Calvin Brown is a former Executive Director of the Renewal Fellowship
Education has long been one of the jewels in the crown of Presbyterians. In fact, Professor Arthur Herman in his best-selling book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, notes that the Presbyterian's approach to education led to the creation of the worldview that now governs civilization. This edition of Channels reflects this ongoing emphasis on education which is also evident in this last year of the Flames program initiated by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. It makes me wonder if the planners thought they were saving the best until last.
The danger of glorying in education, however, is that like all creations it can easily be changed from a gift of God to a form of idolatry. It changes from being a means by which God's splendour is manifest to being a glorious end in itself. In many cases we need to acknowledge that we Presbyterians have too often worshipped at the altar of academia and not at the altar of God. Sometimes we have let reason or pseudo-reason lead us from God's truth. We have sometimes followed learned men more than holy folk. We need to always be alert to that danger and with humility always submit to the truth of revelation in Jesus.
In today's world we also have another concern to guard against and that is that intellect and education are undervalued. In post-modern thinking the mind can be considered subservient to the heart or spirit.
The reality, however, is that God has made us with both heart and mind and that both need renewing. It is not that one is renewed and then the other but both at once must be re-created so that we have the heart and mind of Christ in us as the apostle Paul instructs us.
All education that is not brought into submission to serve the glory of God is false knowledge. As Jesus taught us he is the truth that sets us free. All knowledge that fails to recognise that is not life-giving but death-inducing.
This edition of Channels is full of information about the various opportunities and approaches to education that can enable us to deepen and grow in our understanding of faith and life as congregations and as individuals. However, without understanding the purpose of all education none of it will benefit us. In the end education that does not help us to open more willingly and joyfully to be filled with the Spirit of God, increase our passion for Christ, and enable deeper reverence for our heavenly Father is useless.
Education is of great value and we are instructed by Holy Scripture to seek Wisdom but let us remember that it is only a corollary to life's single purpose which the Westminster Shorter Catechism educates us to understand is to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
In that understanding we are amazed at the ways God is using many in our churches to deepen faith and understanding through Christian Education. Our limited space allows us to share only a few stories but there are many others yet to be told. Because of our church's emphasis on educated clergy we thought it was important to survey some theological colleges and ask them a few probing questions. The answers give us a good understanding of where they are coming from — both similarities and differences. We surveyed our own three official colleges where most of our ministers are trained but we also included answers from Tyndale Seminary, which is the largest seminary college in Canada. Tyndale (which began as the Toronto Bible College) has always had a number of leading Presbyterian evangelicals in leadership and many of our students have their first years of education there before they come to finish denominational requirements at our own colleges. Similar things could be said about Regent College in Vancouver.
In terms of encouraging lay education, Doug Schonberg and David Moody share a creative and intentional approach to education that makes clear to all who enter their church that learning is a way of life. Their Discipleship Project is laid out in a clear way so that it could be imitated in the congregations of our readers. For those who live in southern Ontario we invite you to come to meet with them as they personally share their project in a workshop offered at our Renewal Day at Knox Church, Milton, ON on March 5, 2005. Mary Rogers, an elder from Eden Mills Presbyterian Church who is active in leading a variety of courses there, shares the important work of the Elders' Institute. It is clear that her passion to see our lay leadership trained overflows in her enthusiasm for the work of the Institute. Earlier editions of Channels have told of the great results many have experienced through the Alpha course, and John Bigham tells us what resources are useful to follow up on Alpha and keep the momentum going. His comparison of the congregation's use of A Life Worth Living and The Purpose Driven Life are helpful for those trying to choose an appropriate follow up. Liz Birnie, Renewal Team leader from BC, shares how we can benefit from using Scripture Union's Daily Bread in our personal devotions and meditation times to deepen our understanding.
Within this edition is also a wonderful list of Renewal Fellowship events which promise to lift your spirits, educate your minds, and fill your hearts with the love of Jesus. At the Annual General Meeting being held Friday evening, March 4, and Saturday, March 5, 2005, we will probe the theme: Living The Name Renewal Fellowship.
The Renewal Fellowship is beginning this focus called "Living The Name Renewal Fellowship" to enhance and encourage a deeper learning of the heart and mind of Christ. With two dynamic, inspirational communicators dealing with the theme and two workshops to kick off the focus, we are in great anticipation of what God will do.
Our theme acknowledges the truth of incarnational presence (living like Jesus, filled with his Spirit). However we know that simply adopting the theme or wearing the T-shirts won't bring the renewed life we pray for, but we hope that declaring our intentions will be a beginning of a movement that will increase in numbers and intensity until God answer our prayers for his kingdom's coming to be clear and evident in The Presbyterian Church In Canada.