Another school year is upon us. Parents are stocking up on glue sticks and tissue boxes. Students are scrounging to squeeze the last drops of freedom from their homework hiatus. And let’s not forget the teachers, planning lessons and preparing classrooms for a new batch of eager learners.
It’s no secret that teachers and administrators make an astounding impact upon the next generation. They are the backbone of our education system. But the work of teaching carries a far more significant and eternal weight. God loves good teaching because His Church desperately depends on it. And good and faithful teachers who are rooted in the Church carry out a redemptive work in a world God is reconciling to Himself.
Good Teachers in God’s Church
A quick stroll through the story of God’s people highlights just how much He values good teaching and teachers among His people.
In Deuteronomy 11:9, God instructs His newly formed Israelite people to obey the words of the law and to teach them to their children. Unfortunately, God’s words were not heeded. The tragedies in Judges and beyond are marked by a failure to teach the next generation about their God. Israel’s most adored king, David, personally illustrates the next generation’s impressionability. His most infamous sin was immediately mimicked by one of his sons, and his passivity drove another son to stage a coup against his rule (2 Sam. 13-14). More than once, God firmly rebukes the false prophets of Israel—those who mislead with their teaching and counsel (Ezek. 13:10; Jer. 23:16). Even after the period of the prophets, God’s people suffered under the false and hypocritical teaching of the Pharisees (Mark 7:6-7). Whether parents teaching their children or leaders teaching the people, the Old Testament screams for faithful teachers, fit for God’s faithful Word.
The arrival of Jesus Christ delivers on that millennium of longing and waiting. Christ lives, dies and resurrects to initiate God’s reconciliation of all things. And then He hands the work of reconciliation to His Church. He exemplifies good teaching in His own ministry, and He instructs His followers to carry on His teaching (Matt. 28:20). The early church clearly felt the weight of Jesus’ words. They guarded the activity of teaching by placing a particular weight on the role (James 3:1; 1 Tim. 5:17), and we see an explicit connection between the teachings and character of a church leader (1 Cor. 2:4; 1 Tim. 3; James 3:13). Teachers play a pivotal role in the life and health of God’s people both past and present.
Good Teachers in God’s Creation
God’s love for good teaching does not end with His Church. God also wants good teachers for the world because He cares about the world. He created it and sent His Son in order to reconcile it back to Himself.
It should come as no surprise that God cares about the flourishing of the world outside of the Church. God’s original vision for His people always included the blessing of the rest of the world (Gen. 12:2). Though God works with particular attention to His people, His good intentions always bear a worldwide focus. From Joseph’s favor with Pharaoh to Solomon’s internationally-renowned wisdom, God has used His people to bless other nations. Even after they are conquered, He instructs His people to seek the prosperity of their new city, Babylon (Jer. 29:7). As Paul would later say, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). A church with people who don’t seek the flourishing of their community has missed a key part of what it means to be the people of God in a specific place.
They are not simply classroom facilitators, but generational catalyzers.
In our context, the school system plays an immensely important role in the flourishing of our community and society in general. The character and quality of each generation’s education is a new bedrock for the communities we will ask them to lead and grow. Put another way, the good of our cities begins with our citizens, most of whom go through our school systems.
This is the backdrop for the work of a teacher, coach, administrator, counselor, tutor, nurse and more. They are not simply classroom facilitators, but generational catalyzers. Standing behind parents as a secondary sphere of influence, they oversee the formation of the next generation of citizens. This is a weighty call, a blessed assignment that God has not overlooked. While certainly a different type of teaching than what takes place in the church, there is nothing “secular” about a career in the public school system. God has sovereignly commissioned Christians in these spheres to cultivate good, God-glorifying fruit in the lives of their students. Our schools, and subsequently our communities, will surely flourish as a faithful gospel presence shapes and leads our classrooms.
The key question that remains for teachers, coaches and everyone working in the educational field is, “How do I leverage my position to be a faithful gospel presence in this classroom?” This article will give you some ideas and encouragement from teachers in our community. Whether you teach inside or outside of the church, the call is weighty and God is glorified by your good teaching.