I enjoy a good story and one of my favorite scenes from a great story takes place toward the end of JRR Tolkein’s The Two Towers. Frodo Baggins, the main character of the story, is extremely tired from his quest to destroy the “one ring of power” in the lake of fire at Mt. Doom. He is so tired and worn out that he tells his best friend, Samwise Gamgee, that he can’t continue in the journey any longer. In response, Sam helps Frodo to understand their story in light of a much larger story that had been going on for ages. In those stories, too, people had plenty of chances of turning back and giving up, only they didn’t because they were holding on to something important, life-changing and worth fighting for – they were part of a story that really mattered. Encouraged by those words, both Frodo and Sam continued their journey to the lake of fire in order to complete their quest and “save the Shire” (along with the rest of middle-earth).
One way that we can explore the question of what is Lutheran education is through the interpretative lens of story. Life is all about stories and every person, and every culture, has a story. Matter of fact, the way we understand life depends on what conception we have of the human story. The challenge for each human being is that making sense of one’s life story is not that easy to do and that the vast majority of the world’s population never does figure out the meaning of life and the way of salvation in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13-14; 13:1-9).
There is hope, though, for human beings as they seek to make sense of life: God has a story that makes sense of every human story. The aim and goal of Lutheran education is to help people make sense of their story in light of God’s story. In order to accomplish this purpose of God for every human life, it is essential that those who believe in and know Him to hear, know, tell and live the stories that really matter and serve others, as His edifying and evangelistic people.
A biblical foundation for Lutheran education
There are many Biblical passages that could ground our understanding of Lutheran education but the primary passage is 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Lutheran education is predicated upon:
+ making known in the lives of all people the holy Scriptures which are able to make a person wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (for it is in the stories of Scripture that we are able to see His heart revealed, and His saving intentions made known, through His words and actions)
+ thoroughly equipping, from infancy, God’s people for every good work that God has prepared for them to do through the use of Scripture for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
In other words, Lutheran education seeks to make disciples through evangelism and edification. In this passage from 2 Timothy we have the testimony of Paul that ever since Timothy was an infant, Lois and Eunice were active in making known “the stories that really matter” in the life of Timothy so that he could know of his Savior Jesus and be thoroughly equipped for his life as a disciple. Just as Jesus grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” so Lois and Eunice, along with other believers in Lystra as the body of Christ in that place, taught and modeled a way of life for young Timothy so that he could grow “in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) and live a life that was pleasing in the presence of God (coram Deo) and a blessing in the presence of others (coram hominibus) as a disciple of Jesus.
Lois and Eunice understood and lived out the admonition that Moses gave to God’s people during their wilderness journey. As the Israelites journeyed toward the Promised Land, they were to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” and to impress His commands upon their hearts and upon the hearts of their descendants (Deuteronomy 6:5-6). Wherever the Lord led them, they were to talk about the stories of the sacred Scriptures and impress His design for living upon one another as they sat in their homes and walked along the road, when they laid down and when they got up (Deuteronomy 6:7).
The mission and ministry of the church’s educational agencies
The mission and ministry of the church’s educational agencies is to make disciples of all nations. Therefore, every task of the church makes sense only if it serves His mission of making disciples of all nations whether this ministry takes place in the home, in the Sunday school classroom, in catechetical instruction for all ages, or in the classroom and hallways at one of our Concordia Universities or Seminaries.
A few concluding thoughts
Life is all about stories and life is all about hermeneutics – that is, making sense of life’s story. Thus every person who dwells upon the face of the earth has a need for some kind of interpretative story line, a metanarrative if you will, that is able to help them make sense of their story, and to live out their story, in ways that are pleasing in God’s sight and a blessing to others.
Consequently, Lutheran education knows and believes that:
+ the most important place for discipleship formation is the Christian home as parents are equipped to teach and model the Christian faith and life, instill a Biblical worldview and to live God’s design for living;
+ to change a life for eternity, you have to tell a different story (John 3:1-8) -- we know from the Scriptures, and from human experience, that a person cannot by his or her own reason or strength come to Jesus Christ nor believe in Him but must be called by the Gospel and enlightened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit; therefore someone must be sent, and someone must preach the Good News, for “faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:11-17);
+ it is the mission of every believer to pray for the lost and, like their Lord who came to seek and to save the lost, to be the friend of sinners so that they may hear the Good News, confess by the power and work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is their Savior; and join His people in the continuing search that “the found” undertake by God’s grace for those whom He loves – “the lost”
May you, like Lois and Eunice and the ancient people of Israel, live out this admonition of Moses in your life: “These words are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)