Tell Your Story: Biblical Integration and Your Life

You are not a teaching robot. You cannot be replaced by an instructional video on YouTube. You are more than the information you know. You have more to offer than learning strategies, rubrics, and assorted dry-erase markers. You are not just a disciplinarian. You are not just a lesson-planner. No. You are more than all of that. 

You are a person made in God’s image. You are a child adopted into God’s family. You are a soldier in God’s army. You are a missionary sent into a needy mission field. 

Do your students really know you?

Do they know how you got where you are? How you’ve grown? Do they know what you are learning today? Do they know why you are passionate about teaching? Do they know the areas of your teaching that excite you about God? 

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul said to the church there, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Paul was not willing to be a mere preaching robot. He was more than a content delivery system. He loved the church in Thessalonica so much that he shared the gospel (yes, yes, yes!) and his life. 

I know that you love your students. I know you want them to have the gospel. So if you hope to share life with them eternally, start sharing your life with them now. Of course, you need to do this in an age-appropriate and thoughtful way. 

If you want to be a great academic disciple-maker, show your life. Biblical integration is a teaching action that rightly unites biblical truth and academic content in your class. Your life is one of the vehicles through which this can happen. The instructor is part of the instruction. So don’t be afraid to show your integrated life. It will make your material come alive. It will grow relationships. It will impact your students’ lives through the power of God and for the glory of God.  

9 Integration Lessons that Can Be Learned Through Sports

Sometimes my writing about biblical integration can focus more on classroom activities than co-curricular ones. However, most Christian schools also teach students outside of the classroom — often through sports. Here is a list of nine truths that can be easily taught in the context of sports. I hope that you find it helpful!

1) Treat others as more important than self. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Phil 2:3-4

When you are on a team, you have to look out for one another. Each team member is meant to serve the others. In football, linemen block for those with the ball. In basketball, players might give up their own shot in order to get the ball to a player in a better position. This teaches us big lessons about life. In our churches, neighborhoods, families, and workplaces, we are to always treat others as more important than ourselves. 

2) Hard work makes a difference.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,  but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. – Prov 13:4

Who ends up satisfied? The hard worker. In the end, we will not see the most talented individuals holding gold medals. No, we’ll see the hardest workers. This doesn’t mean that talent is meaningless. But it does mean that it is not enough. Hard work will also pay off in future marriages, in evangelism, in giving, in serving. 

3) Preparation pays off.

Go to the ant, you sluggard;  consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Prov 6:6-8

The ant works in the summer so that it will be ready in winter. When you lift weights, work on conditioning, or cross-train out of season, it pays off in-season. This truth helps in every area of life. Preparation pays off. Want to be a missionary? Prepare by not accumulating student-loan debt. Want to be a doctor? Start working on science-knowledge and people skills now. Want to be able to retire? Start saving and investing now.

4) Each role is important.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. – Rom 12:4-6

The quarterback might be the star, but, in the NFL, the left-tackle has become the second highest-paid position. Not receiver. Not running back. Left tackle. The left tackle should never touch the ball, should never make a tackle, should never run a route, but is very highly paid. Why? Because team-success requires that this player be there to protect and block. This isn’t a headline-grabbing role, but it is one that results in wins. In other words, each member of a team plays an important (but different) role. Some might get more attention, but all are important.

5) Doing hard things can be satisfying.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. – Eph 6:11

Success in life often relates to standing against the devil’s schemes. The devil is power and smart and active. It is hard to stand against him. But it is worth it. We see this in sports too — cutting a minute off of a 5k time is hard, but satisfying. 

6) We must respect authority.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Rom 13:1-2

Referees, umpires, judges, and committees have authority in sports. We must respect them even when we disagree. We also have authority-figures in our coaches and captains. Athletes can learn to respect authority in sports. This understanding will pay off throughout life. And will help them respect the ultimate authority — God Himself. 

7) Disqualification is a real threat.

I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1 Cor 9:27

Lance Armstrong. Barry Bonds. SMU. UNLV. Maria Sharapova. This is a tiny list of the many famous athletes or organizations that have felt the string of disqualification in one way or another. These were all greats, but they’ll be remembered by many for what they did wrong. Sports can teach athletes the importance of remaining eligible. Other things can disqualify us from more important things in life. People can be disqualified from ministry, certain jobs, military service, relationships, etc. from not living rightly. 

8) Life is made up of many individual matches.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Heb 3:13

A team can lose a game, but still win a championship. A team might even lose a conference, but still win a championship. Life is not defined by any one day (although, one day could disqualify us). Therefore, when we fail, we need to learn to get up, grow, and keep going. 

9) My mistakes can hurt others.

If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive. – Jer 13:17

If a player doesn’t run out a ground-ball, it can hurt the whole team. If a player gives up on his blocking assignment, it can hurt the whole team. This teaches important lessons. The sins of a father can hurt his kids and spouse. 

