Responsive Discipleship

As the end of the academic year is approaching (or for some of us, as we reflect on the year that has just finished), this is a good time to remind ourselves what our purpose is. What does it mean to practice our profession as devoted followers of Jesus Christ? We talk about ways to help ensure that our students are connecting God’s Word to the world around them and to the material we cover in our classes. But knowledge is not enough. As James reminds us, we are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”[1]

4178762481_52c17795b9At TeachBeyond, our mission is to provide “transformational education;” we recognize that “all are on a radical journey of change, which…occurs when an individual personally embraces Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The whole life conversion which results is nothing less than the putting off of former human ways, means, and measures in favor of a putting on of our Creator’s image and nature in a lifelong process the Scriptures refer to as sanctification…[This] begins with the individual and ends with an impact on the social, political, economic, spiritual, cultural, and physical environments in which the person lives.”[2]

Donovan Graham re-enforces this idea: “The task of true education is to develop knowledge of God and His created reality and to use that knowledge in exercising a creative-redemptive dominion over the world in which we live.”[3] In other words, as teachers, we want to see our students’ lives transformed into the image of Christ, and we want to see them engaging with the world around them in the way that reflects their walk as a new creation. It is not enough that our students know truths about God; we want them to act on these truths as they live out their lives. Educators Doug Blomberg and Gloria Stronks refer to this concept as responsive discipleship.[4]

Samples of student connections:

“It’s important that we don’t forget what happened to the people during [WWII]. I am very comfortable in the day and age that we live in, yet I often lose sight that there is extreme poverty around the world. I find it hard to fathom that there is no electricity or running water in other countries – I don’t quite understand how people could survive. To me, that is camping, not living. The United States of America is so lucky to have the amazing opportunity that it does to prosper such as it does, that the people in it often take it for granted. We owe it to the men, women, and children who died to not forget what happened to them, because what happened to them during that frightful time period changed who we are today and what our country is today.” —10th grade history student

“Recently we have been discussing about our leaders and the importance that it is that we elect godly people. This really does directly apply [to] all of our lives. The decisions that our leaders are making will impact us and we want to make sure that it is a positive impact.” —11th grade civics student

“As a Christian learning about these periods is really eye opening. People can go from having God as the center of the univers to having more worldly things in the center so fast. Not only was this shown in the writings it also showed up in art. It also a warning on how simple it is to push God out of the picture and go towards more worldly things.” [sic]—10th literature student

As we look back over the material we have covered this year, we should be asking ourselves and our students: So what are we going to do with what we’ve learned? What is our responsibility as God’s image-bearers on earth in regards to this material? How will what we’ve studied and the aspects of God and His world that have been revealed to us through math/science/history/language arts impact the way we live?16149669385_1125072ba8

Chances are, if we are unable to answer these questions, then our students won’t be able to answer them either. This is not our goal. If we really want to see the effects of the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in the lives our students, then we need to be continually asking these questions and seeking for answers. We know that when we ask it will be given to us, and when we seek we will find.[5] The Spirit of God is alive and active, and He is faithful to reveal Himself to those who seek Him.

Becky Hunsberger
Teacher Education Services

[1] James 1:22.
[2] Durance, George. “Transformational Education Services: A Framework for TeachBeyond’s Mission and Vision.” 2012.
[3] Graham, Donovan. Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom. 2003. loc. 1118.
[4] Stronks, Gloria Goris & Doug Blomberg (eds.). A Vision with a Task: Christian Schooling for Responsive Discipleship. 1993.
[5] Matthew 7:7-8.

Photo Credits: Reflection. haemengine via Compfight cc. Seeking student. brungrrl via Compfight cc. Reaching Hands.andrew and hobbes via Compfight cc

Of Interest: OnPractice contributor Michael Essenberg is on Pinterest. “I thought I’d let to you know that we’ve been working to develop a bank of online professional development resources (by subject area and by topic—assessment, instruction, biblical perspective…) for teachers at international Christian schools:

(1) You can see a summary of what we’ve put together on our Grow: Professional Development Resources board.” —Michael Essenberg

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