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Christian Education - 10th Anniv BS 2008 Version B

Christian Education - 10th Anniv BS 2008 Version B

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Published by valcovci
renewal of the Slovak post-communist society through education
renewal of the Slovak post-communist society through education

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Published by: valcovci on Nov 13, 2009
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Director of the Bible School in Martin, Slovakia Teacher of confessional theology and Christian ethicsUniversity of Zilina, Faculty of Natural Sciences,Department of Pedagogy, Psychology and Social Sciencesvalcovci@yahoo.comormichal.valco@fpv.uniza.sk
“Purpose and Potential of Christian Education: Rebuilding the Churchand Renewing Slovakia in the Post-communist Era”Setting the stage
 The position of the established churches in society has changed dramatically inthe changing culture of the post-communist European countries. Thecommunication of the gospel in this new environment proves to be a difficulttask. The churches will be able to respond faithfully to their situation only:1) if they are able to comprehend and constructively cope with the heritage of the past,2) if they are able to respond to the cultural shift in the present society, and3) if they will have faithful and well trained leaders (both lay and ordained). Ten years of experience of the Martin Bible School has shown that Christianeducation can be an effective mission tool in the twenty-first century post-communist Slovakia and other post-communist countries. The school not onlyhelps future teachers and church workers to analyze the past, present and toformulate the theological message of the Bible in a culturally relevant way, italso serves as a mission tool for reaching out to lukewarm and from the churchalienated people. Given the present nature of society, the most effectiveChristian education seems to be the one conducted by the mainline,established churches, using the environment of the public and Christianschools, and employing experience based techniques of training and characterdevelopment.
The purpose of Christian Education
It is very important to realize that God is not calling us to develop, enhance,and conduct a variety of programs in Christian education just for the sake of having an academically well-developed portfolio of educational programs. AsKent Knutson put it in his book
Gospel, Church, Mission
“Teaching [and learning] does not belong to the
bene esse,
that is tothe well-being of the church, but to the
the very essence of it. If the church is the church, it is a teaching community… If the churchdoes not teach, it is not the church. Teaching is therefore not an armof the church, not an auxiliary function, not a secondary aspect of itslife, but it is the church in action… the church has no option about itsteaching ministry. It cannot choose whether or not it wishes to teach.It teaches by the very virtue of its existence.
In other words, the programs are here not for the sake of the programs, nor forthe professors, nor for anyone in society that they might feel good abouthaving such programs. They are here for the sake of God’s people, both thosewho are in the church and need to be trained and equipped for a life of discipleship, as well as those who are outside of the church and need to bereached with the message of God’s kingdom, the merciful rule of the Creatorthrough Jesus, His Son, in the power of their Spirit. The purpose of Christianeducation, then, is the mission of God conducted through the mission of theChurch here on earth. God has been incurably “mission minded” throughoutthe history of humanity with all people. The Bible even suggests that He hasbeen postponing His second coming so that more people might be reached (2Pt3:9).With this basic principle in mind, all that is being done in and through Christianeducation, ought to be done in the light of God’s purpose for His Church. AllChristian educators in the church must have on their heart that which God hason His, reaching out to those, who are lost. The nature of Christian education isthus derived from and influenced by the way we understand its purpose.
Knowing the “purpose” helps define the meaning of “mission”and of “Christian education”
Having said this, I believe, has made it clear that in this paper we understandthe term “
“ as both: 1) the effort to renew and revitalize the life of Christian churches (the concept of “inner mission”); and 2) the effort to reachout to people, living outside of the church – in accordance with God’s missionpurpose for the church as we find it in Mt 28:18-20.Similarly, the term “
” needs to be understood in its widermeaning – as the conveying of knowledge, competences and habits both: 1) inthe areas of church’s life and theology; as well as 2) in the area of social andcultural interactions. Theological content must remain socially and culturallyrelevant!
Careful listening as the first act of love: the need for a socio-culturalanalysis
One of the main pillars of a mission-minded Christian education thus is thefollowing principle: “The first
act of love is a careful listening.”
We considerit vitally important for Christians to know the culture, in which they ought to be“the salt” and “the light.” They have to know the struggles, the joys and thepains of the nation, in which they live and serve. Mission endeavors, including
Knutson, K.
Gospel, Church, Mission
. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1977, p. 84. KentKnutson was a systematic theologian and a former president of the American Lutheran Church.
any form of Christian education conducted without such understanding arebound to remain shallow, arrogant, violent, and ultimately irrelevant. This iswhat the Bible School has been trying to avoid. A careful analysis of history canbecome a useful interpretive tool for the present.One of the major tasks of Christian education in Slovakia, therefore, is to helppeople comprehend the “Slovak specificsand to resist the temptation toindiscriminately apply the “proven” western models of mission in a post-communist setting of our society. Besides this critical role, Christian educationalso has a constructive role to try to look for ways how to move forward fromthe current state of things, while remaining faithful to the Gospel. Thecontinuing task of all the programs of Christian education in the Bible School is:
to constructively process the theological as well as the historical heritageof the church, and
to and integrate it into a progressive vision of the renewal and furtherdevelopment of the practical life of the church.
The heavy burden of the past
Slovak people are carrying a heavy burden on their shoulders, the – a burdenof the past. Put ever so briefly, one must be mindful of four major historicalstruggles or series of events which influence the thinking and feeling of ourpeople to the present day:
the inequities from the time of the Reformation and Counter-reformation(16
the ethnic oppression of the Austro-Hungarian empire against theSlovaks (19
the atrocities against the Jews during the WWII (1939-1945), and
the era of totalitarian regime under the communist rule (1948-1989)
Post-communist situation in Slovakia
Life in post-communist society resembles in some respects the life of Israelitesroaming across the desert. Freedom and democracy goes hand in hand withthe loss of numerous social securities. People are often puzzled with regard tohow to use their new freedom. The spiritual vacuum in their minds and heartsare quickly being filled with the offer of spiritual experience from newlyemerging sects and religious groups. Stemming from the times of oppressionare various prejudices against Christianity along with prevailing (inadequate)practices of church leaders, both lay and ordained. Thus, a rather stifling anddepressing atmosphere prevails, both in the church and in society. An atheisticideology led in practice to moral relativism. The ideal of total control over thelives of the citizens resulted in a lack of ownership and a weakened sense of personal responsibility. The injustice of this monstrous system causednumerous inequities which helped form a culture of fear, distrust, andsuspicion. All of these played, and continue to play, a terrible role in formingthe attitudes and influencing the actions of the people.
The first serious study in this respect was conducted and published in 2006, seventeen years after the fall of communism! It is a socio-theological survey conducted in the Slovak Lutheran congregations under the title:“Preparing for the Work of Ministry” (published by the Bible School in 2007). The study was facilitated and co-

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