Sports are powerful tools for biblical integration. Don’t waste the opportunities that they provide. 

Inventory: Biblical Integration Flows From Bible-Intake

Excellent biblical integration is important. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes planning and consistency. But biblical teaching will be empty if it doesn’t flow from a renewable source. Teachers are busy people, so we need to regularly assess if we are functioning in a healthy way. Even good cars need regular maintenance and care. Even the most reliable vehicle needs a repair from time to time. Likewise, we need to examine our lives to see if we are rightly and regularly interacting with God through his Word. We may need maintenance, care, or repair. 

Let’s look at these snapshots from Psalm 119 in order to put together a biblical picture of a right relationship with the Bible:

Your word is a lamp for my feet
    a light on my path.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.
My flesh trembles in fear of you;
    I stand in awe of your laws.
Your statutes are wonderful;
    therefore I obey them.
Great peace have those who love your law,
    and nothing can make them stumble. –
Psalm 119:105, 112, 120, 129, 165

God’s Word — the Bible — is a lamp to light the way; it is awesome and wonderful, and it brings peace. Do you believe that? Does your life show that you really believe that? We can tell what we believe if we resonate with the psalmist’s response to the Word. He says that: 1) His heart is set on keeping God’s decrees, 2) His flesh trembles in fear and awe of the God who shows Himself though the Word, 3) He obeys God’s Word because it is wonderful. 

So… what is your heart set on? Are you deeply committed and invested in following where God leads through Scripture? And do you tremble and find yourself in awe when you open his Book? And are you aiming to obey God’s Word because you believe they are wonderful?

The aim of this post is simple: I want to call you to consider your relationship with the Word. I want you, the teacher, to take inventory of your practices (Are you intaking the Word regularly?), your attitude (Are you in awe of God’s wonderful Word?), and your integration (Is your personal Bible-study feeding your teaching?). Think of this as a little formative assessment of yourself. 

Develop Biblical Integration That Excites YOU

Have you ever noticed that the best, most memorable teachers are usually the ones who are excited about their content? Students get excited when their teacher is excited. Students love to learn when teachers love to teach. In other words: engaged teachers engage students.

So what are the elements of your class or your subject that cause you to be amazed at what God has done? What aspects of your content makes your want to worship Him? 

It is important to identify those elements because you can authentically highlight them for your students. And it won’t be forced. It won’t be artificial. It will be passionate and real and right.

This idea reminds me of something recorded in Mark 1:40-45. There, we read about Jesus healing a man from leprosy. But after healing the man, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’” 

Jesus did a mighty miracle, but strongly warned the man to keep quiet about it. However, if we read on, we can see that this man just couldn’t hold it in. “Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” 

When we see God’s power, goodness, glory, and work, we will be compelled to tell the story. The man in this episode spread the news so effectively that Jesus couldn’t even enter a town without the paparazzi finding Him. Instead, He stayed outside in “lonely places.” But they didn’t stay lonely for long — the people just couldn’t help but come to Him. One man’s enthusiastic sharing of God’s work changed things for a lot of people.

Likewise, if you are excited about an element of biblical integration, it will have an impact on your students… and perhaps beyond. So take a little time to think about what enthuses you, and then infuse that into your integration. It will make a difference. 

Times of Trouble: Showing Biblical Integration

The end of the school year can be full of challenges — full schedules, important ceremonies, time-crunched grading, performances, meetings, testing, and more are happening throughout time. This is an important and good part of the year, but it also comes with particular hurdles and stresses. However, discussions about these times of trouble are not missing from God’s Word. Psalm 46:1-3 says:

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.

And the end-of-year teacher’s psalm might go like this:

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the classes misbehave
   and the piles of grading are as deep as the sea,
though the emails roar and fill our inboxes wave-after-wave
and our schedules quake with their surging.

The end of the year is not the ultimate rough season. It cannot be compared to family struggle, cancer diagnosis, personal failure, loss of a friend, or many other immense pains. But it is a real time of trouble — not a Category 5 hurricane; perhaps a Category 2. But it is a storm nonetheless. And this time of trouble opens a wonderful door for us to model biblical reliance, trust, prayer, and seeking for our students.

You see, each of them experiences times of trouble too. And they need to see how to weather those storms through the power of God. They need to know that they can run to God, our Fortress, when the overwhelming armies of busyness and inadequacy are laying siege. They need to see that they can run to God, our Refuge, when life’s winds blow hard. And they get the opportunity to see that in us.

The end of year is a season that comes with inherent challenges. Show your students what it looks like to turn to God in these times. Times of trouble = opportunities to trust God.

