A Christian’s spiritual formation is the central tenet of Christian education. Christian education essentially is not about passing on knowledge; rather it is about people and their relationship with God. It presents both occasions for reflections and contemplation and practical help for the congregation to develop their personal and congregational (spiritual community) spiritual lives. To transform disciples inwardly, being like Christ, so that we outwardly and naturally exhibit fruits, behaving like Christ. Therefore, facilitating the process of Christian formation within the believer is the ultimate aim to which Christian educators should likewise commit themselves.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians emphasizing on this fact, stating that “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”~ Ephesians 4:14-16
The purpose of Bible teaching is to bring change into the life of the learner until he has reached maturity in Christ a lifelong task. This maturity is achieved when a person has knowledge of God’s Word, with understanding, that results in changed behaviour bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, becoming stronger in endurance and patience, and being thankful.
Bandura’s social cognitive theory, which is discussed in a later chapter, supports the belief that behaviour is determined by one’s experiences in life and his or her responses to the influence of one’s environment. There are multiple positive and negative influences in the life of a young person, but three play the greatest role in formative influence: (a) the home, (b) the church, and (c) the school. The Bible says that the “threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NKJV). When the three major influences in a young person’s life agree, the student has a more cohesive foundation. The training of young people must be consistent in these three areas. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the church is not the primary disciple of believers, especially when it pertains to children. The primary disciple of believers should be the family.
However, family dysfunction and lack of spiritual maturity have driven this responsibility into the church. The church is most effective as the co-disciple of believers; the secondary teaching and reinforcing agent that supports what is happening in the family unit. In this role the church can have overt and covert curriculum. While many activities of the faith can be taught intentionally, much of teaching is what is caught, not taught. And it is caught through intentional fellowship. Fellowship defines and validates our identity as believers. Without it the church is rendered ineffective in its essential functions. Fragmented fellowship results in tensions, as well as a lack of evangelism, discipleship, ministry or worship.
Through fellowship the church teaches through example as congregants live out their convictions on a daily basis. Church fellowship also teaches through the activities that symbolize the unity of fellowship in the church, such as the Lord’s Supper. In these terms, fellowship is more than just a feeling of goodwill. It is the intimate spiritual relationship that Christians share with God and other believers through their relationship with Jesus Christ. All these are what should be the focus of the Christian Educators and Church leaders.