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Welcome to my blog. Here I share my thoughts on what matters to me.

Discipling

Discipling

 Photo by  Quino Al  on  Unsplash

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Making Disciples

The book of Deuteronomy culminates the Torah or the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. The name Deuteronomy literally means "Repeated Law." Another title for this books is “Words” which is taken from its opening, “These are the words which Moses spoke …” (Deuteronomy 1)

Think of Deuteronomy as Moses' farewell address to the people of Israel, a final review highlighting what they should have learned in the four decades he spent with them wondering in the wilderness. The older generation had died in the process, the new generation was poised to inherit the promised land.

Deuteronomy is not a mere repetition of the law,  but an explanation of the God’s laws in light of Israel’s recent history. Deuteronomy is the Lord’s commands in the context of His interactions with His people. It is a refresher course complete with their real life experiences, including blessings and curses they experienced with regard to their relationship with God and His law.

The previous generation had made it this far, but no further. Moses wanted to make sure the next generation would not repeat the mistakes of their parents.

In Deuteronomy 6 we have what Jesus referred to as the greatest commandment. This is still repeated by Jews today. It is the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times.

Join me in reading Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

Moses charges the parents to constantly teach, to disciple their children, in the ways of God. To make the law of God the center of all their daily activities, to be the driving principle behind their thoughts and the greatest motivation for their actions. These words are to be kept in their homes and their towns. The door of the house and the gates of the city, these are prominent places, this would make it virtually impossible for you to forget God’s commands.

Notice how Moses does not tell the parents to send their kids to the temple or the synagogue to learn. Rather each parent is charged with making what they know about God the topic of their conversations throughout the day and to allow God’s commands to shape every aspect of their lives.

Verses 6-9 especially highlight how intimately they should keep the words of God, in their heart. They should talk about it, it should impact their actions (sign on your hand) and the words of God should be in their minds (between their eyes).

In Revelation 13:16 we read about a beast that causes all to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. This is Satan’s attempt to replace God’s laws. God’s words, teachings, and His commandments, should be on our foreheads and hands, and that is where Satan wants his mark to be.

We can see that there is a battle going on for our hearts, for our minds, for our behavior. God charges the parents to be directly involved in teaching, sharing, educating, the children all day every day.

Now this was ancient Israel, how does this translate to our reality today?

Jesus, in His final words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, commands His followers to go and make disciples, teaching them to observe all things that He has commanded them. He also promises to be with us "always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus words are a continuation of what He commanded His people through Moses back in Deuteronomy.

“Teach others what I have taught you.”

You could say this is our primary reason for existing. Making disciples, teaching.

Modern Education

Since the industrial revolution, we have been thinking about teaching as an assembly line.

Notice how many schools are set up as a factory. A teacher stays in a place teaching the same thing while the students move around every time a bell rings.

Everything is separate, everything is compartmentalized. Math, English, Science, History, Art, each subject with a different teacher, and the subjects rarely interact.

The students are all grouped together by age and expected to be at the same level compared to others their same age.

Children are treated like a car that is being assembled. Except each child is different, and life rarely, if ever, presents you challenges that are compartmentalized.

So the process of learning, which for a long time took place around the house, around the farm, around the shop as the students observed and asked questions and tried to do it themselves, now takes place sitting down with minimum interaction.

a process that used to involve history, principles,and life decisions, and where everything was practical now is mostly theoretical, the student stays seated listening, and regardless of how well they have grasped (or failed to grasp) the current topic when the bell rings, they move on to the next class.

It is no wonder so many people become discouraged or frustrated with the experience.

Ultimate Goal

And what is the primary goal in most schools? Passing an exam. Passing an exam means praises. Memorizing, spitting back information in the correct format gets you your much coveted “A.” The schools want the students to pass the exam in order to get funding, so the teachers are pressured to teach the students to pass the exams, the students become stressed because exams, especially standardized exams, are not at all good ways to measure knowledge and understanding.

Exams are used because it becomes easier to grade and rank students. Schools always seem to pit students against each other, if you are better than others who are your age you will get the scholarships.

