A quick trip about the blog-o-sphere sent me meandering through the 2011 book reviews of my cyber-friends. Not an unpleasant journey, quite the opposite. I am a booklist junkie. My favorite store is Amazon.com. I wish they were not-for-profit because my contributions to their cause each year would make a great addition to our tax deductions. I’m not writing my own book list. However, one book does stand out in my own personal year-end review: James K.A. Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation.
As our family has journeyed together through these last ten years of education, my conviction that the end of education is nothing short of disciple making continues to grow. Followers of Jesus Christ are honored to participate in Christ’s mission by going into all the world and making disciples. Growing disciples means that Christ-followers know more than the elemental truths of the gospel, but that they are able to handle the strong meat of the Word: the Word that claims Christ preeminent in all things. All things including history, math, language studies, grammar, writing, science and even laundry.
Smith agrees. Of course that’s why I loved the book. But, he helped me flesh out my thinking in this area through his discussion about the nature of being human. Smith argued that intellectual reason is not the motivator of a human’s actions. Rather, humans are motivated by the desires of their hearts. We do what we love regardless of what we say we believe.
A major premise of the book claims that our desires are shaped by our actions. If we physically immerse ourselves in a kingdom whose practices and images define the “good life” by any means other than finding satisfaction in Christ, we are in danger of pledging our souls to a counterfeit king. Some of his examples include the typical western world’s shopping malls, the stadiums of our sporting events, and the halls of our academies. This time, these activities and the images connected with them shape the desires of our hearts.
Augustine claimed that the goal of education was to teach students to love that which is lovely.
The remedy Smith offers to the counterfeit-kingdom loyalty is to intentionally re-connect our hearts and our intellects through the pattern of worship defined by the Scripture and practiced by the local church. The physical acts of gathering together, listening to the Word together, praying together, singing together and breaking bread together shape the desires of our hearts. As our intellectual understanding of these practices grows through the transforming power of the Word, so our hearts are set to find their satisfaction in the person who is Truth.
Christian education is the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ. God has ordained that this single mission be mediated through his church. There is no doubt that pragmatically, it would seem much easier to make disciples outside of the context of the church thus the plethora of para-church organizations. But I am convicted that the only hope I have that my children will learn to love the Kingdom of God is to cultivate that desire for Jesus Christ through the means that he ordained.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Heb 10:19-25 ESV