In Kingdom Education for the 21st Century, Glen Schultz (2011) says that the duty of created man is to glorify God. As image bearers of God, mankind should desire to glorify God in everything he/she says and does (I Cor. 10:31). By extension of this truth, this means that the ultimate purpose of Christian education is also to glorify God. Few professionals called into this vocation would disagree with this philosophical statement; however the practical application of this truth might cause a difference of opinion. The purpose of this essay will be to give some clarity on the subject designed specifically for application by Christian educators.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (English Standard Version). Many Christian educators will use this text as a call to academic and athletic excellence in schools. This is the view that drives Christian school teachers to develop curriculums and methodologies that produce high standardized tests scores, allows institutional leadership to take pride in graduation and college admission rates, and motivate the athletic and arts departments to collect hardware for their trophy cases. All of these things are important and valuable, and can lead to God’s glorification, but they miss the true purpose of man. In the end these noble works can easily be transformed by sin into acts of pride and self-gratification. “The whole course of the life is upset by failure to put God where He belongs. We exalt ourselves instead of God and the curse follows” (Tozer. 1982, p. 107).
Consider instead, that God is not as glorified in the excellence of performance and achievement, as He is in the excellence of human relationship and interaction. It is the Christian schools successes in growing Disciples of Christ that truly brings God glory. John 15:8 says, “By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The idea of “much fruit” is not found in external results but in discipleship (Schultz, 2011). This concern for relationships within the body of believers is evidenced in 1 Peter 4:8-11,
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
Here there is a clear connection between the way believers behave with one another and what brings God glory. This is because God’s chosen vehicle for His glory is in the Body of Christ. Tozer (1982) said,
God also has desire, and His desire is toward the sons of men, and more particularly toward those sons of men who will make the once-for-all decision to exalt Him over all. Such as these are precious to God above all treasures of earth or sea. In them God finds a theater where He can display His exceeding kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (p.107).
Tozer then reminds us that God’s grace evidenced in the lives of His followers is the most effective way to bring Him glory.
One might ask if this contradicts the excellence referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:31. A closer examination of the passage written to the church in Corinth reveals a unity of God’s glory coming more through relationships. The context of 1 Corinthians 10 involves a discussion on Christian liberty in light of offending another’s sensitivities. This proper view of the context reveals that Paul does not mean excellence in external actions is “all to the glory of God”, but it is our actions and attitudes towards each other that must be done in a glorifying manner. 1 John 3 further teaches that Christ demonstrated His love for mankind through His sacrificial work on the cross. In John 17:1 Christ, facing his time of passion, prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (ESV). It was through Christ’s unconditional loving sacrifice on the cross that he glorified the Father. In a similar way, believers demonstrate the love of Christ through our love for each other (1 John 3:18) and thereby glorify God.
This concept of glorifying God through relationships has a significant impact on Christian education. 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (ESV). There are two components to relationships that glorify God: deeds and truth. If Christian education is to fulfill its purpose both of these aspects must be addressed. Much of the excellence that Christian education has been striving for over the years in academic areas is absolutely necessary to meet the call for truth. The truth of God, who He is and how He wants us to live, is contained in the academic subjects found in traditional schooling. Christian schools must also include acts of love, giving more attention to what has come to be known as character education. In the spirit of 1 John 3:18, it is not enough for students to memorize “one another” verses, speak nice to one another, or apologize using the proper formula of words when they have been mean (although these things are important). Real education must go beyond to intentionally training young people to serve others with a better understanding of what it means to be image bearers of Christ. It is popular to do this through local service projects and short term mission projects; but the efforts must also extend to the attitudes and character displayed at athletic events and school program performances. Rude and inconsiderate behavior that is tolerated simply because the venue has changed will only reinforce a world apart from God.
It is the purpose of man to glorify an Almighty God. Just as Christ glorified the Father through the ultimate act of sacrificial love for fallen man, followers of Christ glorify God through sacrificial acts of love to both fallen man and other believers. Putting aside selfishness and considering the needs of others in word and deed will bring glory to a loving God who cares for His creation. For a Christian school to fulfill its purpose in bringing glory to God then, it must continue to emphasize academic excellence that leads to truth, but also add an emphasis on putting feet and hands to character education, applied equally in all venues of the educational program.
Glorifying God: Fulfilling Purpose
by John M. Furrow
Westminster Catawba Christian School
Presented in Partial Fulfillment of
Kingdom Education FDS
EDU 9950 (FDS)
Dr. Milt Uecker
Columbia International University
Posted with author's permission
Schultz, G. (2011). Kingdom Education for the 21st Century. DVD Series
Tozer, A. (1982). The Pursuit of God. Camp Hill PA: Christian Publications
Written by Kimberly Ange
Posted with author's permission
This question, “How do we give evidence that we are glorifying God in everything as we live our lives here on earth?” seems so simple. We bear fruit. Having said that, it’s really not that simple, because what it takes to bear fruit is so difficult for sinners.
