Christian Education Is Important
Christian education must be important at Mt. Calvary. Ten years ago, we built a school building in part because our old school was land locked, and God's saints here saw potential for growth of both the school and the church by moving. I assume Christian education is important because we spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to support our Lutheran elementary school every year. I can only assume Christian education is important to our membership, who generously support the work at our school with their offerings. The reason Christians place so much importance on Christ centered education should be obvious--we want our children to know about Jesus Christ. Christian parents love when Jesus is at the center of their child's education. But this post is not about our school. This post is about Christian education and you.
My Christian Education
Until I entered 4th grade, I attended public school. As far as I know, my teachers were excellent. I got what I believe to be a good education, learning math, reading, writing...everything you would expect. I don't ever remember feeling unsafe at school or getting bullied. I didn't like the bus ride. I suppose that was the one place where I didn't feel comfortable with the kids around me (they were older and got a little rowdy sometimes). Of course, we didn't have a morning devotion or chapel at school. We didn't pray together; we didn't sing hymns. I was pretty young, so I could have forgotten, but I don't remember learning about evolution (outside of music class, of all things!). We also had some other weird, spiritualistic, new age exercises that we did in music class too. I have no doubt that as I got older what I learned in school would have further differed from what I learned at home. I am thankful to the Lord that when I entered 4th grade, our church, St. Paul's Lutheran in Beverly Hills, Florida, completed a Lutheran elementary school for me to attend. At St. Paul's Lutheran Elementary School, Jesus was central to everything. I was so happy, and now am so thankful, for the gift that the members of St. Paul's gave to me and the other students that attended the school (the first year--one room, one teacher, 1st-8th grade, 16 kids). St. Paul's certainly didn't have all the bells and whistles, but it had the One Who is essential--Jesus Christ.
Christian Education at Home
So when did my Christian education start? Did it start when I started St. Paul's in 4th grade? No, my Christian education began when I was very young. My parents brought me to church every week and taught me to sit in church. Christian education happened every night when we read devotions; every time that we prayed together at meals or bedtime; whenever my mom or dad would sing a hymn to me at night. I still remember learning my first Bible passage (John 3:16 of course). I didn't learn it at church or Sunday school. My Dad taught me at our living room table. Even after I was in school at St. Paul's, I remember my mother helping me learn my memory work by erasing words from a white board. Christian education happened at home. And it didn't only happen when we were engaged in religious activities or thoughts. Every time my parents spoke to me, or my siblings, or to each other in front of their kids, Christian education happened. Every time my parents spent money, or explained why they weren't going to buy us this or that. Every time they talked about other people, Christian education happened. Every Sunday when we got up and got ready to go to church, Christian education happened.
Parents Are Responsible for Christian Education
A misconception floating around may be that teachers and pastors are responsible for the Christian education of children. I would not argue that pastors and teachers should be part of the Christian education picture, but the greatest responsibility still lies with mom and dad. God gives parents such responsibility clearly in Scripture. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Timothy's mother and grandmother brought him up in the faith (2 Timothy 1:5). God commands the Israelites, "Fix these Words of Mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth" (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
Christian Education and School
The term "Christian Education" has become somewhat synonymous with the term "Lutheran Elementary School." I believe we may be doing ourselves a disservice if we understand these two terms to mean the same thing. Christian education happens at a Lutheran elementary school. I hope and pray that an education about Christ and His Word is the lifeblood of every Lutheran elementary school. But many people have received Christian education outside the walls of Lutheran elementary school classrooms. Many graduates from elementary school (Lutheran or otherwise) continue to receive Christian education at their churches--from their pastors, through personal Bible reading, at Bible study with fellow Christians. These services are free and available to everyone. God has provided many opportunities for us to receive more education about Him long after we graduate.
Christian Education and You
If we consider Christian education important for our children, shouldn't it be important for us too? If it is important for our children to learn the Bible stories in Sunday school, shouldn't it be important for us to learn to apply God's Word to ourselves and our families in Bible class? If we pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to enroll our children in a Christian school, shouldn't we show it is important for us as parents by attending church and Bible class regularly? You are teaching your children something without saying a word every time you drop them off for Sunday school and leave. You are teaching them that Christian education is for children, not adults. Should we then be surprised when they, as adults, leave the church? Of course, your Christian education is important for more than just an example to your children. God urges us through the apostle Peter, "Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:17-18). Knowing Jesus is important for us. Lawless men, false prophets, will try to distort the Word of God and lead us astray. If our knowledge is shallow, they may topple us from our secure position with Christ. Continued Christian education, which happens through personal Bible study and devotional reading, as well as joint Bible study with fellow believers is important for you. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).
Lord Jesus, I have not loved Your Word as I should. I have been lazy in educating myself more about You. I have been satisfied with a shallow knowledge of You. Lord, renew my zeal to know You better. Open Your Word to me and grant understanding into it and wisdom by it. Forgive my failings as a spouse and parent for the times that I have led my family astray without even saying a word. Give me opportunities to show my children and spouse how important You and Your Word of truth are to me. Through the Christian education that I receive through my church at worship and Bible study, make me a sharper instrument of iron for Your Kingdom. In Your Name Jesus I pray. Amen.