THREE EDUCATIONAL KEYS THAT UNLOCK A LIFE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE
by Greg Ketteman
To read more about Free Will Baptist Bible College, visit the website at www.fwbbc.edu.
MY LIFE HAS BEEN IMPACTED by Free Will Baptist Bible College from the day I was born. Today, its impact has become more profound than I ever imagined. I’m honored that President Pinson and the Board of Trustees believe that I’m the right person to be Provost, and I’m grateful for this unique opportunity to serve God. As I begin this journey, I want to share with you my thoughts about Free Will Baptist higher education.
What is the goal of Free Will Baptist higher education?
Free Will Baptist higher education should prepare people for a life of service to Christ and His church. A life of service includes character traits such as honesty, humility, purity, compassion for others, selflessness, consistency, persistence, and willingness to serve, as well as the pursuit of knowledge and excellence, wisdom, and good judgment.
In short, this list describes a person with the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and motivation to make a lifelong, positive impact for Christ in his home, church, community, and in the world. It is not difficult for Christians to agree with goals like this for Christian higher education.
How do we prepare people for lives of Christian service?
This question is more difficult to answer. I suggest three ways in which people should be prepared for a life of Christian service.
Rigorous Academic Preparation
First, people should be thoroughly prepared for a life of Christian service with a clear understanding of the importance and value of academic preparation. God’s choice of the Apostle Paul, who played a pivotal role in the establishment of the New Testament Church, was of critical, strategic importance to the spread of the Gospel.
A zealous “Hebrew of the Hebrews” and serious student of the famous Gamaliel, Paul had the equivalent of a doctorate in religion in today’s terms. In our correct focus on God’s power in the book of Acts, we may not adequately emphasize Paul’s extensive academic preparation.
Paul’s rigorous educational preparation gave him a significant advantage as he encountered the lifestyles, philosophies, and worldviews of his day. He was able to effectively communicate to Jews, gentiles, believers and unbelievers through the written and spoken word.
The Holy Spirit used Paul’s extensive understanding of the Scriptures and educational preparation in a unique way. As with Paul, God will multiply the talents of people who wisely invest in serious, Christian academic preparation and commit themselves to Him. Free Will Baptist higher education must be rigorous and thorough.
Relevant Christian Worldview
Second, people should clearly understand and live out the vital relevance of the Christian worldview. After nearly 30 years in public education, I have learned that rigorous education alone is not enough.
Crack houses, prisons, and homeless shelters are populated with the highly educated as well as those who are uneducated. Becoming well versed in Greek, skillful in calculus, or astute in philosophy does not guarantee success. Only individuals with the character to combine with their knowledge and skills can reasonably aspire to success.
Education must have another dimension if it is to be effective. Educators not only instruct for the purpose of developing skills and understanding, they seek to change the behavior of their students. All education ultimately seeks to change behavior; otherwise why educate anyone?
When teaching a child to read, the teacher expects that he will read. Educating people about the physical consequences of smoking should cause them to avoid the habit. Teaching a student that he is a product of evolution has drastic behavioral consequences, while teaching that he is designed and created by God logically leads to a very different set of thoughts and actions.
Teaching a young adult about the Great Commission is not just so he will know about the command to evangelize the world, but with hopes that he will obey the command. Teaching a young adult about the unity of the eternal Word and the inconsistencies of postmodernism is done to change his thinking and thus, his behavior.
People must be taught to make connections between theory and practice, between knowledge and behavior. A person who understands the relevance of Christian education can apply truth in his own life and to the world around him. He can live a distinctively Christian life. Free Will Baptist higher education must be relevant as students encounter today’s world.
Effective Christian Relationships
Third, in Free Will Baptist higher education, people should be prepared through effective Christian relationships. Effective educational relationships can be likened to the relationship the potter has with the clay. As the potter sits at the wheel and shapes the clay, he is in constant contact with the clay; he is intimately aware of its unique characteristics and the areas that need more or less pressure, or require a tool designed to produce a certain functional or aesthetic result in the finished product.
Jesus taught His disciples in person, through word and deed. Through personal interaction, He invested His life in them, day after day. His loving hand molded their personalities and characters to prepare them for service when they were no longer under His tutelage. He skillfully applied the right amount of pressure at critical points and used instructional tools to produce desired results. Ultimately, this relationship informed and inspired their service.
God designed people for relationships. It is through our relationship with God that we grow in knowledge and discernment. And so at the heart of the best education—education that leads to true wisdom—is a dynamic relationship between teacher and student. Free Will Baptist higher education must invest in effective teacher-student relationships.
How do we prepare people for lives of Christian service? Free Will Baptist higher education must provide genuine academic rigor, woven together with the elevance of a Christian worldview, and animated through effective relationships.
NOTE: The terms Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships are borrowed from the following publication:Bottoms, Gene, 2004. Using Rigor, Relevance and Relationships to Improve Student Achievement. Southern Regional Education Board, Atlanta, GA (www.sreb.org).
ABOUT THE WRITER: Dr. Greg Ketteman is the Provost at Free Will Baptist Bible College.