We are in unprecedented times. So many times I have longed for things to return to normal. Despite my desire, I realize things are never going to be the same. I have come to realize that unprecedented times call for unprecedented methods. At the same time I have not always expected unprecedented things. It seems like the necessity for unprecedented methods has been for survival. I continue to be drawn back to Acts 11, when Saul (Paul) and Barnabas were in their groove in Antioch teaching, discipling, and growing the church. After two years of great success, God sent a warning about a famine coming. This famine was going to affect the Roman Empire, which means most of the known world. The church chose to respond by sending Saul and Barnabas with a relief package to Jerusalem.
I wonder if delivering relief packages was what they really wanted to do. What I think they really wanted to do was preach and teach the Gospel, yet unprecedented times called for unprecedented methods. What can be missed in this story was the result. They returned with a disciple, John Mark. Shortly after their return the three men were sent out on a missionary journey. Since the first days of this pandemic it has been my desire to not just survive the pandemic, but to see the kingdom grow. We are all not lacking in crazy stories of what is being done during the pandemic, but there is a need for more positive outcomes that have resulted from our unprecedented methods. I would like to share one today.
I am sure most of you know our team teaches and supports a Christian bilingual school called Abundant Life. Since the pandemic began we have gone to virtual classes. Our school has not just survived by implementing virtual classes, I believe they have excelled. The past several months in my Bible class we have been learning about the ministry of Jesus. I have been teaching the students how Jesus is always sharing the Gospel. I have asked the students to work on their explanation of the Gospel. They first had to write an essay explaining the Gospel, then they shared that essay with a classmate to be revised. After the essay the students had to share the Gospel in exactly 10 words. After that they had to share the Gospel in one word. For their final exam they had to send me a video verbally sharing the Gospel. There were many students who were nervous about this assignment. One of those students has openly shared they do not believe in Christ. I received several messages from this student asking for specifics. Up to this point this student has not said more than 10 words to me during their entire high school years. I encouraged the student to share what they believed and to be honest about their faith. One day after virtual class the student wanted to stay behind and ask a question. The student asked their question, but then stayed and kept talking. I had the longest conversation I have ever had with this student. This may not seem like a major win, but it was. Through the conversation the door has been opened for more conversations, specifically deeper spiritual conversations.
At the end of January we finished our second partial, or first semester. I was super frustrated because 8 students failed Bible class. Yes, I am that teacher that fails students in Bible. I do not believe we should lower the standards for teaching and learning just because it is Bible class. In fact, I think expectations should be the greatest for this class. The students are required to complete a study guide and take an exam over the content for the semester in order to have a chance to pass the class. After all the students took the exam I received a message from one of those students. This student has expressed frustration with God very vocally. The student said, “Mr., I cannot believe you failed me. No one has ever failed me in Bible. You know my relationship with God is not good. Mr., I think I am like the rocky soil. I am going to do better in Bible class and I want to do better in my relationship with God.”
Teachers spend hours trying to help students. Most of the time it feels like that work is for nothing. Most students never tell teachers how much they appreciate them. I was not the best student, and I never told the teacher how much I appreciated them. Teachers end up struggling with failure and frustration, especially when it seems like we are not making a difference. However, we must recognize and celebrate these occasional moments and cherish them as reminders that teachers play a vital role in the lives of their students. At a Christian school that role is not just in academic development, but spiritual development. We must remember that, like us, students are on a spiritual journey and we have the honor and privilege of journeying with them. I believe the same is true in the church and each one of our own spiritual lives as well as the spiritual lives of those whom you are ministering to.