At Hillcrest Academy, we use every means possible to teach God’s Word to our students. This past week, I observed classes of two of our Bible teachers and was impressed by the thought and creativity they put into their lessons. It is easy to see how virtue is taught to the students, namely the virtue of faith.
First was Michelle Foss’ 4th hour Bible class. She was teaching a roomful of underclassmen about what a “parable” is. She told her own modern-day story of a woman at the airport eating chocolate chip cookies. I witnessed the students watching her intently as she spun her tale of a woman who felt irritated at a young man for eating what she thought were her cookies, only to later discover she’d been eating his! The class, a diverse group representing several nations, followed the story with amusement, irritation at perceived injustice, and outright laughter at the plot twist at the end. What teenager can’t relate to a story about cookies?
That’s just what Jesus did--he used ordinary objects and events to explain underlying, deeper truths.
To facilitate the parable that she wanted to present on this particular day, Mrs. Foss took her class outside to a place on the front lawn where she had spread blankets and directed the students to sit down. She then presented a small sheaf of wheat and passed strands of it around to each student. Together, they opened their Bibles and read from Matthew 13 the story of the Wheat and the Tares. As the students rolled the wheat in their fingers and blew away the chaff, they thought about the wicked neighbor who sowed weeds among the landowners wheat. As they nibbled on the wheat berries they pondered Mrs. Foss’ questions: Who does the wheat represent in this parable? How about the tares? Why is the owner slow to separate the two? What does the fire signify?
She concluded the class by talking about God’s plan of salvation and the day of reckoning that is coming. She explained that only God sees the hearts of people who look much the same to each of us. She talked of God’s love and great patience, and also the final fate for those who will be found without faith at the Harvest. Faith is developed and formed, but it is also given. Students are receiving virtuous training in these classrooms.
Next was Liv Ronnevik’s 5th hour class that is going through the book of Exodus, currently focusing on the life of Moses. Miss Ronnevik had three volunteers from the class come forward to read a short scripted play about Moses before the burning bush (which was played by a small podium.) They heard the clear call God extended to Moses to free His people from Egypt and Moses’ less than enthusiastic response. From there, each student received a copy of lyrics to a song, printed out in poetic lines. Miss Ronnevik then played a video clip from the movie, “Prince of Egypt,” and they listened to the words as they were sung:
There can be miracles when you believe
Though hope is frail it’s hard to kill
Who knows what miracles you can achieve
When you believe somehow you will
Somehow you will
You will when you believe
Liv has been teaching her students to think critically about movies, music and media, encouraging them to ask such things as:
- What is the main theme?
- How does this make the listener feel--what is the intent?
- How is God portrayed?
- How are humans portrayed?
- Who or what is glorified?
She allowed the students to call out many questions like these and suggest answers. She asked the students, “How did the song make you feel? Was it beautiful?” People agreed that it made them feel good and that it was, in fact, beautifully engaging. Then she asked the students to take out a pen and mark every reference to God in the printed words before them. There was hesitation. Then a twitter arose in the room. There were none. There were no direct references to God. Here was a popular story, supposedly celebrating the great Hebrew exodus from slavery--filled with beautiful images of millions of people being released from bondage--and yet...no reference to their Deliverer. Only, “Who knows what miracles YOU can achieve,” by what? The strength of your own belief. God is not mentioned.
The students looked at each other, surprised. How had they not noticed this before? How could people ever take credit for what only God could do? The Hebrew slaves could not claim that they had had faith. They were grumblers. Idolaters. Oh, and all of these characteristics is only underscored as the story continues from here!
Our Bible classes at HLA are designed to draw our students into the marvelous narrative of God’s faithfulness, God’s persistent pursuit of mankind, and his plan of redemption. These truths can not be spoon-fed or drilled by rote memorization. They must be uncovered. They must be caught by the heart. This is an intentional process by teachers, filled with God’s Spirit, whose main objective is to see Christ formed in the lives of the students who fill their classrooms every day. The Bible--boring? Outdated? Hardly! It forms important virtues.