An Introduction to this summer’s Worldview Summit, August 2–4
Up to this point, my blog posts have emphasized the integration of a biblical worldview, a Christian perspective, and even the integration of faith and learning. Consistent with a Kuyperian “sphere sovereignty” viewpoint, I believe we have tended to separate what we do in school (education and learning: issues of the head) from what we do in church (liturgy, faith, and practice: issues of the heart).
Dr. James K.A. Smith, author or co-author of Desiring the Kingdom, Imagining the Kingdom, Teaching and Christian Practice, and also, coming in March 2016, You Are What You Love, introduced me to a deeper concept of liturgy and a more complete understanding of what we might mean by Christian practice. This blog post looks into these deeper meanings and poses questions about whether, and to what extent, we as Christian educators should incorporate liturgy and Christian practice into our educational process.
Let’s first look at liturgy. While including the formal worship practices most of us usually think of, liturgy can include any practices that “both reflect what matters to us and shape what matters to us” (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom). Liturgies give us a vision of the good life not via our intellect (head) but directly through our emotions (heart). For example, our “sportsmanship” liturgy includes coming together via a common larger purpose by singing our national anthem, introducing players and coaches (humanizing them), having players shake hands, etc. These practices both have the (mostly unstated) purpose of reflecting what we believe to be important and shaping our behavior at athletic events. Smith also addresses the liturgy of the shopping mall, where communities come together and celebrate a vision of the good life based in material goods.
Next, let’s consider Christian practice. Here we go well beyond the very important normal worship service or personal devotional practices of prayer, song, and scripture reading. Here we include the actual living out of the ideals of the Christian life: forgiveness, hospitality, humility, forbearance, etc. Smith says, “Christian practice will do nothing less than configure how we see and act in the world.” Wait! Isn’t this exactly what we as Christian educators hope we are actually doing?
If we are not proactively and self-consciously incorporating Christian liturgy and practice (as described above), are we missing something not only important, but fundamental? Could it be that incorporating Christian perspectives and a biblical worldview are important and necessary, but not sufficient to our task? Echoing Simon Sinek’s Getting to Why, much of our major decision making happens not at the intellectual (head) level, but at a deeper affective, emotional (heart) level. It is likely that both liturgy and Christian practice operate at the latter level. If we desire to shape and reflect what matters to us and seek to influence how our students “configure how we see and act in the world,” then I suggest we consider the following.
At Traverse City Christian School, our purpose statement includes Glorifying God, Partnering with Parents, and Equipping Students to Transform the World for Jesus Christ. Our core values are Biblical Worldview, Academic Excellence, Authentic Christian Community, Christ-Like Character Development, and Whole Child Emphasis.
What liturgies could TCCS employ to reflect, honor, and shape its stated purpose and core values? Glorifying God? Partnering with parents? I admit, this is new territory for me. We at TCCS already have many liturgies in place, although I admit I do not know the purpose of some of them! Certainly we at TCCS could be more proactive in designing liturgies that speak to why and who we are.
But which Christian practices?
Now, which specific Christian practices are important to a learning community? In Teaching and Christian Practice, by David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith, the authors, describe efforts at the college level to integrate specific Christian practices (prayer, hospitality, forbearance, caring for the poor, etc.) directly into the course material itself. Many contributors spoke candidly of their efforts to include Christian practice into already crowded curricular expectations.
I am suggesting the following as a beginning list of Christian practices appropriate for K-12 Christian education: worship, seeking wisdom, servanthood, practicing community, beauty appreciation, seeing God’s image in everyone, disciple making.
To what extent are we to engage in liturgies that reflect and shape what matters to us? If what matters to us can be found in our purpose and core value statements, and if we are interested in influencing how our students see and act in the world, then we are called to be about the business of liturgy and Christian practice, in addition to biblical worldview and Christian perspective.
August 2–4, Grand Rapids, MI
To explore these and other topics, join us at this summer’s Worldview Summit, August 2-4 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Keynote Speaker: James K.A. Smith (3 sessions)
- Breakout sessions include:
- using Throughlines to integrate a biblical worldview
- implementing and mentoring with Throughlines
- integrating discipleship practices within a Throughlines framework
- introduction to And It Was Good: Teaching Science from a Christian Worldview, and more!
– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist