Here is a summary of some of the major biblical teachings about the nature of Christian Education in the Church:
1. Christian Education is Founded on the Teachings of Jesus: The Great Commission says “Go and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20). The Great Commission is a teaching commission. The first thing we are to teach the new disciples is obedience to all the teachings of Jesus. This text highlights both the importance of teaching and the primary content of our teaching. What Jesus taught us is the place we are told to start with the new disciples. There is no more important part of scripture than the teachings of Jesus. There is no more important task of the church than teaching Christ-followers to obey the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus provide the lens through which we understand the rest of the Bible.
2. Christian Education is Focused on the Spiritual Nurture of Children: In the early part of the Old Testament, God told the people: “The words that I command you this day shall be in your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your children when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:1-9?). The importance of passing on a spiritual heritage to our children in emphasized in many parts of the Bible. About Abraham, God said, “I know him that he will instruct his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of the Lord (Genesis 18:19?).” One entire book of the Bible, the Book of Proverbs, is dedicated to this subject: the education of the next generation. Phrases like this one are repeated over and over in Proverbs: “Listen, my son, to your father’s teaching and do not neglect the teaching of your mother (Proverbs 10:20?).” The New Testament emphasizes this theme when it tells us to bring up our children in the “nurture and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1).”
3. Christian Education is concerned with the total needs of individuals and groups. When Jesus began His ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, He read these words from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to set at liberty those who are bruised (or hurt), to bring deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to proclaim the time of God’s acceptance and favor (Luke 4:18-19).” When we teach and preach the gospel, we need to remember what Jesus included in this “inaugural address”. Often, we focus on His last words in the Great Commission and fail to emphasize his first words—when he announced the beginning of His ministry. When Jesus told us to proclaim the gospel (his last words), that gospel includes the contents of the good news announced in his first words.
4. Christian Education is a significant part of a well-balanced church ministry. Acts 2:42-47 describes what members of the early church did after Pentecost: “They continued steadfastly in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in prayer and in the breaking of bread, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” This passage also mentions that the early church gave money and property generously to help those in need (Acts 2:51?) A well-balanced church will emphasize each of the areas of ministry mentioned in this important passage: evangelism, discipleship or teaching, fellowship, worship, and service. If a church fails to emphasize any of these areas, it is unbalanced. We need to remember to do the things the church did when it was founded—after the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.
Dr. Keith Springer, Professor or Educational Ministries, Indiana Wesleyan University