What Does It Mean To Believe?

line-in-the-sandThis may be the hardest blog post that I have ever written.  The reason why this has been difficult to write is that it draws a line in the sand for many Christian parents, pastors and educators.  It will challenge some to have to think about what they really do believe about how they educate their children.  I pray that people will read this in the spirit in which I am writing it.

It is hard to believe that my book, Kingdom Education: God’s Plan for Educating Future Generations, has been on the market for almost 20 years.  Since its release in 1998, the impact it has had on homes, churches and schools boggles my mind.  Wherever I go people come up to me and tell me how this little book has changed their lives.  I frequently receive emails and phone calls from parents, pastors and educators who want to share a story about how God used the book to shape how their parenting and/or teaching practices have been transformed.

I sat down recently and tried to determine how many copies of Kingdom Education have been printed and sold over the years.  LifeWay provided me with a sales history since 2007.  Close to 37,000 copies have been sold according to these records.  Using the yearly average of sales over these years, I estimated that another 30,000 copies may have been sold prior to 2007.  In addition to LifeWay’s sales, ACSI also was granted a license to print and sell the book for several years.  Recently LifeWay has granted limited licenses for Kingdom Education to be translated and distributed in Nigeria, China, and Korea.  All together there may have been between 70-75,000 copies sold.

I never dreamed that the book would ever have been read by so many people.  I give God all the glory for any impact it has KingdomEd cover smallhad on lives around the world.  Even with the testimonies I regularly receive, there is something else related to Kingdom Education that is somewhat puzzling and even frustrating.  I have heard Christian school leaders say that their school is a Kingdom Education school.  Parents, pastors and teachers frequently tell me that they believe in Kingdom Education.

However, I have lost count of how many times someone tells me that they believe in Kingdom Education BUT…  The “buts” are what confuses me.  Ever since I attempted to put into words what God had burned into my heart about how He wanted His people to raise, educate, instruct their children, I have had people say that they believe in Kingdom Education but follow it up with why they don’t educate their children according to the biblical principles that are the foundation of Kingdom Education!

I am somewhat perplexed when I am told that a school is a “kingdom education school” but some of the school’s teachers, board members, administrators and even pastors on staff send their own children into secular educational programs.  There are always “good” excuses why Christians don’t have their children in biblically based schools.  Many times I am told statements like this.

  • We believe in Kingdom Education but we made an academic decision that required us to put our children in a secular school.
  • We love Kingdom Education but our child has certain gifts athletically or in the fine arts that required us to choose a secular school for him/her.
  • We are committed to Kingdom Education but we have such a strong home and are involved in a strong church that we don’t really need to have our children in a biblically based school.

I have even had parents tell me that they are fully devoted to Kingdom Education but their child wanted to go to such and such school.  When I had several pastors review the biblical principles of education that are in the book, every one of them said that these were definitely biblical principles.  They assured me that they could give a hearty amen to them and that I wasn’t proof texting (trying to use some Bible verses to prove what I thought to be right).  However, when I asked if they would also give a strong amen to all Christians applying these principles to the education of their children, many hesitated.

Once when I was presenting the biblical principles found in Kingdom Education, a youth leader from a church said that we can’t obey these principles.  When I asked this person did he/she believe these principles were biblical, the response was yes but!  Even though this youth leader said that he/she believed the principles, it would be wrong to obey them because it would mean that Christians would have change where their children went to school.

believe1Here is my dilemma.  What does it mean to believe something in the minds of Christians today?  This dilemma isn’t just about a book, Kingdom Education.  It is about a much bigger concern I have for the church today.  I find it equally perplexing to hear Christians say that they believe the Bible to be God’s inerrant, inspired, infallible Word but then these very same people support abortion as a woman’s right, accept and condone same sex marriage, don’t give God the first fruits of all their increase (tithe), and live out a whole host of other things that are in direct conflict with what the Bible teaches.

I am often amazed when I look at polls like those done by Gallup regarding what Americans believe.  Here are some of Gallup’s findings that I find quite confusing.

  • Do You Believe in God?  1944 – 96% Yes;     2014 – 89%  Yes
  • Do You Believe the Bible is Actual Word of God?  1976 – 38% Yes;     2014 – 28% Yes
  • Do You Believe the Bible is Inspired?  1976 – 45% Yes;     2014 – 47% Yes
  • Do You Believe in Heaven?   1968 – 85% Yes ;     2011 – 85% Yes
  • Do You Believe in Hell?  1968 – 66% Yes;     2011 – 75%  Yes

Here is what I don’t understand.  When you look at the historical trends in what Americans say they believe about these items, there doesn’t seem to be much of a change.  For example, a change of 7% as to whether or not Americans believe in God over a period of 70 years doesn’t seem very big.  It seems even more perplexing that the percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is inspired actually increased over a period of 38 years.  There was also an increase of 9% of Americans who believe in Hell and there was no change in the percentage of Americans who believed in Heaven over the same number of years.

I guess the question that is begging an answer is this.  If so many Americans, especially Christians, believe in God, the Bible, Heaven and Hell, why is our culture in such a drastic moral tailspin?  It seems like the moral and ethical behaviors of Americans/Christians stands in stark contrast to what Americans say they believe.  How can this be?

The key to trying to understand the contrast between beliefs and practices of Americans in general and Christians specifically lies in answering the question, What does it mean to believe?  I find that when a person today, including the majority of Christians, say that they believe something to be true, they are merely agreeing with it in their minds.  To believe something is to merely give mental assent to it.  This is a far cry from what it used to mean to believe something in the past.

Many years ago I was trying to discern what makes for effective teaching.  As I wrestled with this, I came to realize a couple of truths.

You teach what you understand!

You understand what you live (experience)!

You only live what you believe!

A good friend of mine, Mark Willard, serves as worship pastor for Sherwood Baptist Church. Being a gifted song writer, What-Do-You-BelieveMark wrote a powerful song a few years ago titled My Creed. He wrote this as a challenge to men to be the spiritual leaders God intends them to be. There is one line in this song that says, I will live what I believe.

I shared with Mark that I understood what he was trying communicate with that line. However, I told him that one only lives what one believes.  Unfortunately, this is not well understood by the vast majority of Christians.  I find myself falling into this same trap.  I have to constantly ask myself if I really believe something that I read in the Scriptures or hear someone preach from the God’s Word.

It is impossible to believe in Kingdom Education and then live in direct opposition to the very principles that are the backbone of Kingdom Education.  The question that must be answered is are our lives in support of what we say we believe? 

2 Responses to What Does It Mean To Believe?

  1. Ed Oas May 22, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    The truth is according to Scripture that “Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? (did we not believe? emphasis mine) and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'” Matt. 7:22,23

  2. Mark Kennedy May 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

    Reminds me of the frog prince fairy tale with a dark twist. You remember the story – the one where a frog is transformed into a prince when a human princess kisses him. It’s a childish image but it’s a bit like the transformation we experience in salvation. Now comes the twist. Replace the ‘happily ever after’ ending with an image of that transformed prince sitting on a lily pad and eating flies. That is precisely the picture of the kind of Christianity that holds intellectual assent to the authority of Scripture but chooses a life of functional atheism.

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