The flaws are many, and what is the final product? What do schools produce? Stressed passive test takers, who care more about what it takes to get an “A” than about what they are learning.

Now that my personal rant is over, what was the purpose?

To contrast how far we have fallen from what we see as God’s plan. Many students are in school and universities learning about life and reality and tackling problems as if God did not exist.

In how many classes in high school or college do you talk about values, ultimate questions about the meaning of life, about purpose? There is no room for that. No room for God in most schools. Or God gets compartmentalized into a period in one class much like Shakespeare, the hypotenuse, and the flagella. Each subject in its own neat little box, never interacting with the others.

Now, I recognize that society has advanced and things have shifted significantly from the days of apprenticeship and discipleship. However, I believe many of you probably agree with me that there are serious problems with the educational system in our country.

What do we do?  

What do we do with our children? Our greatest treasure, the future of our society, our nation, our church?

Do we wish them best of luck? And enroll them in public schools?

Or is there a better option?

What do you want, ultimately for your children and grandchildren, for your nieces and nephews?

Personally, for my children, what I want most is for them to know Jesus as their personal Savior. I want them to have an intimate relationship with Jesus that impacts every area of their life. I don’t want their spiritual experience to be limited to a few hours on the weekend, but rather to be how they go about life, and how they make sense of everything taking place in the world.

Question

Allow me to ask you a question.

What would you say is the primary purpose of our church?

I’m sure your answer would go along the lines of

“Our church exists to prepare individuals for God’s kingdom.”

This is what discipling is, this is what God calls us to do.

I would like to add that education is a crucial in this process. Discipleship also takes place in schools, flawed as the educational system is, it is still shaping the minds and worldview of our children.

If we lose sight of our mission as a church, there would be no reason for our school or church to exist.

As most of you know I am new here to the Park Ave. Adventist Church. I have been here for about 4 months now. But I have heard the stories of how this is a combined church. How the Lakeland and the Valdosta church combined in order to save our school which is celebrating its 49th birthday today!

Growing up my parents put my me and my sister in Adventist schools in Brazil. I attended big schools with over one thousand students as well as smaller schools.

Education plays a significant role in what we as Adventists see as our role in this world. Our mission is not limited to what happens inside the church, but also includes education as well as physical health.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a holistic approach to its mission, we believe Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And we interpret this to include spiritual life but it is not limited only to the spiritual aspect of life. We recognize that our spiritual walk with God is impacted by other factors, the development of the mind and body being significant components.

That’s why the Seventh-day Adventist Church has the world's second largest integrated network of schools as well as the Largest Protestant integrated network of hospitals and clinics worldwide.

Seventh-day Adventists, in general, value education and health as integral parts of spiritual health.

So education is important. I assume we all agree on this. The next question then becomes, why does it have to be Adventist education?

Great question.
I am not saying it has to be, but I would like to present to you that it might very likely be the very best option.

Adventist Education

You could argue that perhaps in all these other countries in the world the education system is terrible and that is why the Adventist schools are so sought after. There is truth to that. There is a danger however, to think that just because there are many beautiful schools with fancy facilities here in the US that these physical qualities automatically make a school superior.

Facilities are nice, but they are not everything, I would even say they are not the best thing. Facilities and materials and equipment are all tools and it all depends on how they are used.

In Adventist schools biblical principles underlie the essential ingredients of the curriculum, resulting in a unified rather than fragmented understanding of our world.

When biblical principles shape the context and instructional attributes of schools, this provides a solid basis for promoting students’ growth in critical thinking, social interaction, spiritual insight, and knowledge about a healthy lifestyle, as well as the principles of psychological and physical well-being.

In other words, scriptural principles become the lens through which other knowledge is interpreted and evaluated.

The promise we make to parents and students is that we seek to provide the best education possible. This biblically based education helps students understand what matters most in life, enables them to distinguish between truth and error, and provides them with an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This holistic context for learning prepares them for life here on Earth and for eternity. This is higher-order knowledge, interpreted in the light of God’s Word.

