The Best Courses Always Include… (Part One)
By Steve Huerd
It’s the most wonderful feeling as a speaker or teacher when someone comes up to you after you’ve finished speaking and says, “I felt like God was directly speaking to me through what you said. It’s like you were just talking to me.” These affirmations provide the speaker with assurance that God is using them in people’s lives through their teaching.
If our purpose as Christian educators is to teach to change lives so that we might present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28), then this dynamic interaction must occur somewhere in the teaching process. When it occurs and the light bulb comes on, a glorious thing transpires in the student’s mind and life as the Holy Spirit uses our words and life to create change in the learner.
Having sat under many Godly men and women educators during my twelve years of graduate school, I’ve noticed that the best courses always included professors making the material especially applicable to my life.
For example, while I was taking a course called Human Growth and Development at Talbot School of Theology, party of Biola University’s graduate school, I had no idea there was a scholarly area entitled “Faith Development.” At that time, I had spent roughly twenty years investing in people to help them in their faith development as a practitioner and I was shocked to learn that scholars had been researching my life’s work! I was so thrilled at this discovery, and grateful to my professor, Dr. Jonathan Kim, of Talbot School of Theology, for his teaching, that I devoted my dissertation to the subject of spiritual development in youth.
It was Dr. David Clark, now provost of Bethel University, whose unique and simple way of presenting his arguments in the apologetics course I took from him years ago enabled me to share these arguments with hundreds of students over the years. Or Dr. Walter Kaiser, Old Testament Scholar and former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose love and passion for the Old Testament inspired me to read and love the Old Testament every year in my devotions. It can even be as simple as sharing from your own life as Dr. Klaus Issler, professor of Christian Education and Theology at Talbot School of Theology, often did in our Philosophical Issues class causing me to rethink my own presuppositions and see Jesus in new ways.
While there is certainly not just one way to make material applicable to student’s lives, it seems all the best courses include professors who somehow have figured out how to make that happen. Whether through their teaching methods, their insights, personal examples, relationships, etc., they always find a way to connect their subject matter to their students’ lives.