NOTE No. 1
These notes were written on board the S. S. Orsova as it was steaming south and westward toward Australia. A number of fine Christian folk were on board; real Christian fellowship was enjoyed. Various subjects were discussed. Christian education was one of these. The minister from the Assembly of God (Pentecostal), the Australian secretary of the Inland China Mission, the Salvation Army Major, the Baptist Evangelist, the three women from the Open Church of the Brethren (N. Z.), the Scotch Presbyterian from New Zealand, and others expressed their views and gave a review of their churches’ organizations’ educational endeavors.
Most of these folk agreed that we of Reformed conviction have an educational program second to none (of those reviewed or known). Indeed, we who are Reformed have by God’s grace and the Spirit’s guidance developed a good program of education. And we love the Reformed heritage and the methods of propagating the truth within our own communion. The preaching of the Word twice on Sunday, the weekly Catechetical instruction, the society endeavors in the church, the family altar and the emphasis on parental teaching in the home, the maintaining of parent-controlled Christian day schools—all are wonderful, Biblical, Covenantal, and therefore truly Christian methods of education. We might add, the Sunday School too can be effectively employed, not only as a mission agency, but also as a means of giving solid instruction in the truths of Scripture and. of developing a specific, sound mission enthusiasm in our own people.
But, just because our educational program is good, appreciated and loved, concern rises in our hearts when we consider a few disturbing factors involved in the present execution of our educational duties.
NOTE No. 2
By way of introducing the second note an illustration will be used. A company developed and produced a specific machine to do a difficult complicated job. The various parts of the machine were good. The interaction and timing were good. But something was wrong with the source of power. The engine did not run properly. It seemed as if it had a faulty firing (electrical) system. The machine operated spasmodically, irregularly; it produced little in comparison to what was expected of it and to what it could actually produce if properly driven.
Our educational machine is good, well-developed; but doesn’t it seem as if the dynamo is beginning to fail? Are genuine enthusiasm and real spiritual zeal not lacking with some folk and on the wane with others? Are not too many of the Reformed folk who participate in our educational program cold, formal, halfhearted? Can such supply the needed energy?
Consider a few factors in view of which the above questions were raised:
Catechetical work does not receive the attention it should, especially on the part of a large portion of our children 12 years and older. Too many parents fail to support the work properly by showing an interest in the teenager’s memory and written work, attendance, conduct, etc.
2. Societies in our Reformed churches are having a real struggle for existence. This fact is so well known it needs no elaboration.
3. There is an increasing laxity in our Reformed homes in regard to the family altar, parental instruction and discipline. Family visiting has brought this factor to the fore, in our experience. For example, father and big brother get up early, breakfast alone, are gone for lunch, and for evening dinner there is scarcely time for eating, let alone the family altar.
4. Consider also a few facts in regard to the Christian day school. Too many Reformed folk are not interested. Others come right out and say it costs too much to participate in the program (but the latest luxuries for self are not too costly.) The annual society meetings of the schools are, on the whole, poorly attended. Quite a number of the society treasurers use much red ink. Social and cultural interests are considered so important that even some Reformed leaders are decreasing their support for our educational program. The number of teachers coming from our homes is tragically insufficient in comparison to the need.
More facts could be cited. We asked the question whether our wonderful machine has the energy, the power, to make it run and produce as it ought. There is a certain lethargy, disinterest, lack of enthusiasm, and not enough real spiritual zeal; and true spiritual zeal is so vitally necessary for this program of education.
NOTE No. 3
There is another problem which is closely associated with the thought of the second note, and which may bring serious consequences for our educational endeavors. Too many Reformed folk have a warped conception of what Christian education is and what it should accomplish.
There are those who think of Christian education only in terms of “missions.” These are especially those “Sunday school enthusiasts” who have little time, thought or love for doctrinal preaching, catechetical instruction and Christian day school action. Departmentalized education in the day school is good enough for them. The child, teen-ager, and adult must learn to pray, become acquainted with the Bible stories, be able to quote a few key texts, and talk experiential Christianity. But does this constitute the essence and results of covenantal education?
Then there are those Reformed folk who seem to be obsessed by the cultural, the “full” life. Education must introduce children and teenagers to life as it is lived today. They must learn to appreciate life as it is; they must be trained to find their place in their national, cultural, living environment.
There are others, some of them educators, who speak of Christian education in terms of mental and intellectual disciplining. This is a very restricted idea of education, limiting it primarily to the intellectual faculty of man. The consistently Reformed man is deeply interested in the mind but he will not limit Christian education to that nor will he say that that is what Christian day school or liberal arts education is primarily. Christian education is one-in church, home, and school. Each agent has its special task, but the essence and intent are the same in each case, and it is much more than an intellectual discipline!
NOTE No. 4
This then is our situation: we have an excellent program but are embarrassed and hampered by a lack of real spiritual enthusiasm on the part of some and various warped conceptions of what Christian education is and should accomplish on the part of others. These two factors are very closely related and interact. We must again refer to the fact that we are not seeing the results which we crave and which the Lord demands. We are not making the impact upon our environment that we should make with our wonderful educational program. What is wrong with it or with us? We shall try to answer this question in a following issue.