By Chris Barber
“ And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. A-men.” Matthew 28:18-20
Education used to be considered the separating factor within the social and academic life. It was sought after and when achieved it was accompanied with success. This is no longer the reality in this generation. Through media, it has become apparent that ignorance and foolishness are now being celebrated and encouraged. Because of this degradation within politics, our nation and culture, our education has been brought into question. Many books have been dedicated to the fact that education in America is in decline. There is no doubt that examples of this decline can be found.
I found an eighth grade arithmetic problem that has actually been published by a historian because of its contrast of arithmetic in the 1940s with current eighth grade math. The problem reads, “Find the cost at twelve and a half cents per square yard of wallpaper lining the walls of a room that are 20 ft. long, 16 ft. wide, and 9 ft. high, deducting one door 8 ft. x 4ft. 6 in. in 2 ft. windows 5 ft. x 3 ft. 6 in. each.” There are many other examples such as this. Mathematics is not the only field in which education seems to be lacking.
Politics and citizens seem to have fallen into this same trap. For example, a video was created highlighting an experiment in Oklahoma that sought to outlaw H20. There were many people who actually signed this petition and agreed that H20 was a terrible thing. Currently, there are graduating high school students who do not even rank in the top 50 percent of science, industry and mathematics. It is becoming more and more evident that erosion in education is taking place in America. The same can be said of education within Christian and evangelical churches.
Barna Group has stated that 85% of young people leave the faith upon graduating high school. When asked why in surveys, they replied that they were not learning anything in church anymore. We have turned churches into entertainment and hype, but we cannot hope to build lasting disciples of Christ if we rely on the hype alone. In this day and age, we need a strong, biblical foundation on which we can teach, exhort and compel individuals to grow their roots in the Word of God.
It was the lack of roots and teaching that caused the newly delivered Israelites to so quickly forget the miraculous works of God and turn to false gods. It baffles the mind how a nation so amazingly delivered could forget so easily and turn to something else. It is interesting to note that it was easier to bring the nation of Israel out of bondage of Egypt than it was to get the residue of Egypt off the children of Israel.
This is true of churches today. It is easier to help people on Sunday through an altar call or first- time commitment during their time of dire circumstance than it is on Monday morning when reality hits them once again. In other words, the Christian life and commitment seem very tangible in a church service but when new converts return to their same home, friends, fears and addictions, the message is not so strong. This is where Christian discipleship and teaching come into play. When the element of teaching is lacking, new converts can be swallowed up by waves of this world. It is easier to deliver them than to set them free of their past. The same was true of the delivered Israelites.
It seems unthinkable that a nation that had just experienced the undeniable acts of God could within a short amount of time switch its allegiance to a golden calf molded by the hands of Aaron. This is my personal thesis so I may be wrong; however, I believe that this quick change of allegiance was not a God problem but rather a people problem. There are three things that may have led to this historical problem we still face today.
Freedom: A Foreign Concept
First, freedom was a foreign concept in the hearts and minds of the previously enslaved Israelites. There had been generation upon generation that knew nothing more than slavery, captivity and bondage. “The slave’s mentality,” a concept researched by psychologists and sociologists, suggests that despite the fact that slaves often outnumbered their masters and an uprising could be successful, they conclude that any other alternative or way of living is nearly impossible.
We see this idea played out in our judicial and social components at present. According to statistics, 75 to 80 percent of individuals who have been in prison and released return within five years. This is a sign that our educational system is failing them. Many people face the same question that the Israelites did after their deliverance: “How do I even live as a free person?” Contrary to the fact that we have awesome church facilities, altar calls and staggering numbers of people who receive the Holy Ghost, the journey does not stop there.
It is upon the redemption experience that the journey and challenge really begins. Those people who have just come into the church often know nothing more than abuse, drug addiction, hate and destruction. We need to teach and exemplify what freedom looks like. We should be teaching them how to worship, pray and pay their tithes. We need to create a context of what to do and what not to do. If new converts do not have a guide to live by, they are being set up to fail.
They Did Not Know God!
The reason the Israelites walked away from God was because they did not know God. They knew He set them free and was Jehovah Nissi (the Lord our banner and victory), but they wondered whether He could be Jehovah Jireh, their provider. They did not know Him to the extent in which they could rely on Him or trust Him. God had set them free but could He sustain them? These same questions revolve in the minds of delivered people today. Every time we are in the position of teaching, worshiping or preaching, we need to be leading people to a deeper understanding of God. They need to be transitioning from the milk to the meat of the Word. This process does not just happen overnight and produce “cookie-cutter” Christians. It takes patient discipleship and teaching. Our worship songs need to have substance to them. They need to be teaching us more about God. Bible studies are also key to discipleship.
Servanthood is the ultimate goal of the Christian. Proper training and discipleship will lead to positions of leadership, but at the onset of the journey, even a broom or mop can begin to help people see how the body functions. I can personally attest to this. It was Joshua, Moses’ assistant, who beautifully exemplified the beauty of servanthood in the Israelite camp.
There was a time in which Moses and Joshua were worshiping in the tabernacle while the rest of the Israelites were worshiping God from their tent doors. What is very intriguing is that when Moses left the tabernacle, Joshua stayed behind. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, yet he so strongly desired to linger in the presence of the Lord and know Him in a greater way that he stayed after Moses left. This is what set Joshua apart as the next leader of Israel who eventually brought the nation into the “Promised Land.”
As we see in Joshua’s example, servanthood is the epicenter of ministry. In fact, ministry is about one percent “pulpit” time and 99 percent serving time. This is why it is imperative that we not only educate and disciple people but also provide opportunities for them to serve within the body of Christ. One of the things that lacked in the Israelite camp was their knowledge in how to contribute. We see the opposite taking place in Acts 6 where people were ministering and being ministered to in the early church. We have a responsibility to do the same and educate.
Joshua wasn’t only tasked with leading God’s people, but he was tasked with contending for the integrity of God’s Word. Joshua is given instruction from God when accepting his role in leadership. Joshua 1:7-8 states: “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
The interesting thing to note is Joshua’s promotion into God’s calling for his life was directly correlated to his knowledge of scripture (or who God was) and his desire to serve. In order for us to see thriving Apostolic converts, we must see a total conversion in their lives through deliberate Biblical teaching and a Christian worldview.
We should be unashamedly Apostolic in our belief and behavior. We should embrace teaching the Apostolic doctrine as given in the New Testament. We need to prepare others to teach the Apostolic faith to their generation. I challenge you to commit yourself from this moment forward to the teaching ministry of the Church and to always be prepared to bring an anointed lesson from God’s Word to edify God’s people for your entire ministry.
Finally, it is important to consider the question, “How can we teach and preach if we do not know God?” If we want to experience and see revival, we must know God and teach others to know God.