The Sons of Korah penned Psalm 46 to show the people how they ran to God. We can trust that the Lord is our help too. Beyond that, we can show that awesome truth to our students. This is a chance for us to show and tell. And we can help them clearly see that the Sons of Korah spoke truth for all God’s people in verse eleven:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Biblical Integration in Real Life: Part Three

Recently, I sent out a short, anonymous survey to the some educators. My goal was to collect information on how real teachers and administrators are perceiving their growth and struggles—What’s working? What continues to be a burden or weight? This post is part three of a short series that interacts with a few of the successes and struggles that came through in the results.

I was encouraged to see responses that shared the value of well-planned integration. These comments sounded like, “Integrating my syllabus and the design of my course really helped me as a teacher.”

We all know that excellent planning makes our courses easier and better. We are accustomed to mapping our curriculum, carefully selecting our books and assignments, meticulously designing our assessments, and thoughtfully reviewing key ideas and points. Your biblical integration should play a role in all of these areas. And when it does, you will find your work of academic discipleship easier and better. Biblical integration makes your work more fulfilling and meaningful. Therefore, thoughtfully planning your integration will serve you, your students, your school, and your God well.

A few teachers asked a question like this one: “How do I deal with the unbiblical ideas or conflicts that arise from time to time in our worldview discussions?”

I know that teachers are already capable of correcting and redirecting students so that they can grow. This is a core part of the teaching job so I am not going to dig deeply into the classroom management side of this. You know when to pull a student aside, or have a class discussion, or to let something go. However, I do want to point out some specific unbiblical ideas or trends that you need to be aware of. These ideas permeate much of our Christian culture. Be alert so that you can notice these as they come up because they are harming many of the kids that we are serving. These four key areas are worth engaging with directly and preemptively. Don’t be afraid to speak about them as they arise naturally in your classes. If one student is struggling a particular area, it is likely that many others are as well.

  1. (An Uninformed) View of God. One teacher shared a story about how a student responded to being corrected for doing something wrong. The student said, “It’s not my fault; God made my hand do that!” It seems that this student was sure that God was powerful enough to control his hand (which, of course, God is), but the student was missing something about the moral goodness of God. We live in a culture that often pits God’s attributes against one another. As we work to share how our students understand themselves and the world, the best thing that we can do is to help them see God for who He really is.

**One cultural culprit here is selective teaching of the Bible. Instead of teaching the whole counsel of God, many schools, Sunday Schools, parents, and even churches only teach selections of the Word of God. This, naturally, leads to incomplete, incoherent, and incorrect views of who God really is. In your class, try to engage with the character and characteristics of God as they are described throughout the sixty-six books. 

  1. The (In)Sufficiency of Scripture. I talk to many young people who want to hear God speak to them. They want to know God’s will for their lives. However, they are not willing to commit to hearing the Scriptures even though they tell us God’s will (1 Thess 5:18) and make us ready for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). The Bible gives life, points us in the right way, gives us wisdom, keeps us from sin, and more (Ps 119). God has spoken through the Bible. And He still speaks through the Bible. His Holy Spirit has perfectly put together his words, and when we read them, He is ready to apply them to our minds. But we must teach our students to open up that Bible in order to hear God’s voice. The Bible is the one and only place where you always know that you are hearing God speak. Our consciences can be wrong. Our inclinations can be misinterpreted. Visions or dreams may be from God, or they may not. But the Bible is right—always. And the Bible is 100% from God.

**A representative cultural culprit here is the Jesus Calling material that has been so popular. This series has exacerbated the belief that God’s Word is not enough for his people. Here is a good article by Tim Challies about some of the major problems with Jesus Calling. But in essence, Sarah Young, writes personal messages on the behalf of God because the Bible left her wanting more. Her book (and its spin-offs) are best-selling. We can see that she hit a nerve with this feeling, and it is important that we address that feeling for our students.

  1. (Self-Focused) Prayer and Prosperity Gospel. God loves his people. God loves to listen to his people. However, God is not in the business of giving us what we ask for unless it specifically aligns with his will. 1 John 5:14 is key here: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” And we must remember Jesus in the garden pleading, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done,” (Luke 22:42). The Father, in love and in perfect wisdom, did not give Jesus the first part of what He asked for—the Father still sent the Son to drink the cup. However, the Father did this out of love since it resulted in worship (Phil 2) and joy (Heb 12) for the Son. God loves us enough to say, “No.” He loves us enough to give us suffering, pain, frustration, and heart-ache for our good.

**One big cultural culprit in this area is the Christian movie, fiction, and music industry. Many, many Christian movies have been infamously off the mark. For example,  Facing the Giants is a feel-good movie, but teaches a bad theology on prayer and suffering. Of course, God can provide free vehicles, state-championships, and children for his people. However, our trials in this broken world are often the things God uses to make us like Him (Jas 1, Rom 5). And we must remember that we aren’t meant to be satisfied and at home in this life. We are aliens. We are called to deny ourselves. We are to pick up crosses, lay down or lives, and follow Jesus into suffering. Don’t Waste Your Cancer by John Piper is a great corrective to our unbiblical understanding of struggles and pain in this life. (Also, there are some good, Christian movies. I really like Chariots of Fire myself.)

