Christian Education and the Local Church

I love institutional Christian education. In many ways I am the product of Christian schools. In the course of my life I have three of the four schools I have attended have been Christian schools (elementary, middle school/high school, and seminary). While the experience of private Christian elementary, middle school, and high school were involuntary in retrospect I can honestly say I’m thankful my parents stuck with it.

As a believer, I am so grateful for the seminary I attend(ed), The Master’s Seminary. It has given me the necessary tools to be a more accurate student of God’s Word and the humility and love of the professors have only served as an encouragement. A lot of the principles I value and practice have been solidified by my experience in Christian higher education.

Today, as I serve as a local church pastor, I encourage members of the church to consider Christian higher education (if finances and circumstances allow). It is a major benefit to have members attend schools that share in doctrinal conviction and can offer a biblical worldview on a broad swath of disciplines (i.e., literature, sciences, business, etc.).

With all of these benefits, I do think churches need to be very discerning with the relationship between higher Christian education and the role of the local church. Here are a few principles to keep in mind when thinking through your local church and higher education.

  1. The Church should be the believers primary community for learning. The church must never forget that equipping saints with a biblical worldview begins in the local church. It is the church, not the university, that is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:14-15). Upholding this principle should encourage churches to seek the application of biblical principles in all of life.
  2. The Church should embrace and utilize the academy for what it us: an asset. It is true that local church ministry can become extremely busy. Therefore, local churches can and should support and use the academy to their advantage. The academy is a great tool to foster discipleship and a means to strengthen church members. Members attending institutions of higher Christian education should be encouraged to find areas to apply what they learn for the growth of the local church.
  3. The College/University setting is only temporary; believers will always be members of local churches. Whether we like it or not there comes a time when we graduate. The goal of higher Christian education is not for students to grow comfortable and remain within its doors. Eventually, students graduate and move on to careers or jobs. On the inverse, believers will always be members of local churches and therefore must view the church as their primary source of spiritual learning.
  4. The Church is concerned for both the knowledge and application of truth. While many Christian institutions encourage the student’s spiritual growth amidst academic rigors it is possible to achieve degrees in institutions of higher Christian education without being spiritually molded. The church, alongside of her teaching of Scripture, is also concerned and should be invested in the spiritual development of the saint. This is developed through discipleship (Matt 28:19-20) and service to the local church (Rom 12:6-8). The holistic demand of the local church is far more character shaping than an academic setting which is primarily concerned with intellectual development.
  5. The Church should boldly embrace the responsibility of confronting error and upholding truth in this fallen world. The unhealthy dichotomy between church and academia is a real problem. Those in the church lob all the “intellectual issues” to the academy. The academy launches all the “practical issues” to the local church. This dichotomy is unhealthy and the church and her leaders (specifically elders) have the responsibility to refute any form of error no matter where it lies on the ladder of intellectualism (Titus 1:9).

While there remains a threat to higher Christian education here in California, that doesn’t mean the end of educated Christians. If anything, I’m praying that the church would embrace and commit to strengthen her responsibility to be the pillar and support of the truth. O Church Arise!

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