I know in my life I get so caught up with the tyranny of the urgent and the “doing” for God that I forget it really is all about Him. And I even know it when it’s happening, but I stubbornly still try to continue to live in the flesh when I know good and well, that I need to just do what glorifies God. One of the changes that we made at our school when it became an independent school was to have morning praise and worship time with the entire school body present. And at first no one really wanted to do that because teachers are getting ready for the day and there are a hundred things that need to be done each morning. This is our second year of having morning praise and worship and it is the favorite part of everyone’s day, including many of the student’s. I try very hard to focus our faculty and students on glorifying God for this time period each day. For me, it helps to just focus on God and his greatness at the beginning of each day. It sets the tone for the rest of the day and for glorifying God ALL day every day.
Glorifying God is a lifestyle – not a series of single actions over time. I would say I’m not there yet, but it is my desire to be there. As much as I want to glorify God with every action, thought, and word, sometimes I get caught up in whatever is going on and my flesh takes over. In this lesson, Dr. Schultz referred to our main desire and delight is to glorify God. I grew up in a PCA church and always knew that my purpose was “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” It is definitely my desire to do so, but I never thought of it as a delight. This has given me a new perspective on which to meditate. I didn’t think of glorifying God as drudgery either, I just never connected the concept of delight with glorifying God. There are many times when I have delighted in God’s word, or God’s grace. Maybe it’s being American, or just being human, but the concept of glorifying God with every breath, word, action, and thought is overwhelming to me. We compartmentalize so much of our lives that this seems foreign to us, and there are not many people around us that are sold out to anything. When I think of those that are completely sold out, they are not usually the Christians. When I think of being sold out, I think of someone that can eat, live, and breathe their job, their family, their money, their home, their revolution or whatever, and every waking moment is spent being obsessed with this one thing. O how I want to be sold out to Jesus like that and glorify Him like that with my life!
At school we talk and teach about glorifying God and how to do that in many classes. I don’t find that we talk about how to enjoy God. How do we teach our students to enjoy God? That’s not something I see too often in curricula, but wouldn’t it impact our students if we thought about how to teach them to enjoy God. That’s a heart issue and takes time. Time to get to know God intimately, time to talk to your students and get to know them well enough to teach them to enjoy God. I think this would have a huge impact on students. I love Bible knowledge, but our students need heart knowledge as well and that can only come by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pray without ceasing!
There were several statements that Dr. Schultz made that have caused me to stop and think about my life and how little I glorify God. “The creation of God is muted in comparison to us.” When I look at creation, for example the video segment in session 5 of this series, I am amazed and astounded by how big God is and what a majestic and creative being He is. But that statement says to me that humans are greater than God’s other creations! That is astounding to me. How is it possible that such sinful creatures outshine His creation of the world and all its creatures? And then I ponder and think about the human body – each time my heart beats, it reflects the glory of God. The complexity of how our brain works, our eyesight, our hearing – all of it reflects the glory of God in such an intricate way. I am speechless!
Tozer’s statement, “He gasps for it as a suffocating man gasps for air.” Have I reached the point where I live for God’s honor by spiritual reflex, or is God’s glory necessary for me? Am I gasping for God’s glory? I don’t think so. I am outraged by the blasphemous things I see in our country and even in some churches, but does that push me to be outspoken for the glory of God?
I can only imagine the impact on education if all Christian teachers gasped for the glory of God. There would never be any trouble with Biblical integration – it would flow from us for Him. We would be passionate about not only our subjects that we teach, but also passionate about seeing our students glorify God and purposefully directing and guiding them in this direction. Our students would know that we are passionate about God and delighting in Him. Do our students see that now?
Tozer also said, “God acts only for His glory.” Just reading that statement makes me worship God. Because of the decline of America, and the hard economic times, I feel so blessed that our school is able to do okay. But it is so much more than okay! I remember that our school has literally been pulled out of the ashes twice. God amazes me! The last year our school was a ministry of the church we thought it would close. It was so painful to know that the church did not want us as a ministry. But God worked in the hearts of what would become our board members and unified them to come up with a business plan to keep the school going. All the while the parents supported the school and hung in there with us. God was working and we knew it. All for God’s glory! Our first year as an independent school started off great! Enrollment was up, finances seemed to be great…but they weren’t. The board was too trusting of the principal and there were not enough checks and balances on the finances, so in February of 2010, we found ourselves in the same situation as the prior year – ready to close again. Unbelievably at the parent meeting, the parents were overwhelmingly supportive of the school again, in spite of the huge screw up. I was stunned. But, again He was working all for His glory! I am amazed and grateful that I have been able to be a part of this and watch this story unfold because it is truly a story of God’s grace and glory. I am overwhelmed that I am in the position that I am in – I definitely don’t deserve it and feel totally unqualified, but it is for God’s glory. This year the challenge so far has been with the church – a church that is in serious decline and in the huge building that we use. It has been difficult to work through some issues with the men in the church. I have been so fearful that the church would end up being so inward that it would forget the ministry it has in its building, whether it wants it or not. And then I have reminded myself that we are there for God’s glory and we need to submit to His will and leadership. He obviously wants the school there – sometimes I wonder how many times He has to show people this. But for now, we are there and doing well – all for the glory of our God and Savior.
There are still many parts of our school that need to be changed. This vision, this glorifying God in every way with every action, will be a driving force in our school. I want to ask of every staff member, all curriculum, every activity – does this glorify God? If not, fix it so it does, or get rid of it. Is it really that simple? I think it is, until we humans complicate the matter with all the other worldly ideas that crowd into the picture. But once again, we need to get back to what is really important – glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.