How Education Can Bring Renewal to the Church

A Sign of Turnaround

Sometimes the story of Christianity in the modern world since 1500 seems to be one of long decline. However, there have been powerful renewals of faith and church life in those centuries, too.

What led Charlemagne, king of central Europe around AD 800, to send to Northern England for Alcuin, a scholar, who would go on to lead a renewal of learning in his court which eventually transformed Europe?

What prompted scholars of Scripture like Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk in a small town in eastern Germany in the early 1500s, to use new scholarly tools to drill down into the meaning of the Word of God, so that a deep renewal of Christian faith that spanned Europe resulted?

What led John Wesley, dynamic revivalist of the middle decades of the 1700s, to set up a system of group learning that would continue to shape the lives of people converted in the “Great Awakening” for two centuries more?

In each case, renewed attention to education was an important signal that a turnaround was coming. In each case, fresh attention to education indicated believers with new confidence to live their lives in Christ.

Genuinely Christian education has something special and powerful to offer Western societies.

Education Feeds Renewal

In our time, Christian education seems only a little different than public, secular education. Maybe this is the way it has to be. After all, Christians must be responsible participants in their society. Education fits citizens to make a contribution.

But when disciplined learning tells the Christian story in a fresh way, history has shown that vibrant expressions of faith result.

Getting the story right changes people.

Imaginations are fired.

Believers reclaim a vision for evangelism, missions, church life, and family life.

Initiatives in education are a sign of Christian renewal. In turn, education feeds renewal.

Education can foster the wide renewal of the Christian story in our time and place.

Genuinely Christian education has something special and powerful to offer Western societies.


Ted Newell

This book looks at various educational perspectives throughout history to equip educators today for the task of reclaiming Christian education.

A Christian Alternative

It is no secret that education in the public sector is in trouble. Violence is a growing problem, of course, but teacher morale, student achievement, appropriate curriculum design, and the teaching of right and wrong are also under severe stress.

As John Milbank, author of Theology and Social Theory, and writer on Christian faith in the modern world puts it, “A Christian alternative to our current mode of education . . . can potentially exercise mass appeal and therefore prove the most effective instrument of mission for the future.”

Getting a handle on how effective education depends on the context in which it is carried out is a key to leading for renewal. Each historical era has its own “best practices.” Today’s challenging but infinitely hopeful circumstances will need their specially-tailored education, too. Looking back gives one the ability to look forward.

No one can really say who put it into the heart of Charlemagne to send for Alcuin, nor why Luther felt compelled to search the Scriptures, nor why Wesley thought it so important to organize learning.

Perhaps the desire to learn about the true God and the world he made prompted those initiatives. Perhaps it was a desire for deeper, informed worship. They wanted to worship not an unknown God but the known one, revealed in his Word and his world.

For the future of Christianity in the West, nothing is more strategic and more hopeful than education.

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