Some of the differences may seem so small, but have all kinds of implications. For example,
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes God as the ultimate source of existence, truth, and power.

We believe that in the beginning God created in His image a perfect humanity, a perfection later marred by sin. We as Adventist believe that education in its broadest sense is a means of returning human beings to their original relationship with God. The distinctive characteristics of this Adventist worldview, built around creation, the fall, redemption, and re-creation, are derived from the Bible and the inspired writings of Ellen G. White.

The aim of true education is to restore human beings into the image of God as revealed by the life of Jesus Christ. Only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit can this be accomplished.

An education of this kind imparts far more than academic knowledge. It fosters a balanced development of the whole person—spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social-emotional—a process that spans a lifetime.

Working together, homes, schools, and churches cooperate with divine agencies to prepare learners to be good citizens in this world and for eternity.

(Click here to see the academic achievements of students of Adventist schools compared to students in other school systems.)

Ellen G. White on Education

I can imagine some of you here or maybe someone listening to the podcast feeling uneasy at the mention of the writings of Ellen G. White.

I will not take time at this moment to go in depth into our understanding of her ministry but allow me to share a few of my favorites quotes by her regarding education.

Our ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come. (Education 13)
Love, the basis of creation and of redemption, is the basis of true education. This is made plain in the law that God has given as the guide of life. The first and great commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind." Luke 10:27. To love Him, the infinite, the omniscient One, with the whole strength, and mind, and heart, means the highest development of every power. It means that in the whole being-- the body, the mind, as well as the soul--the image of God is to be restored." (Education 17)
Like the first is the second commandment--"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:39. The law of love calls for the devotion of body, mind, and soul to the service of God and our fellow men. And this service, while making us a blessing to others, brings the greatest blessing to ourselves. Unselfishness underlies all true development. Through unselfish service we receive the highest culture of every faculty. More and more fully do we become partakers of the divine nature. We are fitted for heaven, for we receive heaven into our hearts. (Education 17)
Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator-- individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen. (Education 18 emphasis mine)

 

Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions.

Such an education provides more than mental discipline; it provides more than physical training. It strengthens the character, so that truth and uprightness are not sacrificed to selfish desire or worldly ambition. It fortifies the mind against evil. Instead of some master passion becoming a power to destroy, every motive and desire are brought into conformity to the great principles of right. As the perfection of His character is dwelt upon, the mind is renewed, and the soul is re-created in the image of God. (Education p19)

The true teacher is not satisfied with second-rate work. He is not satisfied with directing his students to a standard lower than the highest which it is possible for them to attain. He cannot be content with imparting to them only technical knowledge, with making them merely clever accountants, skillful artisans, successful tradesmen. It is his ambition to inspire them with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity--principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society. He desires them, above all else, to learn life's great lesson of unselfish service. (Education 30)

Conclusion

Ultimately we are called to disciple the next generation, to impart to them what we have learned. To present to them what God has taught us in light of our understanding of His word and its impact in our personal lives. It makes sense to send our kids to a school that will partner with us in this.

Schools do not begin by accident. They are established for particular reasons, and the way they are organized and operated is an expression of the values and assumptions held by their sponsors and supporters. This is especially true of Seventh-day Adventist education.

Beginning a century and a half ago as a small home school in the United States of America, the Seventh-day Adventist School System is now the operating in 145 countries with 7,842 educational institutions, - primary, secondary and tertiary – with around 93,674 teachers and approximately 1.8 million students.

The heart and soul of this enterprise stems from a worldview regarding the origin, meaning, purpose, and destiny of human life. The outcome of this effort gives Adventist education a special character that reflects the reasons, the vision, the aspirations and the values that are important to Christian parents.

Our local congregation strongly supports our school, Valdosta Christian Academy and if you would like to learn more about our church school you can click here.

For more information regarding Adventist Education you can check out these websites:

http://circle.adventist.org/services/info/?topic=adventist_ed

https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/1115/For-real-education-reform-take-a-cue-from-the-Adventists

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