Education And Pentecostalism

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“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4). Photo © iStock.com.

What does education look like through the eyes of those empowered by the Spirit who recognize God at work in the world? Pentecostal and Charismatic Education: Renewalist Education Wherever it is Found explores the answers. If we believe the Holy Spirit is still the transformative Spirit of God at work in the world, then we can confidently expect that divine resources are available in all teaching environments. The principle is the same: to neglect God’s provision for change and creativity in any educational endeavour is to deprive ourselves of a complete education.

The Call to Teach and to Be Taught

In North America, what we have come to call “education” is a general term used to encompass all types of formally organized training for life preparation and specific skills for employment. We, the authors, not only appreciate that understanding but broaden it further to include all forms of public school, homeschooling, college, seminary, and church and parachurch environments. The church, in particular, is always in the education business, whether deliberately or indirectly. In effect, there can be no church without education. All teaching, preaching and other discipleship efforts exist under this umbrella. The people in Jesus’s day recognized Him as a rabbi, acknowledging His continual teaching mode. He intended that those who chose allegiance to Him would do the same. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

While we recognize the life impact of all informal education, our book focuses on organized education and argues the potential for Spirit-empowered discipleship within every context. The promise “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) applies to all teaching situations for the believer and is the source of lasting change.

What is the goal of education? Initially, some might see the acquisition, processing, and use of knowledge and skills for life and the workplace as the quick answer. However, we propose a further component. The heart aspect of all education, not just the head and hands, must be seriously considered. Most education, whether secular or Christian, has concentrated on two of three learning domains outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956): the cognitive and psychomotor aspects. However, it should also intentionally include the affective domain, the dimension involving emotions. The ultimate concerns of this approach are the development of attitudes, values, appreciation, compassion, and deep personal transformation.1

It may not always be easy to measure educational outcomes, especially church-based forms of learning. However, the results need to be articulated and assessed as often as possible. In the Pentecostal and Charismatic worldview, all major dimensions of the human person—physical, mental, social and spiritual—need to be considered and outcomes constructed that reflect the same. In this way, there is a greater chance that young people will be prepared not only for a life of service to society but also to contribute to the kingdom. William K. Kay notes succinctly, “In short, we think education ought to prepare young people for today’s society while making it possible, or even providing the knowledge for, contributing to the life of the church. And we believe that where the church is healthy, society has a much better chance of being healthy also.”2

education and the holy spirit the outpouring of the holy spirit is still happening
Photo © iStock.com.

Education and the Holy Spirit

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is still happening, still possible and always necessary today in every effort to serve the Lord. This is the lens through which we view education everywhere, regardless of its mode of delivery. Its worldview is firmly grounded in traditional Christian theology but informed and enlivened by the reality of Pentecost for all of life. Essentially, we attempt to answer, “Should education within the Pentecostal and Charismatic world be viewed differently from other forms of education where the place of the Spirit’s ongoing activity may not be a major focus?” This is not to suggest that alternate approaches to education, including other evangelical Christian education, are inferior because they are weighted more toward the acquisition of knowledge. But they may be deficient. The power of the Spirit emanating from Pentecost makes possible a dynamic in education that tends toward wholeness. Where the people of the Spirit are concerned, the education of their children and young people reflects the hue of their theology of transformation. It is a reminder that Bible knowledge for its own sake is fundamentally inadequate unless there is a connection with the heart, where a life-changing encounter with Jesus takes place.

Even in publicly-funded provincial education in Canada, where blatant secularism continues to grow, those who are convinced of the renewing power of the Spirit can make a difference. We can have a voice within the school environment that provides a positive atmosphere of hope as opposed to projecting a constant spirit of protest. Teacher-parent relationships, extracurricular activities and school spirit are all avenues where those who believe in the ever-present power of God’s Spirit can prayerfully expect to be an influence. This truth is rooted in the belief that the Spirit is not just the Third Person of a static Trinity. He is the transcendent God at work within His people and human relationships wherever He is given space.

Contemporary Challenges on All Educational Fronts

In an environment where secularism in education is increasingly wide and deep and where the boundaries of morality continue to shift, we want to offer hope. Any education that does not recognize the ongoing interaction of the transcendent God with His creation needs to be corrected. This means so much more than merely affirming the orthodox truth of the Spirit in relation to the Trinity. Pentecostal and Charismatic people—”Renewalists”—are only consistent in their theology and experience of the Spirit when they passionately desire all aspects of their lives to be empowered. This is intentionally included in any educational endeavour in which they or their children are involved.

Methods of educational delivery within day school, college and university settings and church environments will continue to evolve. Having the flashiest, most dramatic delivery can be misleading because it does not guarantee in any way that the hearts and spirits of human beings will likewise flourish. Conversely, the more technology is assumed to be the answer to education, the greater the chance that the formation of our children will become over-structured and mechanical and will minimize the need for connection with others—more precisely, with Someone beyond themselves. Artificial Intelligence must be viewed as a servant of education, not a master. As Microsoft scientist Jaron Lanier recently wrote, “Mythologizing the technology only makes it more likely that we’ll fail to operate it well.”3 At this point in the dizzying advance of technology, AI chatbots have nothing to offer that satisfies the spiritual thirst of real people with souls needing transformation and flourishing beyond the development of reason and skill.

The essential dimensions of appreciation, awe and praise for the created order in music, science and art are all results of this approach. God, by His Spirit, can and must be allowed space to recreate damaged human spirits, causing them to shine as they were meant to. Issues such as gender confusion that have infiltrated the classroom have their answer not just in well-framed arguments but in allowing space for the wind of the Spirit to blow where it will (John 3:8). Pentecostal and Charismatic believers could easily, and even understandably, desert education and leave it all to secular experts and the state. Yet the call of the kingdom to be salt and light—to be spiritual influencers—still stands and is arguably more urgent than ever. No educational setting should be left untouched wherever people of the Spirit are even remotely present.

Dr. Ewen Butler currently teaches part-time for Regent University, Virginia Beach, and continues to be involved in various short-term ministry and writing opportunities.

1. Benjamin S. Bloom et al., Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1956), 7.

2. William K. Kay and Ewen H. Butler, Pentecostal and Charismatic Education: Renewalist Education Wherever it is Found (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2023), 2.

3. Kate Lucky, “Imago AI,” Christianity Today, October 2023, 44.

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