The story is told of a young man about to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his wealthy father could well afford it, he told him that the sports car was ALL he wanted. As graduation day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study.
His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible with the young man's name embossed in gold. Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money, you give me a Bible?" He stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and wonderful family, but realized his father was very old and very ill. The son thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of estate matters.
When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. All the years of relationship lost, all the missed birthdays, and all the unresolved pain swirled within his heart. He began the slow search through his father's important papers and saw the still-new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages.
His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation and the words, “PAID IN FULL.”
Similar to the correct priorities modeled by the wise father in the story I just shared, one of the greatest blessings of our educational ministry is that when we believe that we are giving students the keys to a life of service, we also are giving students the Bible and its teachings, because education and evangelism are two sides of the same coin. In fact, I would offer that Christian education is the greatest form of evangelism of our youth. In training students for service in this life, we also are preparing them for service in the life to come. We are giving them all that they need to make a success of life. Yes, Christian education is the amazing sibling of evangelism — and both are essential!
Christian writer Diane Hymans, in reflecting on education and evangelism, wrote, “So what is the relationship between education and evangelizing? They are not identical. Evangelizing is making the gospel known in church and world. It is similar to proclamation understood in the broadest sense — proclamation in the form of both spoken word and lived experience. Education focuses on understanding the gospel and how it shapes who we are and the way we live our lives. Clearly, we cannot draw too fine a distinction between these two essential ministries of the church. As people hear the gospel proclaimed, they often come to understand, in profound ways, who God is and who they are. And, the gospel is made known in countless ways, both intentionally and unintentionally, in educational settings in the faith community. Clearly both are needed in the church and the world. The difference is one of focus and purpose, not importance.” (See Diane J. Hymans’ “Education and Evangelism: Is the connection essential?” at https://bit.ly/2JTQRZM)
The ministry of saving youth is essential to the work of educational evangelists and evangelistic educators. May the two always work for the ministry of God’s Church!
Southern Union | July 2018