“Be fishers of men” was the end goal of the three-year learning plan implemented by Jesus. Jesus kept the goal in front of the disciples at all times. All learning experiences were provided to achieve the overall mission or learning goal. The learning experiences had to instill the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to cast the gospel message as a net and patiently wait to see if there would be a catch. Casting the gospel and reeling in the catch required the disciples to know how to relate to all sorts of people, understand the human condition, and stand firm when encountering opposition.
Most importantly, the disciples had to not simply know about God but needed to know him intimately. Knowing God empowered them to cast the gospel net confidently and then sort the catch in order to identify who would be the next people to become disciples. All of the learning had to provide opportunities within personal relationships to observe, gain knowledge, and practice skills needed to achieve the end goal.
Christian Education = “Be Fishers of Men”
Similarly, Christian education needs to focus on the same end goal. “Be fishers of men”. All experiences for a child from Preschool through 12th grade need to be couched in a relationship and contribute to the knowledge, attitude, and skills needed to make disciples after surrendering to Jesus as Lord. As Dr. Glen Schulz from Kingdom Education Ministries puts it, every Christian school “must have as its primary goals the salvation and discipleship of the next generation” (Glen Schultz, 2021, p. 28).
I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit that my role in my community and my work with Christian schools requires a relentless pursuit of ways to help others know the truth by knowing Jesus, so, in turn, they will help others to know him too. The core of Christian education needs to focus on making disciples who make disciples. Consider again how Jesus spent his life on earth and what he taught as the most important commandments of them all. First, to love God with all we have within us (Matthew 22:36-38). Secondly, love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39). These acts of surrender are the path to being disciples of Jesus. But our charge does not end there.
Christian Education = Making Disciples
The final set of instructions Jesus gave to his disciples, was a mandate. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB 1995). That final set of instructions is for all of us as disciples of Jesus. Make disciples. Be fishers of men.
Implementing the End Goal of Christian Education
How do Christian educators, whether teachers in a brick-and-mortar school, an online school, or a home school participate in the primary mission of education, making disciples? How do we navigate through the state requirements, curriculum content, and student extracurricular interests, while striving to simultaneously keep salvation and discipleship as the primary goal? It begins by understanding and committing to the truth that biblical education is not an added feature of secular education. Rather biblical education is a way of educating and a culture in which education takes place.
Making disciples is a process that cannot be planned with a scheduled end date. Making disciples involves an interrelationship of internal and external elements that influence the spiritual path of an individual. The Holy Spirit works to form the inner self in such a way that it becomes the inner being of Christ himself. Dallas Willard (2002) labels this process as Spiritual formation. This inner formation begins when the Holy Spirit convicts a person before salvation and transforms them after salvation. Becoming like Christ on the inside, while directed by the Holy Spirit can be influenced by a faith community, and by the influence of God’s word.
The Development of a Biblical Worldview
Simultaneously, a person’s worldview is being developed. A worldview is a pattern of ideas, beliefs, convictions, and habits that help one make sense of God and the world (Noebel and Meyers, 2015, 10). Biblical worldview development begins at birth and is influenced early on by interactions with primary caregivers. As a child grows, the weekly family routines, the nature of faith practices of others with whom the child interacts, and the exposure to ideas through literature, media, peers, and education influence and shape his worldview.
Therefore, Christian education should incorporate a way of educating and a culture that intentionally sets out to influence biblical worldview development and spiritual formation. Thinking opportunities, relationships, and actions are strong worldview and spiritual formation shaping and influencing dimensions. So, it makes sense for Christian schools to promote opportunities for students to think critically about worldview ideas, build relationships with other Christ followers, and participate in experiences that provide guidelines and examples of Christ-like living and draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus.
The End Goal of Christian Education
Christian education is a holistic process that encompasses more than meeting curricular standards, providing excellent academic programs, offering a variety of extracurricular options, and multiple efforts with community outreach. Christian education must focus on guiding individuals to become disciples of Christ by providing education steeped in Godly relationships, characterized by critical analysis of ideas, and enveloped with opportunities to experience and offer the love of Christ. In other words, Christian education needs to focus on being fishers of men to make fishers of men.
Let’s go fishing!
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Noebel, David A., and Jeff Meyers. Understanding the times. Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Ministries, p.10, 2015.
Schultz, Glen. Applying Kingdom Education: Following God’s Instructions for Educating Future Generations. Wheaton, IL: Wheaton Press, 2021.
Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the heart: Putting on the character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002.