CM 530 Midterm Exam
27 October 2013
Question 1) “Propose how you would apply discipleship in a Christian education program.”
The question itself contains within it multiple facets which will be broken down into individual elements. The first has to do with an educational program that is inherently Christian in nature. The second element has to do with the Christian discipline of discipleship, and the third has to do with the correlation between the two. How do all of these elements fit together in such a way that those progressing through the program are actually impacted by the accountability and teaching methodology?
The first variable one must understand is that any true Christian education program will, by the very definition of being “Christian”, have discipleship as the ultimate goal. Matthew 28:19-20 gives us our ultimate goal in Christian education, “Go and make disciples…” Implied within Christian education is discipleship. Any Christian education program that does not seek as its goal discipleship has questionable motivations, and may well be Christian in title only. So, if discipleship is the goal, how do you then apply it?
One may be inclined to believe that application is the difficult part. However, I believe that we find in Scripture two important principles that greatly help us in the direct application of our goal of discipleship. The first is the principle that it is not we (the educators) who are the agents of discipleship, we are simply the medium of exchange. For example, in talking about repentance, purification, and growth – all elements of discipleship – Psalms 119:9 asks the question, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” The question is asking about the agent of discipleship. What or who is it exactly that accomplishes the work of discipleship the life of this young man? The psalmist then answers the question: “By keeping it according to your word.” It is the Word of God that actually accomplishes the role of discipleship in the life of those progressing through the education program. Therefore, in structuring the particular Christian education program one must employ the Word of God, the Holy Bible, as the agent of discipleship. In other words, if any question arises from the student to the educator about discipleship, the answer, or the agent of discipleship, must always come from the words of Scripture and not from the experience or intellect of the educator.
The second principle comes from the book of Acts, specifically from verse forty-seven of chapter two. In writing about the actual work of discipleship in the lives of those believers in the early church, Luke writes that the Lord added daily to their numbers such as should be saved.” In other words, it is always the Lord’s responsibility to accomplish the work of discipleship. This is similar in nature to the previous point, but it highlights the agent responsible for discipleship whereas the first point highlights the educational aspect – it is the word of God. If we are to apply discipleship in an educational program, we must never forget these two important aspects.
Let us get specific so as to help the reader better understand the application of discipleship. If we were to structure an educational program with an emphasis on small groups, and using a Socratic method of instruction, then we would have a class size of five to ten students per educator. The sessions would be approximately one hour in length, and the students and teacher would meet on three occasions during the week. The responsibility of the teacher would simply be to prepare the lessons and to frame the material in such a way that the students are forced to engage in answering questions as well as posing questions themselves. Now, if we go to our two principles of applying discipleship as discussed above, we will pose a scenario to understand how the application of discipleship comes into play. The first and most basic principle is that the material itself will come from the Bible. Since this is the agent that accomplishes discipleship in the life of the student, it is an indispensable part of the education process. To employ the second part of our discipleship equation, let us pose a further scenario. If in the course of studying the words of Scripture, the student is faced with a difficult question and is compelled to put the question before the educator, what would be the proper response by the educator if his goal is to apply discipleship to the student? This is where the second principle comes into play. The educator should always encourage the student to seek counsel and wisdom from the Lord Himself. In doing this, he can still urge the student in a particular direction without removing from the student the responsibility of seeking the Lord. In other words, if the educator already understands and knows the biblical response, he could point the student in the direction of the particular scripture without removing from the student his own self-discovery of the truth of God’s words. In so doing, the Lord is still accomplishing the role of discipleship, and it is still the words of His book that are life changing. The role of the educator in all of this, and with every student, is simply to know and understand the words of God and to point students in the proper direction when questions arise. This removes from the educator, and really the program itself, the role of trying to apply discipleship. They are simply instruments in the process.
Question 2) “Discuss how you can teach students with different learning styles using different approaches and methods.”
A proper response to this question is grounded in the same source as the response the question number one: the Bible. For the Christian educator, this is the source of the answer to all of our questions. As with the first question, there are two important and fundamental principles that, as Christian educators, we have to remember.
The apostle Paul, whom one could argue was the best and most successful Christian educator mentioned in the Scriptures other than Christ, says something very interesting in his letter to the church in Corinth. It highlights an important point in the field of Christian education, and gets to the heart of the question at hand. In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” The question at hand addresses students with various learning styles and the employment of different methods by the educator. This is exactly what Paul was getting at here. He highlights the fact that different people need to be reached, taught, and discipled differently. In his words, he has become all things to all of these different types of men so that he might save some. There is something important here for us.
Paul assumes that he himself cannot teach all men, but that by changing his approach he can save some. If we are to only minister to people who learn as we do, who understand the same things we understand, and who grow the same way we do, we will reach no one but ourselves. Like Paul, we must change our methods to fit the person. Christ Himself employed this method. With some, such as the religious leaders of the day, Jesus spoke very harshly to them. Matthew 22-23 provides great examples of this. However, with others, Jesus was very gentle, and the woman caught in adultery is the perfect example of this teaching method.
However, there is an important assumption that sits beneath this principle. That principle is that the educator actually know and understand his sheep. Christ Himself tells us that if we love Him, that we will feed His sheep (John 21). This assumes that we actually know the sheep we are teaching! We cannot reasonably expect to reach anyone, and much less a diverse group of people with different learning styles, if we do not know them! Like Christ, and like the apostle Paul as well, we first must know and understand the basic needs of those whom we are teaching.
To summarize an answer to the above question, there are a few key steps that must be employed. The first is that the educators actually know and understand their students. There can be no education at all without this key fact. The second is that the educator know his or her students so well that they know and understand how they learn and grow. Once this knowledge is gathered, then various methods and tactics can be employed. For example, there may be two students who are similar in many ways. However, one has a very logical and rational mind and the other has a very “hands-on” approach to learning. How can an educator teach both of these students with the same effect? The obvious answer is that different teaching methods must be employed by the instructor. The educator does not and cannot know what methods to employ if he does not first know and understand his students. Once he does this, he can “adjust his fire”, to use a military term, to best instruct both students. Although they have very different learning styles, they can learn the same material by means of a simple alteration of methodology by the instructor. Again, just as Jesus Christ Himself did, and just as the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, we must be all things to all men so that we might save some. This is not only a useful and necessary tactic to be employed by the Christian educator in any given setting, but it is also, and more importantly, a Scriptural mandate that must be met by the Christian educator out of obedience to the commands of Christ.
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