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Who Do They Think You Are?

There's more to Christian education than going to Bible classes.

Mark Edmundson has some sound advice for college freshmen: Don't let college tell you who you are.

Writing in the August 22, 2011 issue of Oxford American, Mr. Edmundson warns incoming college students about the dangers of letting the university prescribe their curriculum and chart their course of studies ("Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?"). Colleges are trying to make sure you get a certificate so that you can get a job, he warns. They need to keep their grad stats healthy and perhaps convince you to become a donor to the school. Colleges push students toward finding their economic niche, when what they really need, he explains, is to discover who they are.

If college students allow their university to tell them that what they are, first of all, is a cog in the getting-and-spending economy, then students will do only as much work as necessary to pass exams and get a certificate. They aren't in college to learn, after all, but only to graduate, and since all that entails is passing exams and handing in papers, there are plenty of ways of accomplishing those tasks without having to study very much. Instead, students will spend the bulk of their time partying in order to drown out the boredom of going to class as they wait through their four years to receive their degree.

College should be about discovering who you are and what you want to do with your life - not what college administrators think you should be. Mr. Edmundson offers some very good advice about following one's inner desires and preferences in putting together a course of studies that will help a student to become what he or she wants to be. It's better to surface one's inner being and to nurture that to a satisfying state of existence than to let oneself be herded in the direction of the market/workplace as though things and wealth were the most important matters in life.

His insights set me to thinking about Christian education - the "training" we offer God's people in our local churches. As it happens, I'm reading John Amos Comenius' The Great Didactic at the same time, in which the great Bohemian educationist (1592-1670) set forth his program for educating the citizens of God's Kingdom.

Comenius believed that Christian people should be educated here and now for their eternal then and there. He wrote that "man is naturally required to be: (1) acquainted with all things; (2) endowed with power over all things and over himself; (3) to refer himself and all things to God, the source of all." The goal of Christian instruction, Comenius insisted, is that God's people "learn to see, to praise, and to recognise God everywhere, and, in this way, to go through this life of care with enjoyment, and to look for the life to come with increased desire and hope."

What does your church's program of Christian education say about you? Toward what goals and place in life is it directing you? One of comfortable fellowship and sweet spiritual insights, designed to make your church experience satisfying, if not pleasant? Or is the Christian education in your church training you for learning, piety, and virtue, so that, equipped for the work of ministry in every area of your life, you are able to turn your Personal Mission Field upside down for Jesus Christ?

Deep inside, believer, you know yourself and what Christ has redeemed you to be. You are a follower of Jesus, a fisher of men, a citizen and ambassador of the Kingdom, a witness for the Lord, and a shepherd of your fellow believers. In your own participation in Christian education, are you just following a program, or are you earnestly trying to discover and develop who you are in Jesus Christ?

There is more to college than getting a degree. There's more to Christian education than going to Bible classes. Look inside to find Jesus within you, then let Him lead, direct, guide, and teach you, so that you begin living the life of then and there, here and now.

Related texts: Matthew 28;18-20; Ephesians 4.17-24; 2 Timothy 3.15-17 (esp. v. 17)

A conversation starter: "So, why do we go to all these Bible studies, anyway?"

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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