nuggets of wisdom

I spent Thursday and Friday up in Surrey, B.C. at our annual teachers' convention. in the past, I've been excited for the convention to arrive (no students! I get to go to classes and be taught!), but I've immediately been disappointed by the keynote speakers. In general, they have been good people with a large amount of knowledge, but with little understanding of how to connect with a room filled with hundreds of teachers, yearning for practical bits to take back to the classroom.

This year was different. our convention theme was "educating for global discipleship", meaning, "How do we teach our kids to walk with Christ in light of the global community?" Our two speakers shared personal stories and presented us with practical and meaningful applications.

Our first, Dan Egeler, grew up in Africa as an MK. He is now working for ACSI in Colorado Springs as the Director for International School Services. He has experience with schools across the world. Dan talked about the clash of worldviews in our Christian schools (humanism vs. Christianity) and how easily humanism can sneak into the way we teach. "Education can be our salvation!" He told a story of a group of students who were assigned to write a Christian response to "Dead Poet's Society" (which uses the catch phrase "Carpe Diem.") These students chose to respond: "Carpe Aeternitatem! (Seize Eternity!) Why settle for just one day?" Dan challenged us to address the fallacy of individualism and live life in the light of eternity. We are on a faith journey together, in community, with our students. He pointed out that gratitude makes the difference between a mature and immature Christian. Do we live lives of gratitude? Do we model gratitude to our students? I felt convicted by these words. How often do I complain or have a bad attitude, all the while shaming my students for doing the same thing? I need to see my work, my students, my own life, in the light of eternity.

The second speaker, Mike Goheen (the Goheens were old family friends who lived in Sioux Center for a few years), teaches worldview and theology at Trinity Western. His speech touched me even more. He spoke of the history of education and how it has been shaped by the economic climate of the western world. Again, education becomes the vehicle for our salvation. It will take us to a new world if we perfect it. Nietzsche described the 18th century as "God being killed", and by the 20th century, our new religion is consumerism. Education becomes a means to an end: If I get a good education, I can get a good job and then live a successful life filled with everything I need and want. Mike talked about the criticism of this worldview from the viewpoint of the Vatican. The first two are widely accepted, the last two are not:
1)There is an unequal distribution of goods.
2)Excessive consumption threatens the environment
3)Consumerism creates ungodly character
4)Consumption has become the primary goal--to the detriment of our own being.
As the prophet Ezekiel says, "When culture serves a god other than the living one, they will reap destruction." This kind of economic idolatry is impacting our Christian schools, and we don't even recognize it happening. We marginalize subjects that don't raise test scores; we marginalize continuing education for teachers, and we face parental expectations and the accompanying consumeristic ideology.
Mike then placed before us the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. This should be our new starting point. Our goal is to make disciples. A true disciple is to center his whole life on Christ, obey him, and become like him. A true disciple will challenge the social and economic structures in place today, and be willing to suffer for it. A true disciple will hunger and thirst for justice.

Wow. I felt convicted by these speakers and what they had to say. I think the most disturbing thing is that we don't recognize that our schools are serving this purpose. It makes me sick, and it makes me sad. I feel like Philip and I are really trying to not get wrapped up in money. We're trying to be smart about it and put it towards the most important things (donations, tithes, paying off loans, etc.) I don't think the point of Mike's speech was to shame anyone for spending money. I don't see a problem with Philip having an iPod touch or with me buying a new pair of shoes just for fun. But I think he was saying we need to keep our priorities straight and recognize the path our schools are following.

I guess I don't know how to end this, so I'll just stop. I'm grateful for the chance to be refreshed, renewed, and reminded of the bigger picture.


De Jongs said...

What a blessing to be challenged to consider yet again what is really important for us to learn and know as disciples of Jesus Christ! Thanks for passing on the blessing by sharing your response and reflections too. Love you!!

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