  1. (Dangerous) Cool People. I love listening to messages from Christian teachers from around the world on my phone or computer. I love worship music. However, access to these two things has been a mixed blessing for the church. The people writing the most popular songs are not always the ones who have accurate theology. The ones with the most downloaded podcasts are not always the ones who teach with biblical fidelity. We live in a celebrity culture. And young people are generally more affected by celebrity influence than older people. Satan loves un-truths that are mixed with truth because they are more believable. Likewise, he is pleased when we share messages and songs that are sub-gospel rather than anti-gospel. Believing something less than the truth is just as dangerous as believing something against the truth. This means that we need to have a constant awareness of what is being taught by those who are popular. My church says it like this, “Have our feet planted on the Word of God, and our finger on the pulse of the culture.”

**Cultural culprits here fall into many categories, but some of the most influential are churches that have a wide reach with teaching, music, and style, but are off-track or unhelpful when it comes to the gospel. Bethel Church is an example of a ministry that is concerning in this area. They use their influence in many good ways (some of their songs are excellent), but they also lead people astray in reading and understanding the Bible, their teaching about Jesus, their understanding of discipleship, their elevation of experience, and in many other practical ways. We need help our students follow God and listen to his Word regardless of what the cool people are saying, singing, or teaching. And when the cool people are invested in  unbiblical things, we need to help our students identify what is wrong so that they are not taken in by subtle lies and errors.

Conclusion: I know that I stepped on some toes in this article by pointing to specific books, movies, and ministries. The idea is not to stir up trouble or conflict. And I am not trying to say that these particular books, movies, or ministries are the worst. However, they are representative of a wide scope of cultural culprits that lead many off-track. We need to be able to point to error when it is being taught as beneficial. To that end, in this article, I am hoping to live out (and help you to live out) the charge that Paul gave in 2 Timothy 4:2-5:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist,discharge all the duties of your ministry.

If you have questions, concerns, or ideas about any of this, please feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to discuss.

Effective Service-Learning and Biblical Integration

Service-learning is a trending topic in education today. We obviously love working in the lab of life, getting the students to apply their thinking to real-world issues, and engage in teamwork. And service-learning is especially valuable for Christian schools because it is a form of biblical integration. Jesus said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45). Therefore, Christians have an extra motivation to engage in service-learning—serving is an essential part of following Jesus. If we don’t graduate servants, we are not fully accomplishing our goals.

In fact, as academic disciple-makers, teachers are called to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up,” (Eph 4:12). Part of our mission to to develop our students into able servants who build up the body. So, how do we go about this? I believe that the inductive Bible study provides a good model for moving forward. The three steps are 1) information, 2) understanding, and 3) action.

1) Gather Information about the Need

When choosing a service project (missions trip, local project, etc.), the students should have ample time to understand the need. For example, if they are going to collect cans for a food bank, they should take time to grasp why there are food shortages, what the food bank does, and how they can help. Just as a doctor should not prescribe medication until he understands the sickness, students should not start working to solve a problem until they have an excellent grasp on the issues. (Activity ideas could be: research, field visits, interviews, etc.)

2) Understand and Invest in the Solution

Once students have the investigated, they should make a plan for how they can invest. It is okay for students to collect cans just because someone has asked them to do so. But it is much better if they can be a part of planning the service project. If the food bank needs cans, they could decide if they should 1) ask their parents to donate cans, 2) contact local grocery stores to ask for donations, 3) contact local businesses to ask for donations that can be used to buy cans, 4) contact the canned-food companies directly to ask for help, 5) connect with local churches and youth groups to create a community-wide initiative, 6) use a crowdfunding site to raise money. And the list could go on for a long time. The point is that students need to be a part of making the plan to solve the problem. Service learning must engage the mind; not just the hands and heart. (Activity ideas: brainstorming, mind-mapping, researching what others have done)

3) Take Action Sacrificially

Once the students have developed their own plan, they need to enact it. This should mean that they give up their time, energy, money, or other resources to help. If everything they need is given to them (free of cost), they are missing out on much of the benefit and blessing. When Araunah offered to give David land for his altar, David replied, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing,” (1 Chron 20:24). We must teach our students to give what they have—not what someone else might have. When they give, it helps them understand the the process (mission trip, local project, etc.) is not about them; it is not for them. (Activity ideas: Counting the cost, enacting the actual project)

These steps will help students learn and grow. The process will be stretching. And it will also help the students to remain invested in these projects over time. If they get the information, they will be better informed. If they gain understanding, they will be more able to help and encourage others in the future. And if they act sacrificially, they will remember what they invested in making a difference.