Wednesdays with Jillene: when am I ever going to use this?

Somehow the summer disappeared and we entered another S “season” (no, now you hush, I didn’t mean snow): school.

Last week, as my children prepared to head back to school, we met MANY teachers and sat through orientation sessions learning many details about the upcoming school year. Out of all of that there is one phrase I’m still thinking about:


The eight grade teachers were making a point on how they try to link the course material to real life situations to show the intrinsic merit of the lessons. Their philosophy was that learning is easier when the value of life application was established.

And I was brought right back to my own Middle/High School years and how that mentality spilled over into college courses. You know the “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” mentality which facilitates apathy towards course material and helps to justify ambivalence towards effort in learning. It seemed to rear it’s ugly head mostly in math but in other liberal arts areas as well.

Making a quick search of the internet I wasn’t surprised to find many memes, articles, blog posts and cartoons about this issue. Some in support, others looking to debunk this type of thinking.

As someone who works in youth ministry whether through camp, the ABY Convention or my own local church Sunday School class and youth group programs… I wonder if this translates to how many people think of the very things I am involved in trying to teach them:

When am I ever going to need to know this in real life?

Over the years I’ve heard youth leaders, church members, parents, pastors, Sunday school teachers and the like express frustration and exasperation at how little seems to “sink in.” And for a while I’ve been pondering this… I wrote a note on my phone and I’ve been turning it over in my head.

“What if we are unable to adequately teach the “head knowledge” of our faith because we aren’t showing a life lived in faith? What is the purpose of learning without life application. These two go hand in hand.”

It doesn’t take long reading in the Bible to see the consequences of forgetting: sin, anger, temptation, wandering away from God, hurting one another, and the like. God knew it was important for His people to remember so he told them:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

How do we approach “Christian Education” so that it is about so much more than head knowledge but also about discipleship- a life lived? I tell my Sunday School class, “I’m not teaching you this so you can pass a Bible 101 test at the end of this lesson. I’m teaching it so that in knowing the truth of who God is, of who you are in Him and how your life is meant to be lived… that in knowing all that it changes you, it guides your life.”

Discipleship is about a life lived. In knowing who God was (what he did) in the past it helps us to know who God is in our present. In learning the Bible we come to know who we are in God. Putting all of this together, step by step, day by day as God works sanctification and righteousness in us we come to know how then we should live.

Focusing on who God is, the attributes of God/the names of God: God is Holy, righteous, infinite, sovereign, triune, faithful, just, trustworthy, good, wise, comfort, grace, love… and on and on.

Knowing who we are, the Bible is clear that we are all sinners, that we are loved by God, that through Jesus we are given the gift of new life, in Christ we are a new creation, we are God’s children through Christ.

How then shall we live? In view of all of this, Romans 12:1-2 beckons us:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Mark 12:28-31 Jesus tells of the most important commandment:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In Ephesians 4, Paul writes on what it means to “live a life worthy of the calling” we have have received as children of God.

Where is God speaking to you in this today? Are there ways you are forsaking the “head knowledge?” Are there ways that God is calling you into a deeper life lived with/for Him?

God give us your wisdom as we walk this journey of life. Help us to approach your Word with eagerness and through the Spirit give us the understanding we need. Strengthen us to be eager students of the Bible and also fervent in pursuing the practice of living out our faith in daily life. As we raise the next generations, give us your heart to teach them in your ways and share the testimony of your faithfulness in our lives and help us to encourage them in the journey of their daily walk with you. Amen.



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