While studying the philosophy of Christian Education I was required to write a brief paper researching and analyzing a contemporary and relevant need. I chose to research biblical integration, hence, I wrote a paper titled, “The Balance of Academics and Biblical Integration.” https://vbc.academia.edu/MarkEvans It has been a few years, I wrote the paper in December of 2011. I still believe what I have written, but after three years of teaching (this year will start my fourth year) I have learned a great deal. In the future I will probably modify and update the original paper. But I am not ready, so I will write some of my experiences and observations here.
I am also an advocate for discipleship, proper discipleship, not forced programs and lethargic curriculum. After the first few weeks of this school year I have noticed that I have naturally started discipling students. I haven’t really thought much about it or intentionally planned, the process has become part of my efforts. After realizing this I was reminded about my experience as a coach. While coaching I made it a priority to disciple the athletes who I coached, and the athletes of the opposing team. Within the last week I have realized that biblical integration and discipleship can and should happen simultaneously.
It has been a real struggle teaching teenagers and not misreading the angst that they bring into the classroom. Especially since I didn’t start teaching till I was thirty-six years old, many years after my own experience as a teenager. My first year of teaching was just a little less than horrible, I did not accommodate my students very well. It was difficult not taking things personally. Even my own teenage children (at times) have turned into temperamental monsters, sigh, and that also hurts. I must continually remind myself of my own faults, and I am nearly forty. I am challenged to help the students face the struggle of transforming from children into young adults. And honestly, sometimes I just want to go hide in a corner because I feel rather incompetent.
Each year I set goals for myself. One goal remains the same; I want to reach each student. I know that each student is different, and since that is true I have to accept them for who they are and find a way to make an eternal impact. An insurmountable task, as far as I can tell. There is no method, curriculum, or program that teaches me how to gain the trust and confidence of my students, or how to read their needs. And I assure you, they all test me. If you are a teacher you can probably empathize.
I teach Bible. Bible is different than all the other subjects. The one thing that I don’t have to worry about is biblical integration. But it is not easy teaching Bible, my enthusiasm doesn’t make it any simpler. Most students enter the classroom thinking that they won’t learn anything new. See, many of them have been raised in a Christian school, and ironically many of them think that I am going to teach them the same thing they learned the year before. The gospel has become redundant to some of them. Very few of them are mature enough to fully embrace the fullness and the richness of the gospel, that is my job, to show them, to teach them. They can be like a brick wall, and sometimes I cannot seem to break through. But, that is the job of the Holy Spirit; I trust Him. Most of the time I would never know how the students feel, sometimes parents tell me, or I may receive a tiny compliment (occasionally) followed by some meanness (sometimes soon after).
And then there are times when I see them work as a community, as a team on the field, court, in the band, and as a choir. It is all very beautiful, and sometimes I nearly cry. I have cried. I am so proud of them; I am inspired by their speeches, songs, sermons, lessons, and their sigh of relief when they conclude. A farewell to a season of hard work, and then they begin again.
In the past I have taught other subjects (still do), and I also teach physical education. On many occasions I have found myself talking one-on-one with students (or to a group) about the need for them to respect their parents, to treat others with respect, and to love others unconditionally. I encourage them to prepare themselves for their future spouse, careers, and future selves as a parent. And last week, while thinking about biblical integration, it hit me; I have been discipling my students. I have encouraged the athletes to win/lose well, to treat the opposing team with respect and recognize them as brothers in Christ. I have taught young men how to develop a sermon. I have assisted young ladies in the development of a Bible lesson. I make great effort to teach my students how to read closely and analytically, how to write thoughtfully, and how to develop a biblical worldview. I have been discipling them. I am not the only one, there are other disciplers.
In response to the question at the title of my blog. I do believe that biblical integration and discipleship are the same thing. Although Christian teachers are diverse and may think differently, I believe that all of us want to see our students enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ to fully experience His love and forgiveness. I believe that we all want our students to nurture that relationship and live a meaningful life, one that is characterized by the person of Jesus Christ. We want them to have successful marriages, families, careers, and demonstrate genuine Christ-likeness. Instead of getting bogged down with the words biblical integration, let us remember that we biblically integrate our subject material as a way to disciple our students. We partner with the Holy Spirit to develop students, not biblically integrated curriculum.