Biblical Integration for the Future Church

Have you ever considered that the students in your class will be the leaders of the church in the near future? In your class sit the Sunday-school teachers of tomorrow. In your class sit the pastors and parents of tomorrow. And we are praying that God will use them to bring about transformation and revival. Richard Ross points out four tragic realities that demonstrate our need for God to bring the church to life.

  • A deficient vision for Christ’s glory plagues today’s church.
  • A desperate loss of hope in Christ’s glory exhausts today’s church.
  • A pervasive loss of passion toward Christ’s glory weakens today’s church.
  • A diminished worship of Christ’s glory impoverishes today’s church. (Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ, 22-23). 

God prepared David to sing and sling while he was a kid in the fields. And that preparation was used 1) by the hand of God to fell a giant so that the “whole world will know that there is a God in Israel,” (1 Sam 17:46), and 2) by the voice of God to write many of the Psalms that the Holy Spirit uses in our lives today. 

Now, Scripture is complete so we can’t expect that any of our students will write any biblical passages, but they can live lives that, through the power of God, help the whole world know that Jesus is Lord. And what is your role in this? Though biblical integration, you can teach in a way that repairs the deficient vision for Christ’s glory. Through your subjects, you can offer evidence of hope in Christ’s glory. As an example, you can demonstrate passion for Christ’s glory. And in your academic discipleship, you can direct your students to worship Christ’s glory. By doing so, you will be a hand to heal their plague. You will offer renewed strength to your students’ exhaustion. You will build their strength so that they are not weak. You will give them the riches of Christ to solve their poverty. 

God is the only one who can revive. And when He does, He uses normal means. He uses his Word. He uses prayer. He uses his church. And — thank God! — we are normal people. We are normal means. And, to his glory, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong,” (1 Cor 1:27). 

Your biblical integration is an investment in God’s people for now and for the future. Keep pressing on.

Biblical Integrators Must Be Ever-Improving Educators

Christian schools are invested in a ministry of academic discipleship. Today I am emphasizing the academic element of what we do. There are many ministries, but the Christian school is unique in that it is an academic ministry. Without question, the aim of the Christian schooling is discipleship. However, we must not expect sub-par teachers to be great integrators. Because we love our students, and because we believe that God will use them in mighty ways, we must be highly invested in giving them the very best training possible. 

Here are three ways that you can work on improving and growing into the best teacher you can be:

1) Remember your calling. Why did you get into teaching in the first place? What excites you about being a teacher? How can you represent a Christian work-ethic, standard of excellence, and desire to please God in the classroom? God has not called us to be just-good-enough as teachers. He has given us a high calling. Your work has weight. Treat your class as the exciting opportunity that God has made it to be. (Now, I don’t say this to guilt you. We will be tired at times. We are invested in other important tasks — church, family, etc. Our work should not consume us in a workaholic type of way. But I do hope that we will remember that God has called us to a good and important and exciting work that is worth doing well.)

2) Review your documents. Mission drift is real. Many teachers would benefit greatly from looking back at their own syllabus, curriculum map, or other course materials. Is there something that you intended to work on, emphasize, develop, or share that you have let slip through the cracks? Periodically review your own priorities and take stock of whether or not you are still targeting the goals that you set out for yourself. 

3) Recognize an area that needs to be improved in your teaching. We all have room for improvement. There is no perfect teacher. Our students are always changing. Our world is always in flux. Expectations shift. Things that worked in the past might not be as effective today. Therefore, it is wise to find and focus on particular areas to improve. Don’t be vague. Pick a real, concrete thing… and work on it. 

Why does this matter for biblical integrators? There are many reasons, but here are a few. a) You have been given a task by God. Therefore, you must strive to do it as well as you can. b) Your students watch you. You are in a position to model faithfulness to them. c) Improvement pictures sanctification. We are all works in progress, so we should show progress. d) Our students will carry the name of Christ with them if they graduate from Christian schools. Therefore, we need to train them so well that future employers, neighbors, family, and friends, see excellence as a result of a type of schooling that bears the name of Christ. e) You will be more engaged and excited to teach if you know that you are striving to do meaningful work excellently. Being a great teacher is good for students, but it is also good for you. 

As an academic disciple-maker, you are called to point students to Jesus. And we all can do this much more effectively if our teaching is ever-improving.

Approaches to Integration: Story

Biblical integration is a teaching task. That means that approaches to integration can be as unique and varied as teachers themselves. There are some best-practices of biblical integration, but there is no one-ultimate-way to integrate. Different teachers think differently. Different subjects might emphasize different things. For the next several weeks, I will be highlighting different approaches so that educators can explore their options. This will only be introductory (rather than a deep-dive), but I hope that you will try out some new ideas and see if you can make improvements. 

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The Story Approach to biblical integration is powerful because it recognizes two truths: 1) God created all things to tell his story, and 2) the story is still in process. These are encouraging and empowering truths because if the unstoppable, wise God made this world to tell his story, then it is a good story. And if the story is in process we can play a meaningful role. 

Many young people are oriented toward action, and this approach leans on that inclination and aims it toward God. Bono challenges people, “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed.” That is the idea here: discover the story that God is telling, find your role in it, and get to work. Charles Stanley explained a bit about what that might look like, saying, “The Lord’s specific destiny for your life has a twofold nature: It will further His kingdom on earth, and it will transform you.”

So, how does the story approach to integration work in the classroom? Here are the steps:

1) Determine how your subject is involved in the Protagonist’s efforts. He is the Hero of the story and everything He does shows that He is the Good Guy. This does not need to be encyclopedic or all-encompassing or comprehensive. You can’t cover everything. Instead of trying to do too much, pick a clear theme. In Math, you might talk about God being the great Order-Maker and Problem-Solver. In Art, you could point out that He is the Beauty-Sharer and Restorer. In Science, He can be seen as Life-Giver and System-Designer.

2) Explore how the Hero uses your subject to do things that are good, true, and beautiful. Yes, He created in the past. Yes, Jesus died and rose again in the past. But God is not done working. The Hero continues his heroic redemption mission now. Can we show that God didn’t just order the world, but continues to hold it together now (Col 1:17)? If it were not for the Hero, the world would not continue in its orderly way. He is working now and the continued viability of mathematics shows that truth. 

Can we show that God is restoring the broken, faded, and cracked? Hosea 6 shows his character and work in this way:

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.

Art courses have unique opportunity to point to God as the ultimate Restorer. Just like an expert might restore and old classic painting that has been marred by the effects of the world, God is in the business of restoring people.

Can we look at conception, birth, and growth and see that God is still giving life today? Can we note from our involuntarily beating hearts that God is still in the business of giving life? Elihu states rightly in Job 33:4, that, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Science classes are an excellent arena for this kind of exploration.

3) Challenge students to get involved in a meaningful role as side-kicks. God is the Hero, but He graciously allows his people to do meaningful things. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but our students can be encouraged to get on God’s team in an active way — like Watson to Holmes or Robin to Batman. All of our subjects can be leveraged for God’s glory. They are tools to be used on behalf of the Hero in his story. Math can be used to order things, improve broken systems, share resources, build, research, and solve. And our students can be involved in those things! Artists can share beauty and goodness in ways that otherwise would be inaccessible. Our students can point to the beauty of God through art. Science can help understand God’s world, show his masterpiece of creation in more detail and depth, and propose ways to meet needs and innovate for the good. In other words, students can apply what they learn in real ways to serve a real Hero.

Key ResourceNotes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. In his own words, “[The world] is full of conflict and darkness like every good story, a world of surprises and questions to explore. And there’s someone behind it; there are uncomfortable answers to the hows and whys and whats. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Approaches to Integration: Wisdom

The Wisdom Approach to biblical integration is more about how to think rather than what to think. It is more of an attitude than a singular approach. And anyone can use it seamlessly with the methods they are already employing in the classroom. This attitude/approach is unique because it can be implemented in conjunction with all the other approaches. The idea is to consider the perspective from which content is presented and the directions in which it might go. The goal is not that students would know certain things, but be a certain way: wise. Wisdom is key to living a life that is honorable in the eyes of God and fruitful for his kingdom (2 Tim 3:15, Jas 1:5). Those who exercise the wisdom approach think about things like: 

1) What is the worldview/agenda of those sharing info? People write, speak, and share content for a reason. This means students should be exploring the differences in the missions of info-sources. For example, World Magazine is coming from a fundamentally different place than the New York Times. While it can be easy to find daylight between news sources, students also need to learn how to understand the agendas of textbook publishers, ministries, academic journals, popular authors, and more. We live in an age where an avalanche of information is being delivered to us daily. Therefore, students must learn to wisely examine why content creators are motivated to share. They must also determine what aligns with a biblical worldview, a gospel-centered agenda, and Christian ethics.

2) Now that I know ________, how can it be leveraged for God’s glory and kingdom? Everyone lives for something. Many students hope to leverage skills for wealth, fame, attention, comfort, etc. And none of those things are innately bad. However, we know that if God made all things for his glory, we should work to aim all things toward his glory. To illustrate, when students learn to speak publicly, we want them to consider how they might share the Good News publicly. When students learn to understand cells, energy, or the parts of the body, we want them to intuitively lean into using that scientific knowledge to show love and make a difference. Students should not only learn about any specific thing, but must also learn how to orient and use that thing for God and godliness

3) How should this information change me? How can this form me more into the image of Christ? As we learn anything, wisdom compels us to become more like Christ. If we see big demographic problems in the world (poverty, disease, etc.), we should become more grateful for God’s grace to us, more prayerful that God would use his church to serve those in need. If we learn about history, we can see the successes/mistakes of those in the past and, then, consider how we can learn from them. If we learn to count, we should become awed at the number of things, both big and small, that God has made in his wisdom and power. If we read a novel about forgiveness, we should consider who and how God might call us to forgive. If we sing in the choir, we can think about how we can partner  and unite with others in other ways for God’s glory. The wise person learns about God by learning about God’s world, but he also learns how to live more faithfully for God in the world. 

There are many other questions and ideas that could come from integrating using this attitude, but this is a start. 

Key Resource Wisdom and Curriculum: Christian Schooling After Postmodernity by Doug Blomberg. This book is a deep-dive into some of these concepts. 

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Next time, we’ll look at the Story Approach to Biblical Integration.

The Power of Song for Biblical Integration: Some Examples

While recently listening to Sparkle. Pop. Rampage. by Rend Co. Kids, I came across strong songs that powerfully engaged in biblical integration. (This is the best album of kids’ music that I have come across in recent times. I cannot recommend highly enough.) Check some of these songs out with selected lyrics below. Think about how you might use them in your classes. 

God of Science — I love the emphasis on how God has made everything that is. There is no conflict between Christianity and scientific work. [Good for science classes.]

“You started science and quantum physics
Wrote the law of gravity
You are the smartest, You are the greatest
Scientist in history
You thought of narwhals and armadillos
All the creatures; great and small
Even the dinos a long, long time ago
With their teeth and terrible claws.”

King of Me — I am thankful for the way that this song highlights that God continues to be in control today. He is still the King of all… including me. [Good for any class dealing with God’s work in the world today — current events, etc.]

“My God’s the king of the giants
My God’s the king of the lions
My God’s the king of the creatures of the deep
My God’s the king of me”

 

I’m so excited that there are new songs being written that can help with biblical integration. However, this is not a new thing by any means. Here are a few songs that have been around for a while.

This Is My Father’s World — Everything in nature is charged with the glory of God. This is a real Psalm 19 song. [Great for biology and art.]

“This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.”

All Things Bright and Beautiful — This song is similar to Rend Co. Kids’ song, “God of Science,” in that it points to God as the Maker and architect of all things. 

“All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.”

How Great Thou Art — A classic that calls us to consider what God’s works say about Him (click the link to here the Elvis version!).

“O Lord my God When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed”

God of Concrete, God of Steel — I found this song to be odd when I first heard it years ago. However, it makes the excellent point that all of the things that we make still fall under God’s lordship. [Great for any creative class — STEM/STEAM, art, or language.]

“Lord of science, Lord of art,
God of map and graph and chart,
Lord of physics and research,
Word of Bible, Faith of Church,
Lord of sequence and design,
All the world of truth is thine!”

You’re Beautiful — God has made a beautiful world. The art says something about the Artist.

“I see your power
In the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion
And galaxies are bright

We are amazed
In the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who you are
You’re beautiful”

Songs are powerful. Use them. Use them with your students. Use them with your family. But make sure you are carefully choosing songs that are biblical and theologically precise and helpful.

Approaches to Integration: Perspectives

Biblical integration is a teaching task. That means that approaches to integration can be as unique and varied as teachers themselves. There are some best-practices of biblical integration, but there is no one-ultimate-way to integrate. Different teachers think differently. Different subjects might emphasize different things. For the next several weeks, I will be highlighting different approaches so that educators can explore their options. This will only be introductory (rather than a deep-dive), but I hope that you will try out some new ideas and see if you can make improvements. 

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The Perspectives Approach to biblical integration offers the teacher multiple angles from which to view academic content. While this post will be a bit more technical than the others, please stick with it. You will find it worthwhile. 

Regarding the perspectives approach, each angle offers a new, complementary take on how any idea, unit, concept might be rightly integrated. John Frame has helpfully trumpeted the idea of triperspectivalism as a theological method. Many find this type of philosophical writing difficult to understand and apply, but the idea is extraordinarily powerful. Let me (over)simplify.

The idea of triperspectivalism is that everything can be looked at from three (tri) perspectives. Whenever a person views an object or idea from more than one direction, that person is able to gain understanding. These are the three perspectives that Frame directs us toward: authority, power, and presence. For our biblical integration, we would ask, “What does God’s authoritative Word say about this academic content? And How does it display his power, control, and nature? And how should it affect how I live in his presence?”

Below, I have arranged the three perspectives so that they are connected to other key ideas like the roles of Jesus and the elements on inductive Bible study.

*Authority — Prophet — Normative — Standard — Information — Observation

**Power — King — Existential — Object — Understanding — Interpretation

***Presence — Priest — Situational — Subject — Action — Application

Take a look about how these might be applied to biblical integration (and note that I am referencing key-words from above with asterisks and bold-text ). In history class, we could note that God is in control of all things from Daniel 4:17, 25, 32. In these verses it is repeated that, “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” No matter what happens, from wars to politics to technological changes, God has *authority over it all. We can *observe this truth and rely on it. The fact that He has authority is the key piece of *information when understanding anything and everything. We could explore that single perspective for a long time, but there is more. That concept from Daniel also points out God’s active **power — He gives kingdoms to whoever He wishes. Therefore, when we **interpret history (or current events), believers can rely on the fact that his power is never in question. And even if terrible things occur, what the enemy intends for evil, God intends for good (Gen 50:20). Our **understanding must be shaped by God’s power. Lastly, God has spoken to us about his authority and power so that we can live accordingly in his ***presence. In other words, in our situations we can take ***action by ***applying these truths. His authority and power allow us to live wisely and faithfully. 

In other words, we ask of our content: 1) What does the *Prophet say is the *normative *standard? Here we lean heavily on the special revelation of the Bible. 2) How does the **King exercise his **power on the **object? Here we can look to God’s work of general revelation in the world. 3) How should I — the ***subject — act in response as I ***apply truth in my ***situation? Here we recognize that we live in the ***Priest’s ***presence for his glory. 

I know that this was a more challenging read than usual, but I didn’t want to leave this out because, when harnessed, it can be very powerful. 

