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. 

Null Curriculum and Biblical Integration

The biggest decision a teacher makes concerning a class is: What do I leave out? Think about American History, for example. A complete American History would include everything that has happened in America. Obviously, that is too much for any one class, any sequence of classes, or any person. So, the teacher needs to decide what to leave out of the course. The teacher needs to decide what is not important enough to include. Every teacher has to determine the null curriculum.

This decision should be made thoughtfully and with intentionality. However, that does not always happen — especially concerning biblical integration.

Every subject/unit/idea is grounded in biblical truth. Everything that exists does so for God’s glory. Therefore, biblical integration should never be in the null curriculum. We should not run out of space for biblical integration. Why? Because the content exists for God’s glory. 

When we disintegrate — place biblical integration in the null curriculum — we are conveying the message that it is not as important as what is in the overt curriculum. When we don’t assess biblical integration, it shows students that it’s not worth remembering. When we don’t invest time and resources in biblical integration, it sends the message that other things are more valuable.

Now, please note that this is not an encouragement to replace academic content with biblical content. Instead, it is a challenge to ground  your academic content in, and aim it toward, God’s glory. I’ve said this before, but it makes the point well: We would not teach Macbeth without talking about Shakespeare, so why would we teach God’s creation without mentioning Him? Let’s be intentional about what we leave out. Let’s choose a proper null curriculum.

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. 

Biblical Integration Is Worth Doing Poorly

At the start of the year, teachers have incredibly full plates — we’re talking marathoner-at-the-buffet-after-the-race full plates. We’re planning lessons, organizing rooms, learning names, figuring out new procedures, and more. But as academic disciple-makers, we must keep our goal — implementing biblically-integrated classes — in mind. 

“But,” you might think,”I can’t really do it well because I am so overwhelmed!” Don’t worry; “If you want to do something well, the best way to start is by doing it poorly.” 

That’s right. It’s okay not to be perfect and polished when you are getting started. That’s just part of the process. How did your first day of driver’s ed look? How did your first piano lesson sound? How was your first golf-swing? I bet there was room for improvement. And that is the point that I am trying to make.

Learning occurs in stages. In order to get to to step 2, you must take step one.

G.K. Chesterton, the noted author, said something similar — “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” He was making the case that, while there are experts out there, many things gain value because you are the one doing them. For example, it is possible that there is a hug-expert out there in the world. This person might have just the right arm-length, smell, technique, etc. This person may be able to execute the most technically excellent hug: a perfect 10. But does a crying child want a perfect hug from the expert or an amateur hug from mom? I think we all know the answer.

This is true for you and your class as well. Your students don’t need the PhD-level, scripted integration that is technically sound and perfectly organized from someone else as much as they need your integration. 

I am not excusing poor teaching or preparation here. No, we should strive to be excellent. But don’t forget that excellence is achieved one step at a time. If you want to do something well, start by doing it poorly. You will grow. And your students will grow with you. So get started right now. You might miss the bulls-eye at times, but at least you aimed for the target.

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel: Resources for Biblical Integration

As you are getting ready for the upcoming school-year, I want to take a big burden off of you: you don’t need to come up with all-new, original material for your biblical integration. Just as you don’t need to start from scratch in your content (you might use a pre-written curriculum, for example), you don’t need to start from scratch for your integration. Here are four simple tools that you can use to resource your well-integrated course.**

1) Subject Specific Books

I recommend the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series. There is something there for nearly everyone. They have low-cost, biblically-faithful books on most subjects. There is, without question, enough material in each of these books to engage a class for a year (or more). 

You might also enjoy other books that relate to your topics. For example,I have been reading Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition that Life is Designed by Douglas Axe. I could see it being helpful as a resource in high school biology classes — the teacher could quote from it to begin discussions, or assign different chapters to different students to present on, or simply read to privately help build up a more cohesive worldview. 

2) Podcasts

There are numerous options out there in this category. If you search, you can probably find almost anything. But here are some that I engage with regularly:

The Briefing from Albert Mohler – daily news and events from a Christian worldview. 

Help Me Teach the Bible from The Gospel Coalition – valuable interaction with numerous biblical topics

The Great Books Podcast from National Review– not explicitly Christian, but helps me regularly engage with great literature.

