DCE Expressions…Adjusting Our Sights

Dec 13th, 2010 | Category: Columns, DCE Expressions
By Kevin Borchers

I do not own a gun. I never have. However, I do enjoy eating wild game like venison when I get a chance. In the earlier years of my ministry as a DCE in a northwestern Minnesota congregation, I was once invited to borrow a congregational member’s gun and to join him hunting on his farm. I had fired a pellet gun and a shotgun prior to that day, but when it came time for me to actually fire the borrowed rifle at a deer, I missed, allowing the buck to run, leap, and escape before I could get off another shot. Was I really that bad of a sharpshooter? Inexperienced maybe, but could I be that bad? Had I miscalculated the distance to my target? I doubt that, since the deer was well within the range of the gun. Could it have been possible that the borrowed gun did not shoot straight? No, that would be a seriously unrealistic excuse. These questions ran through my thoughts as I walked back to meet up with my hunting sponsor.

I have not hunted or fired a gun since that day. However, I have had enjoyable discussions about guns with my son-in-law who is a U.S. Naval Reserve weapons instructor, and with friends. One such conversation with a friend who is a competition sharpshooter had to do with adjusting a laser sight on a handgun. He was at a local shooting range testing a pistol. Despite aiming the laser’s red dot on the bull’s-eye of target, each shot fired missed its mark by three to four inches.  As it turned out, the owner of the gun was left-handed, and the laser sight had been set for him. My friend shoots right-handed, which resulted in the inaccuracy of sights. The only way the gun and sight combination would be accurate for him would require the laser sight being readjusted, which they did. Once completed, my friend was able to put five shots inside a 2-inch diameter circle.

The apostle Paul surely knew nothing about firearms. Nonetheless, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV). Some have rephrased this passage to say, “Set your sights on the things of heaven, not on earthly things.” Though this may not be linguistically accurate, it provides us with a usable model for teaching and ministry.

In context, Paul wrote his letter to the Colossian Christians to combat false teachings that were infiltrating their church. Though imprisoned in Rome, Paul took aim at his target, adjusting his sights in three distinct yet equally important spheres. First, he challenged and taught them on an intellectual level, explaining how Jesus paid for sin and reconciled us to God through His death on the cross. Second, Paul addressed the Colossians on a relational level by addressing their desire to be connected to God by emphasizing all Christians’ need to stay connected to Christ through faith. Third and finally, the apostle addresses how the Colossians and we should behave and live as a Spirit-led response to the grace we have been freely given.

In the parish, Christian educators need to know the targets (ministry objectives) at which they are aiming, and to hit the bull’s-eye we need to adjust the sights being used to target their efforts. Like Paul’s teaching of the Colossians, we need to adjust and balance three areas. First, we need to teach the Word of God to the best of our God-given abilities so that His truth is known and understood. Second, we need to create opportunities that enable and encourage our brothers and sister in Christ to relationally and emotionally connect with God and with each other through the power of the Holy Spirit, who unites us in love of God we all share. Third, we need to be model and encourage lives that are lived as a worshipful response to the grace we have received—lives that actively demonstrate the God’s love in Christ through purity and Christ-like living.

Not one but all three of these targeting sights must be adjusted. To concentrate only on one will result in our inability to accurately hit the center of our target, lessening our effectiveness as Christian educators. Christian educators who overemphasize the cognitive domain in their teaching risk intellectually cold results. Overemphasis of emotional and relational aspects leads to nothing more than emotional fluff. Concentrating only in the behavioral realm pulls us away from knowing and relating toward a works-oriented life of religious busyness (Yount, 2010). Properly balanced, however, these three create an educational environment that better enables the people God places in our care to develop a spiritually healthy, daily dependence upon God that is Spirit-led.

Adjusting our sights is not something we need to do just to be better Christian educators. Personal adjustments are also needed. In January, the National Association of Directors of Christian Education (NADCE) will sponsor its first professional conference with the theme “S3: Strengthen…Sharpen…Serve.” This conference is an opportunity for the DCE community to come together to learn from top notch Christian speakers, to be refreshed by the Holy Spirit and time away from the office, to connect and reconnect with friends and fellow Christian educators who share in a common discipleship ministry, and to readjust your sights on the mission and purpose to which God has called us. Economic times and the work of ministry can be difficult, but I encourage you to take this opportunity to readjust and refocus your sights for the sake of our Lord and His people. For more information about the conference and about all that NADCE has to offer, check out their website at www.nadce.org.

References

NADCE, Initials. (2010). National association of directors of christian education. Retrieved from http://www.nadce.org/home

Yount, W.R. (2010). Created to learn: a christian teacher’s introduction to educational psychology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.

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