Educational Discipleship

As the Vice-President for Academic Affairs at a Christian college I have many opportunities to think about and to work on Christian education. In my time in this position, my definition of Christian education has been tweaked and massaged because there is always much to say and trying to narrow down the definition to something manageable can be a challenge.

Recognizing the challenge, here is my latest update: Christian education is the development of a robust Christian world and life view in the context of a soul-enriching community. Let me try to unpack that for you.

  • A robust Christian world and life view: The heart of Christian higher education begins where all of life begins—the call to glorify and enjoy God. In Christian higher education we have the privilege of recognizing God’s glory, of responding to God’s glory, and of reflecting God’s glory. Since the imprint of His glory is on all that God has created (Psalm 19; Romans 1), all of creation reveals truth about Him. The statement, “All truth is God’s truth,” captures the idea that we can expect to find an intersection between the biblical worldview (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation) and every arena of human endeavor. Specifically in education, the biblical world view will impact every discipline.
  • In the context of a soul-enriching (community): Christian education is more than the mere communication of information. It is about whole-life transformation. Though this transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, He often uses the means of people, institutions and circumstances to accomplish that transforming work. The goal is to see people flourish in all aspects of who they can be and to succeed in all that they are intentional about doing. They need an environment that is soul-enriching.
  • (In the context of a soul-enriching) community: Christian education is education in community. Though many things can be learned individually, full-orbed education takes place in a relational environment. That community may be as small as a home-school family or as large as a university. Significant relationships of student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and student-to-staff should form the networks of that community.

If I had to give a name to this kind of Christian education I might call it “Educational Discipleship.” It is the vision of a community of faith and scholarship. Sadly, many Christian institutions of higher education began with this vision but now it is merely a distant (and sometimes disdained) memory.

My own view is that this is the kind of institution that holds a key to hope for the future of our young people, the church and our culture.

What do you think?

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
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