The World and Everything In It  from World Magazine – a Christian news and society show. 

Marketplace Tech from American Public Media – not Christian, but helps me understand what the world is thinking concerning digital and technological ideas. 

One of the great things about a podcast is that there is a pipeline of new material. You can get to the end of a book, but many podcasts just keep going and going. 

3) Magazines

Books take a long time to write, edit, and publish. Magazines, on the other hand, are much more current and quick to press. Therefore, they can help us stay connected to current ideas, news, and questions in a helpful fashion.

World magazine stands alone (as far as I know) in terms of quality concerning biblical-worldview thinking. A subscription is worth getting, but it also has wonderful “Science and Tech”  and “Business and Economy” sections online for free. 

Christianity Today has a good topic list that can help you find Christian material in any number of areas. 

4) Interaction with Experts

Have you seen elementary school kids get excited when the fire-truck visits the school? Well, this kind of thing can happen in other areas too. And it can make biblical integration come to life. Do you know Christian business-person that could visit your business class? What about a Christian engineer for physics, a writer/journalist for English, an immigrant or missionary for Spanish, or a musician for music? You don’t have to always be the expert. There is massive power in connecting students to people who are using the skills they are working on in class. There is even more power in showing students how an area of work is unique or important from a Christian worldview in real life. 

I can foresee times where Christian experts and professionals share their testimonies, or do demonstrations, or engage in Q&As, or judge a competition, or lead a masterclass. All this to say: Why not bring in someone who lives out biblical integration in life? You and your class will benefit from their expertise. 

So, what should you do now to help you develop a great class for this year?

First, explore a little bit. Next, pick a resource or two to use. Don’t try to do too much. Then, look at its contents and figure out how/when/what you will include in your class. Finally, note that in your syllabus or unit plans. This will help you in many ways. You’ll have an idea of what integration ideas to use, you’ll have a concrete plan for how to use them, and you’ll be free of the pressure of needing to come up with all of your own ideas.

**Please note that while I am pointing to what I believe are powerful resources, I am not endorsing all of the content you might find in each area. 

Enjoying Your Calling: Biblical Integration

Christian school teachers are on a mission — a beautiful, powerful mission. We don’t just make lesson plans, grade homework, or engage with challenging students. Yes, we do those things, but they are all part of something bigger: academic discipleship. 

When we are involved in our work, we are also involved in God’s work. We are pointing students toward truth and wisdom. We are teaching them to see and stand in awe of the God who made and ordered this world, designed us with all of our unique gifts and talents, and who has given us the ability to learn and love Him. This is hard work. But we must not forget that it is also wonderful, meaningful work. As Solomon said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings,’ (Prov 25:2). 

I wanted to share this message with you in the middle of summer because good work can still be draining. The job that we do is hard. I was tired after the past school year. But after stepping back from school work during June, my excitement for next year is budding and blooming. Breaks are good. They can let us catch our breath. And they can help us take a moment to remember why we really do what we do.

So let me remind you of something obvious and essential: You are not involved in Christian schooling for the paycheck. You are not invested in Christian schooling because you want to stay busy. You are not engaged with Christian schooling because no other options panned out. Yes, you likely need to get paid, want to stay busy, and want to make the best use of your gifts. But the core reason that you are teaching, administrating, organizing, or supporting educational ministry is because 1) God has made his glory known in the universe that He has made, and 2) Every person is made to be satisfied by God alone. The ministry of academic discipleship — your job — brings these two things together. This means that you are not employed in a boring, 180-day-long work of rote teaching. Instead, you are deployed on an exciting, 180-day-short mission of life-giving exploration and discovery. 

So take a little time to remember the truth about your work. God has called you. Your effort matters. You are a tool in the hand of the Almighty. You have been given the gift of walking with students and pointing out the glory of God at every turn. Remember those things, rejoice and enjoy. God is with you. God will use you. Smile because He has called you to highlight his glory amongst eternal souls made in his image. 

And as you begin to open your syllabus, unit plans, and other materials for the upcoming year, plan to enjoy that you are not just teaching math, English, art, or gym —- you are teaching Him. What a gift!

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.