promote a Christian worldview. Our primary focus is with children K-12 as this is the time when their minds are filled with truth claims upon which their worldview is formed. Feel free to check us out: renewanation.org.

DAVID – Points well taken, Melvin. The cultural differences you refer to regarding indigenous residents concept of God, or god(s), in most parts of the world compared to the US and Western Europe today is spot on. Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post.

What do you think? Does education impact discipleship? Send your thoughts to jen@renewanation.org.
They may be printed in the next issue of The Renewanation Review.

Melvin Adams is President and COO of RENEWANATION. His career has been centered in Christian education, international missions, and music and pastoral ministries. He and his wife Sandy have 6 children and 7 grandchildren. They reside in Hardy, Virginia.


This article originally appeared in The RENEWANATION Review, Volume 6 Issue 1. If you would like to become a member and receive a print edition of the magazine, please click here. If you would like to learn about other ways you can get involved, please click here.