Great Are the Works of the Lord


Last week I had the privilege of attending and speaking at Repairing the Ruins, the annual conference for the Association of Classical & Christian Schools (of which I’m a board member). I come away from this conference encouraged by the green shoots of biblical and Christ-exalting education that are springing up around the country. The conference had over 1300 attendees, many of them joining for the first time. These newcomers came because they recognize the need for a different vision of education than what is on offer in the culture around us. Many of them are planning to launch new classical and Christian schools in the coming years.

But Bethlehem College & Seminary wasn’t simply present at the conference; we were given the opportunity to influence this rising movement with our emphasis on Education in Serious Joy

At the conference, Jonathon Woodyard gave a workshop on “Education as Formation,” offering a different vision of the aims of education than is found in many schools (including many Christian schools). We elaborated on the six habits of heart and mind that are at the core of our educational efforts:

  • Observe
  • Understand
  • Evaluate
  • Feel
  • Apply
  • Express

At the pre-conference Leader’s Day, I gave an address on “Christian Leadership in an Age of Anxiety, Agitation, and Manipulation.” Using the insights of Edwin Friedman, I unpacked four key dynamics at work in American society—reactivity, herding, blame displacement, and quick-fix mentality—and showed how they create difficult pressures for leaders. Then, using Galatians 2, I showed how Peter succumbed to reactive pressures in his own day by withdrawing from table fellowship with the Gentiles, and how Paul modeled a better and clearer way of leadership: he acted with clarity, he took a stand, he took responsibility, and he modeled patience and prudence. Finally, I commended the Christian virtue of sober-mindedness as an essential one for leadership in the present age (and every age). 

I also led two workshops for Christian educators. One of them used the biblical offices of priest, king, and prophet as a paradigm for thinking about growth in maturity. This progression—from priest to king to prophet—mirrors the classical Christian trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and so I attempted to root this pedagogical framework in more biblical soil.

The second workshop focused on the Paideia of God. Paideia is a Greek word that refers to the immersive enculturation and education designed to produce future citizens. Paul calls fathers to bring their children up in the paideia of the Lord. Using Deuteronomy 6, I walked through the fundamentals of biblical paideia

  1. Paideia is about generational obedience (6:1–3)
  2. Paideia instructs the mind and shapes the heart (6:4)
  3. Paideia is immersive and all-encompassing (6:6–9)
  4. Paideia emphasizes God’s mercy in the midst of abundance (6:10–13)
  5. Paideia remembers God in the face of alternatives (6:14–19)
  6. Paideia provokes questions and answers these questions with story of God’s faithfulness (6:20–25)

In all of these talks, and in the dinners and conversations around the conference, our aim was to commend the supremacy of God and the life-changing power of joy in Christ for these teachers, headmasters, and parents. Joy in Jesus is the animating power beneath all of our educational efforts. “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in him” (Psalm 111:2). 

As we continue our work over the summer, we ask you to join us in specific prayers:
  • Today (June 30) is the last day of our fiscal year. Pray that God would abundantly supply our financial needs in relation to the Serious Joy Scholarship. You know how it works. But it only works if God provides. He always has, and through your prayers, we believe he always will. 
  • Our incoming seminary apprentices arrive next week to begin their first class (including some international students). Pray for the many logistics that go into their arrival and that God would establish them here in the Twin Cities.
  • Pray for our ongoing recruitment efforts. We still have spots available in our undergraduate programs. We are accepting transfer students into all three of our majors. We would welcome more students in our traditional M.A. programs, our evening undergraduate degree completion program, and our evening masters program in exegesis and theology. And the same is true at our extension sites in Memphis, Rochester, and Hawaii. 
  • Planning efforts are underway for Godward Life: A New Gathering for Serious Joy. Pray for our preparations and that God would gather the right people to this new, up-close-and-personal conference this fall. 

Clinging to Jesus with you,

Joe Rigney, PhD
President and Associate Professor of Theology and Literature