I enjoy talking with children. It’s fascinating to look at life through their lens. To prime the conversation pump when first meeting them, I will ask kids questions such as, What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like to do when you are not in school? and a favorite question, What do you want to do for a job when you graduate? Kids have some common favorite subjects, after-school activities, and employment aspirations. However, it doesn’t require a PhD research grant to realize that kids are different. Some children like to read, some like science, while others are fascinated with history or geography. Some kids like to dabble with mechanics, some prefer sports, while others like music, art, or drama. Kids have indicated to me a multitude of career choices; they want to be nurses, singers, carpenters, teachers, missionaries, doctors, farmers, and, of course, pro basketball players and firefighters!
Certain educators argue for an interest-based approach to education. They design their instructional program around a child’s aptitude or inclination. However, most educators believe that a general education on the elementary and secondary levels, which provides instruction in a wide range of core subjects, equips a student in the long run for life.
An educational system should compile the course of study with the child’s welfare in mind. While a child may not be naturally drawn to reading, the child must be literate to function successfully. Some kids might not be interested in math, but they still need the skills of computation to cook, keep a balanced checkbook, pay taxes, and tithe at church. Children need the health benefits of being in gym class even if they would rather spend all their time in computer class. An awareness of world and national history is important to gain perspective on the flow of events that shaped and influenced countries and cultures through the centuries. A well-rounded course of study provides children with core knowledge that they will need in life. As students progress in their education programs, they later have the opportunity to pursue particular areas of interest.
What is true in academic education is also true in the instruction a church provides its learners. Whether working with children, teens, or adults, the church must teach people the whole counsel of God. The Bible is written with a skillfully woven story line. Though 66 books comprise the Bible, God’s Word is not a collection of unrelated short stories. There is a progressively developing plot with central characters and an intentional message. Beginning, middle, and end—all of God’s Word ties together. The entirety of the Bible needs to be taught and learned.
Second Timothy 1:3–5 notes that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had a profound influence on Timothy’s spiritual development. As a boy, Timothy was taught the sacred Scriptures that made him wise unto salvation. It wasn’t solely a handful of chapters from the beginning of the Bible that God used to shape Timothy’s understanding of the reality of sin and the need of a Savior. It was “all” of the God-breathed Scriptures available at that time that was profitable developmentally for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). It was “all Scripture” that grew Timothy into a man of God, competent and equipped for every good work.
When the writer of Hebrews was attempting to bolster the flagging faith of believers, he drew heavily upon the entire story line of the Old Testament to develop his argument. He surrounded his audience with the real-life stories of Old Testament heroes (Hebrews 11) that were meant to exemplify living faith. He referred to these Old Testament legends, assuming his audience was familiar with them.
We each have a special area of interest for Bible study. That area can become the consuming focus of our learning. However, children, teens, and new adult converts need a well-rounded, church-based Bible education to build the infrastructure of their faith. Life is complicated. Christians must understand a comprehensive core of Bible knowledge beyond a narrow area of study. We need the ability to integrate all truth into all of life.
By using a deliberate instructional taxonomy, the church can design an educational program that leads a believer incrementally to spiritual maturity. For instance, it is valuable for believers to learn the arguments for creationism in order to withstand the influence of the evolutionary theory. Yet much more of Scripture needs to be learned. Comparing education to the construction process, every building needs a foundation, but you can’t live in a foundation alone. You need to construct the whole building. A believer needs a faith that is authentic, enduring, defensible, and big enough to face all of life. People in our churches need answers to questions such as, How are world religions contrary to true Christianity? How are philosophical systems at odds with truth? and What portions of the world’s literature, arts, history, economics, and wisdom do not appeal to the wisdom that comes from above? All of these questions need answers. We need to study the whole Bible to provide the answers.
We must not shortchange our people by giving them only a portion of God’s Word. We must follow the example of Paul, who did not fail to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We must obediently carry out the Great Commission as stated, which includes making disciples of all nations, baptizing those believers (by immersion), and as Jesus concluded, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).
John Greening is national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.