The School of Discipleship

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."--1 Cor. 10:31 If you've followed this blog at all, you will know that I love to read and learn new things. I can't imagine where I'd be otherwise. For me, reading has opened doorways of insight and understanding that have deepened and enriched me.

It wasn't always this way for me. As I was growing up, education and academic excellence was strongly emphasized. I didn't play sports (though that is probably a good thing as I stink at it). I was not allowed to watch TV (takes too much time away from studying). Come to think of it, any competitor, be it boys, makeup, or even church was strongly discouraged.

Though I was normally compliant, I began to develop an attitude of just going through the motions to please my parents, but not really caring an inch about what I was learning. This carried over into my college years. Until two things happened.

First, I went on my first missions trip. This was after my 3rd year in college. As a result of that trip, I believe God took my life in a whole new direction. I knew that I wanted to serve Him in ministry. He began to radically shift my understanding about learning, helping me to see that when I am a student, studying hard and aiming for excellence is the best way I serve Him.

The second thing that has shaped me was homeschooling. This was, of course, many years after my trip. Now, as a parent, I am begining to understand why my parents wanted me to work so hard in school. Not that algebra, chemistry, or a solid understanding of world history is going to change my day-to-day decisions.

But as I teach my children, I am beginning to see how these subjects become disciplines through which God develops the thinking skills, understanding and perspective my children need as they navigate through their adult lives. It is through their hard work and study in these subjects that they grasp the concepts they need to function in this world as well as make an impact on it. (I wrote a series of posts last year on how the subjects our kids study can be a means of discipleship.)

Throughout the ages, education has been a gift for the elite. It was a prized possession that many kids in the past would have given their lives for. They knew that if only they could go to school, they would be able to do things that their parents never could. Even when their governments or cultures prohibited it, it did not stamp out their desire to learn.

Unfortunately, I get the impression that school for children (at least in my neighborhood!) is a necessary evil or a place for social interaction. Because it is required for us, it has lost its luster and value. I know that was how I felt about school. Just jump through the hoops. Make the parents happy. Make the school look good.

Some kids don't even try that. Some kids just don't care. When we as parents focus only on the externals---grades, awards, or whatever, we communicate to kids that the primary goal of school is to please others, to make us as parents look good, or to keep up with the competition for fear that they will come up last in the race.

As a mom now, getting a good education is just as important as it was to my parents, but for a different reason. I want my kids to do well in school first for the glory of God. In the country we live in, we abide by the law. And the law says our kids need to be in school. So in submission to the authority God has established for us, we will go to school. But not for ourselves. We go to school for the glory of God.

Second, we go to let God unearth our children's gifts, potential and interests. Not every child is good at every subject. One of my kids excels in art, but tolerates science and math. The other child is just the opposite. And the third? We're still waiting to find out.

And so, for us, school has become a way for me as a parent to see what God has built into my children. That doesn't mean that they skip subjects they don't like or struggle with. I believe those subjects still build character into them. But I also begin to see the things they shine in: creative writing, scientific inquiry, public speaking. And when I see those, I begin to witness the unfolding of a life that God can use.

I wanted to share this today because I know that we often separate biblical discipleship from education. Even if you send your kids to Christian schools or homeschool, this can happen. But I believe that they don't have to be two disparate entities. So far, we've talked about discipling our kids using the Bible, but remember that discipleship is meant to be "along the way"...which includes going to school.

What discipleship opportunities do you see for your kids today as they head off to school?

We'll pick this up again on Monday!