Lesson 6: Instructional Purpose of Scripture
The Old Testament was the textbook for the educational ministry of the church from its inception until the New Testament was written. The individual books were written in order that the church
have a history, ethical guide, prophetic message, and general understanding of God. As the New Testament developed, believers found their knowledge expanded. In II Timothy, Paul wrote, All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in
righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work.
Both the Old and New Testament proclaim the need for religious education.
The Teacher as Minister
In First Corinthians 12:28, Paul places teachers in the list after prophets (preachers). In Ephesians 4: 11, teachers are listed after evangelists and pastors. The important point is that teachers are seen as an essential part of the churchs ministry. According to Paul, the ability to teach is a gift of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12: 8, Ephesians 4:11; I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11).
The New Testament church had officials whose primary task was educational (Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:4-10:27-21; Ephesians 4:11; I Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:7-9). Their task was to work under the leadership of the Holy Spirit in producing (1) spiritual Christians (I Corinthians 2:14-16; (2) mature Christians (Ephesians 4:13); and (3) loving Christians (I Thessalonians 3:12).
In addition to this unique group of teachers, every pastor is called to be a teacher. Paul wrote, he must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).
Before moving from this summary of the Scriptural call for a program of religious education in the church, I want to emphasis that we must avoid drawing a line of separation between clergy and laity when it comes to teaching. Those who live their life in a secular world struggling to make a living are also used by God to teach. Acts 8 states that at the time of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephens martyrdom, the Christians were
all scattered. Those who were scattered went about teaching the word.
Much more can be said about the place of religious education in the early church. However, enough has been said for our purpose.
It should be clear that the Bible furnishes a precedent for a program of religious education in our time. That we have a divine call to devote ourselves to a comprehensive and thorough program of Christian training is clear.
Theological Foundations of Religious Education
Religious education takes place in the context of the Christian community. This is generally within the structure of the church.
It is in this Koinonia or fellowship that it finds its fulfillment and purpose. At the center of religious education is the message that God has ultimately revealed Himself in Jesus. The proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ is involved in every aspect of religious education.
Witnessing, nurturing and equipping are dynamic imperatives of the Christian church. The individual believer begins with his unique salvation experience. However, the Christian experience does not end with the acceptance of Jesus as Lord. Each Christian is called to share the truth of the Gospel with a lost and dying world. Religious Education not only helps the lost to learn about God it also trains the believer in how to be a moral, mature, evangelistic follower of Jesus.
One of the churchs most important contributions to educational theory is the concept of equality among people. The church unlike government recognized the need to educate everyone. Becoming a faithful disciple with a life style that reflects the promises of God is a maturation process. Religious education has a goal of teaching believers how to reach their potential.
The church provides the discipline and support in the learning and obedience process so that the believer can affirm, refine, define and clarify the purpose to which he or she has committed.
Our basic commitment as Christians is to expand and broaden the kingdom of God. When believers gather through worship, study, repentance, praise, and social action, they go back to their daily tasks with fresh commitment. Religious education has a responsibility to give believers information that will assure their moral behavior in a secular world. It should empower people to do what is right at the right time. Religious education is about growing people according to Gods plan. It is bringing people together for a common purpose (Gods vision), a common model (Jesus), and a common resource (the Holy Spirit).
The church should be organized so that maximum participation in the mission of Christ is encouraged in the life of every member. It is the responsibility of the church to teach in order to enrich the lives and ultimately to equip the believer for a fruitful life in the here and now.
If the church is to fulfill its ministry, then every member must accept his/her responsibility as a minister of Christ. The church must offer training and guidance.
However, it is easy to communicate a dual message that confuses and misleads our members. We preach and teach family values and the need for quality and quantity time with spouse and children. We challenge our people to demonstrate integrity in the world. We add to that a call to demonstrate faithfulness and loyalty by attending a never-ending series of activities and events that fill the weekly church calendar. People become bewildered, confused, frustrated and guilty about how to fit everything into their lives. These variables combined with the hesitancy of many to make long-term commitments crate a challenge for those of us in religious education.
Time is not the only factor hindering religious education. Most people are bombarded with more information than they can reasonably process. Some people become so overwhelmed that they stop hoping to thrive and take on a maintenance attitude.
One facet of religious education is to provide people with a reliable context in which to interpret life and chose a direction.
For this reason, the church must examine a more creative method for implementing ministries and programs. We must move beyond the traditional format of Wednesday and Sunday. We must reengineer our strategy for providing religious education to our congregation.