Why is Discipleship Key to What We Are Trying to Accomplish in CCE?

It may seem obvious, but discipleship is key to what we are trying to accomplish through our classical Christian schools. However, discipleship is increasingly harder to accomplish in our post-everything world, and it often gets lost as background among all the other goals that we are seeking to accomplish. This seminar will look at the book of Judges to learn what happens when discipleship is lost. Participants will also explore how they can effectively disciple through our schools in today’s culture.

Howard Davis

Howard Davis lives in a household that closely resembles the household of Pride and Prejudice — he’s the dad of five girls (ranging from 7 to 17 years old) and the husband of one wife, Melissa, who teaches at Providence Classical Academy in Bossier City, Louisiana. He grew up in Mississippi, studied accounting and economics at Baylor, worked as an accountant, went to Covenant Seminary, pastored Grace Presbyterian in Shreveport for 14 years, started Providence Classical Academy in 2005 and has been the Head of School there for eight years.

Wonder Leads to Worship

Constant saturation with technology can produce students who are jaded and apathetic. However, humans bearing the divine image are designed to contemplate the wonders produced by the divine hand and worship the creator in response. In this workshop, we will examine the role of wonder at creation in the process of discipleship. We will also explore a number of practical teaching methods and resources that science teachers can use to lead their students toward worship of our creator through contemplation of his amazing works.

John Mays

John holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, an MEd in Secondary Education, and a master’s of Liberal Arts. He served as the Math-Science Department Chair at Regents School from 2001–2009, then became Director of the Laser Optics Lab at Regents. He founded Novare Science & Math in 2009, and is the author of numerous student science texts and teacher resources. Now working full time as a writer, publisher, and consultant, John continues to teach part time at the Laser Optics Lab at Regents.

Learning to Live in Reality

An answer to this question needs to first address underlying assumptions: What is the purpose of Christian education? What is the nature of truth? What is the gospel? What is required of discipleship?

The purpose of Christian education is to equip students with a Christian mind – a true understanding of reality and how to successfully live within it. This means more than just knowing a biblical worldview. It also means being given a compelling vision of the good life and how to appropriate right here and now the resources of heaven. Spiritual formation is not optional— something to be added or subtracted from the curriculum. It is the culmination of all the factors that go into shaping what a person loves, what they trust or rely on, and who they follow. Both Pope Benedict and the Al-Quaeda operative are being spiritually formed. The only difference is to what. So the first thing to acknowledge is that every school, including the notorious government schools, is involved in spiritual formation.

The truth we teach is more than cognitive. It includes reason and imagination, being and doing. We must shun all forms of dualism that pits the academic knowledge against spiritual depth, smarts against piety, excellence against devotion.

Many parents, administrators, and teachers struggle with this question because of two factors. First, they have naively assumed the Enlightenment dualism of fact vs. value: science is about objective facts; religion is about subjective values. This is a lie from the pit of hell—and one that is celebrated and assumed by all public school education. Since many of our teachers have been trained by these institutions as have most of our parents, this assumption, though false, is common. When the Bible says that the way up is down, it carries the same epistemic force as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The good, true and beautiful are all based on objective norms whether couched in the language of the liturgy or the lab.

Second, they have naively assumed a truncated gospel that only addresses the sin problem but leaves out much of life. By reducing the gospel message to fall and redemption, we have adopted a message that gets people into heaven and fails to get heaven into people. Many Christian parents want the Christian school to simply provide a long altar call in a safe place. If at the same time the school can keep their child from publicly shaming them with an embarrassing pregnancy or drug and alcohol arrest, so much the better. Most Christian schools gladly oblige to focusing more on overt behavior than the heart condition. With enough administrative coercion, students’ heart realities can be faked until they leave for college.

If the gospel, however, includes creation and restoration (in addition to fall and redemption), then a fully orbed discipleship is in view. And true discipleship connects Sunday to Monday, the head to the heart, and the sacred to the secular. The mission of the Christian school emerges as understanding God’s good creation and the ways sin has distorted it, so that, in Christ’s power, we may bring healing to both people and the created order. And, as God’s image-bearers, we are able to exercise responsible authority in our task of cultivating the creation to the end that all people and things joyfully acknowledge and serve their Creator and true King.

All living things depend for their existence on a reality larger than themselves. This is a fact of life. It is not enough to teach our students the nature of reality without teaching them how to live successfully within it. Our goal for our students is that they become apprentices of Jesus, thereby becoming the kind of person whose lives are dependent on the resources of heaven. Our aim is not merely to create believers, but followers.

Central in our Christian schools must be a curriculum in Christ-likeness and a school culture that encourages reflection on Jesus’ priorities and character. The crisis of the church today is mirrored in Christian schools. It does not lack evangelism; it lacks an understanding of and commitment to discipleship. Competencies in spiritual formation are just as important as competencies in language and math.

We must take care in our schools not to produce modern day Pharisees, those who know Scripture but lack its transforming power. To be truly educated is to know the truth about reality and how to live life on the basis of it. And in the end, reality is relational. To teach that knowledge can somehow be segregated into compartments is to deny the lordship of Christ over all of life—a lordship which demands more than getting all the facts straight, and which demands a daily reliance on a spiritual power that is beyond us.

Dallas Willard observes, “Spiritual persons are not those who engage in certain ‘spiritual practices,’ but those who draw their life from
a conversational relationship with God. Thus they do not live their lives merely in terms of the human order in the visible world. They have ‘a life beyond.’” If flowers wither without a life beyond, so will our students. We are dishonest about the nature of reality if we exclude such information from our instruction.

The Student as Disciple

Oliver Van DeMille, in A Thomas Jefferson Education, states, “Education will never be fixed, and in fact it doesn’t need to be gixed. Any effort to fix education will fail.” So why are we so passionate about classical, Christian education? Are our students becoming life-long learners? Are there different types of education? What are the major obstacles to offering a Christ-centered education? In this session we will use DeMille’s book to consider the role of the teacher and the student as the keys to true student learning.

Adam Greer

Prior to serving as D/R Principal at Caldwell Academy for the past nine years, Mr. Greer taught math for 7 years at the college level. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary.