If you work at a Christian school, it can be easy to assume that your students are Christians. However, that would be a mistake. Some of your students may be followers of Jesus. Some may possess genuine faith. That is exciting! But others may know about Jesus rather than knowing Him. Still others may come from Christian homes, but not have Christian hearts. Yet another group might be faking it, going through the motions, or just not care. So, instead of assuming that your students are believers, I think it is wise to give them the opportunity to show evidence of their new identity. In 2 Timothy 1:15, Paul says that he is reminded of Timothy’s “sincere faith.” How can you tell if students have a sincere faith? Here is a very imperfect and imprecise checklist that can help. Start at the top and move down:
- Does this student claim to be a Christian? (Rom 10:9-10)
- Can they articulate the core of the gospel effectively? (1 Tim 1:15)
- Do they love the Bible? (Ps 19:7-13)
- Do they desire to learn more about God, praise Him, share Him, and pray to Him? (Ps 63:1-5)
- Do they exhibit habits of obedience and growing holiness? Or do they make sin a habit? (1 John 3:6)
- Do they desire to serve? (Mark 10:43-45)
Of course, your job is not to confidently judge their hearts or definitively determine the state of their souls. However, it is your job to meet students where they are. We disciple believers. We evangelize unbelievers. This means we must try our best to know where they are.
Treating all of our students as if they are believers is not loving. Some will develop a tragic type of false security tied to spiritual activity (Matt 7:21-23). Others will come to the conclusion that Christianity is powerless because a false version of it has proved powerless in their lives. Others will create a bad name for believers because their lack of saving faith leads to faithless living.
As an academic disciple-maker, part of your job is to use your content 1) to help believing students grow and 2) to present a gentle, thoughtful, compelling case for the gospel to those who are lost. Therefore, you must seek to know where students stand. Think of this as a formative assessment. You are always trying to discover where they stand so that you can serve and teach them best. And this formative assessment is the most important one because the consequences are eternal.