Key Resource — The most robust place to go would be Theology in Three Dimensions by John Frame. However, the easiest place to get started is to get a deep understanding of inductive Bible study. Thinking about content in these terms will help get the ball rolling without needing to expend too much effort in understanding this approach. As you can see from this article, there is significant alignment between these two seemingly different frameworks. 

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Next time, we’ll look at the Wisdom Approach to Biblical Integration. 

Approaches to Integration: Contributor

Biblical integration is a teaching task. That means that approaches to integration can be as unique and varied as teachers themselves. There are some best-practices of biblical integration, but there is no one-ultimate-way to integrate. Different teachers think differently. Different subjects might emphasize different things. For the next several weeks, I will be highlighting different approaches so that educators can explore their options. This will only be introductory (rather than a deep-dive), but I hope that you will try out some new ideas and see if you can make improvements. 

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The Contributor Approach to biblical integration is significantly different from the approaches discussed previously. The biblical-theology and worldview approaches hinge on the teacher using a grid of questions to structure well-organized lessons that lead toward specific truths. However, the contributor approach is different; instead of leading directly to truths, it leads to questions. 

You see, throughout life, students will not always have their teachers to guide them in biblical thinking. Therefore, it is important to teach young people to ask the right questions so that they can teach themselves. In other words, the aim of this approach is to help students learn to learn. 

So how can we do this? What does the contributor approach look like? 

The idea is to lead students in a form of directed freedom. Think of directed freedom as giving students an overarching task, but allowing them to have freedom in how they go about it. This allows them to explore, try things, make adjustments, and be creative. Here are a few ideas:

1) Academic Content Creation: Asking students to include biblical-integration as part of an assignment. For example, if your students write a book review or paper, create a project, or develop a presentation, you can ask them to include biblical integration in that work. Tell them what you are looking for and include the integration in your grading rubric. They could be asked to search the Bible for connections, develop a biblically-formed analysis, or demonstrate the truths about God that they learned. 

2) Class Discussion: After introducing a new topic in class, ask the students leading questions about how this content points to God, discipleship, brokenness, etc. For example, if a PE teacher introduces a game that requires teamwork to the class, that PE teacher could then ask, “This game requires teamwork to succeed. Can you think of any other areas of life in which teamwork is needed in or to succeed?” This could lead in many directions: family/relationships, the church, communities, etc. Or the PE teacher could ask, “We can tell who is on our team in this game by looking at the uniforms. How can we tell who is on our team in life?” This could lead students to talk about beliefs/convictions, willingness to sacrifice, and more. Another idea would be for the PE teacher to ask, “There is a difference between a good and a bad teammate. If someone is distracted or unwilling to work, that causes a problem in our game. What makes a good teammate in life? Do you think you are a good teammate? Why?” And the discussion would move ahead from there.

3) Practical/Real-Life Engagement: Different classes are passionate and equipped in different areas. Some course material opens doors for moving outside of the class environment. One class, upon learning how to address envelopes, might be asked to send a letter of encouragement to someone in their life. This gives them freedom to choose whether to write to a parent, sibling, friend or pastor. They are contributing. Another class, upon learning about the justice system, could choose to pray for those who are incarcerated by using the tools provided by Prison Fellowship. As you can see, these activities are teacher directed, but students have varying levels of freedom to engage as they think is best. They can use their own will and choice to make an impact.

There are many other ideas that we could discuss, but the main idea of the contributor approach is to give students the opportunity (and expectation) of participating in the process of biblical integration. Many of these ideas are low-stakes and variable which generally sets them up as formative assessments. This approach might not be sufficient on its own, but it can supplement other approaches and help your classroom come to life. In addition, it helps the students learn to take responsibility for their own biblical thinking… and that is worth working toward. 

Key ResourceFormative vs. Summative Assessment from Carnegie-Mellon University

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Next time, we’ll look at the Perspectives Approach to Biblical Integration.