I made the claim in my last post that churches need to adopt an educational model. In this post, I answer several questions surrounding that claim.
Why are you advocating an educational model for churches?
I am advocating an educational model because churches are failing to make true disciples.
What is a disciple?
The Oxford English Dictionary, which traces English words from their origins up to present day usage, says
- a disciple is a person who follows or attends upon another in order to learn from him or her.
- a disciple is a pupil; a follower.
- the word disciple was originally and chiefly used with reference to the followers of Jesus.
You can see from this definition that there are two aspects to being a disciple. A disciple is a follower, and a disciple is a student. As Christians, we use the term disciple appropriately, but rather than it evoking passion and purpose, it elicits a passive response.
…but an educational model changes that.
An educational model emphasizes the student aspect of discipleship.
Jesus was called Rabbi (teacher);
Jesus’ ministry was primarily focused on teaching;
Jesus commissioned his followers to make and teach disciples; and
we cannot reasonably claim to be a follower of Jesus unless we study His life and understand His teachings.
An educational model inspires a missional attitude where disciples actively pursue opportunities to learn more about Jesus, and where disciples are motivated to educate others about Jesus.
What do you mean by educational model?
In an educational (instructional) model, student learning is the focus. In school systems, for example, it is the difference between teacher-centered (sage on the stage) instruction and student-centered (guide on the side) instruction. When student learning is a priority, every aspect of instruction is scrutinized to ensure the most effective strategies and methods are used in teaching students. By suggesting the church adopt an educational model, I am saying that each church needs to consider and answer the following questions:
What is the purpose of discipleship?
Who (specifically) are our students (those we are discipling)?
What type of environment will promote student learning?
What are the most effective methods and teaching strategies for our students?
What assessment strategies can we use to determine our students’ learning needs?
How do we train students to become effective teachers?
What is the biblical precedent for following an educational model?
Scripture is full of teaching references. So much so, that it is impossible to catalog them all here. However, the rationale I gave earlier for focusing on the student aspect of discipleship provides a biblical foundation for adopting an educational model.
You just want churches to follow an educational model because you’re a teacher.
Actually, it’s the other way around. I became a teacher because I saw that the current church model was ineffective in making disciples and teaching people to follow the commands of Jesus. I still study educational theories, teaching methods, and learning strategies to increase my knowledge and to keep abreast of current trends in education. I hope to pass this information along to you in such a way that you can apply it to discipleship training.
Are there other models the church can follow?
I don’t think so; not effectively anyway.
Keep in mind, as a Christian, your goal is to become a DiscipleMaker. Inherent in this objective is an inescapable requisite for you to occupy every facet of the educational spectrum. You are responsible for being a student, a teacher, and a teacher trainer.
Because the weight of responsibility is on your ability to be an effective learner, teacher, and trainer, there is no other model more suitable to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
My church offers Bible study. Does this mean we already follow an educational model?
I cannot say for certain, but my experience says probably not. Adopting an educational model is a system-wide approach to discipleship, which requires that every aspect of the church be intentional about training disciples to further the gospel. This means that church services, classes, programs, and all other church activities will consider learning objectives, teaching strategies, and assessment methods.
How can I adopt an educational model for my church?
Great question—because adopting an educational model begins with you!
An educational model is not a program. It is a framework that informs your approach to discipleship. And it will almost certainly require a paradigm shift.
My hope is this blog will provide a forum for you to explore the educational model. As you become more familiar with the concepts that make up an educational model, you can evaluate how effective discipleship is in your church. Then, you can begin to influence change.