The Nature of Teaching
“A true education, a Christian education…is giving the tools in…opening the doors to all human knowledge, in the Christian framework so (students) will know what is truth and what is untruth, so they can keep learning as long as they live, and they can enjoy, they can really enjoy, the whole wrestling through field after field of knowledge.
The gifts of teaching and administration are noted as spiritual gifts given by God. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12: 27-28, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.” Again, in Ephesians 4:11, the gift of teaching is noted as a special spiritual gift provided by the work of God. Within this context, the Apostle Paul notes that the purpose of this calling is to “prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ [and to prevent students’ being] blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” Paul also challenges his readers to be followers of him as he is of Christ. This must also characterize teachers for “the student will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40). Therefore Christian teachers should be competent, caring, consistent individuals, who imitate their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Most importantly, Christian teachers and staff must understand, embrace, and live out the doctrines of grace, in order to teach redemptively and to bring the gospel of grace to bear in every aspect of the school. As Donovan Graham writes in Teaching Redemptively, “If our students are to live by the gospel, they must experience it in their learning environment. We must examine our personal relationships with the students, attitudes toward the students, classroom management practices, grading and measurement practices, the structure of our curriculum and daily learning activities–every part of our learning atmosphere–to see whether our students are breathing the fresh air of the gospel that leads to life or the toxic fumes of legalism that lead to death.” The redemptive teacher avoids the traps of legalism and behaviorism in motivating students; rather, the teacher who is a recipient of grace understands that biblical obedience is the fruit of experiencing the inward reality of God’s transforming grace in the believer’s life. Biblical obedience in the Christian school is not outward conformity to rules and expectations, and it does not emanate from a desire to earn God’s favor or to impress others with our spirituality; instead, it is the powerful, Spirit-led response to the work of the gospel of grace in our inner being.
A biblical culture established by redemptive teaching is not one of perfectionism. As Graham says, “As the world watches us teach redemptively, they should not see a people finally ‘getting it right’. Rather, they should see a band of sinners, broken and fallen but healed, who now live freely and explore eagerly in the hope, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness of Christ.”
Simply put, redemptive teachers are facilitators of grace, discipling their students and allowing God’s mercy and justice to permeate the atmosphere of the school. Teachers are to come alongside students as Jesus did with His disciples, mentoring and tutoring them, as well as cultivating in them a passion for learning and excellence. The redemptive teacher does not avoid discipline, but prayerfully and purposefully focuses on fostering the redeemed nature of students, rather than on punishing them in their fallenness.
In his article titled A Christian Philosophy of Education, Dr. Paul Cates states, “The Christian educator or teacher is to be a guide or resource person in the wonderful experience of learning. He is to be neither a drill sergeant nor a manipulator, but rather a facilitator of learning. His learners must know that he cares about them. The educator must have experienced the reality of what he is attempting to teach or else he is just a blind man leading blind men. The nature of the teaching process gives us some clues as to the function of the teacher. As a Christian educator the teacher must be both a Christian and an educator. As a Christian he has experienced the reality of God’s truth, and he has God’s spirit to empower him and his teaching. As an educator he functions in accordance with the mandate of God to teach in accord with the educational principles contained in the word of God.”
In order to be effective in this calling it follows that Christian teachers should understand, embrace, and live out the following mandates:
- To fulfill the cultural mandate in which God gives man his first job description: “to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it”. (Gen.1:28)
- To live out the doctrines of grace through the summation of the law given by Christ in Matthew 22:39-40, to love God and love our neighbor.
- To fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)
- To deliberately and continually develop their knowledge of the Bible.
- To actively and continually develop the knowledge of their subject area and/or expertise.
- To integrate God’s Truth into every aspect of the learning process and across the disciplines.
- To seek excellence in the area of pedagogy and professional development.
- To teach redemptively, modeling a true and genuine love for the students seeking their highest good even when this is difficult.