Written by Jake Gamble / February 2016
What is the best teacher that you have ever had? Even though I know all you Sunday school kids want to shout out “Jesus!” let’s take that as a given and look at our human teachers. Some of us have had a Christian day school teacher that we had for two, four, or even eight years and will never forget, or a pastor that gave the best Bible classes. I want you to take a quick second and appreciate them, but then we have to take them out too. Spiritual intentions aside, what qualities do we look for in secular teachers?
Everyone has their own idea of the perfect teacher, but we can find some qualities that most of us want to see. Learning from someone who is a good speaker is important to most of us. Many will try to downplay it, but if you had the choice between a monotone lecture from a PhD and having Morgan Freeman read the textbook to you, how hard is the decision? Passion for subject matter is often brought up as a key to a successful classroom. Students tend to like teachers who empathize with them, and have a good sense of humor.
I want to share with you my experience with my favorite professor, who had none of the attributes mentioned above. I was a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott Arizona, and was very excited to have gotten into Introduction to Global Securities and Intelligence Studies Part I. This is probably the longest name I have ever seen for a class, but I was eager to get in because the professor was a cold-war legend retired from the CIA. We’ll call him Dr. Jones. This class had the same title as my major at the time, and I was ready to get a taste of what I had signed up for.
Whenever faced with a question about his stories that followed the lines of “How did you deal with that?” Jones would respond, “It was in God’s plan to work out that way, and he had my back all the way through.”
The class was in a small lecture hall and about 60 people came during the first week. Dr. Jones was often late, so chatting with neighbors while we were waiting became habitual. On the first day, the hot gossip was that Jones was a dull speaker, always late, and that he assigned many hours of reading and several ambiguous projects. This all turned out to be true, but this was still one of the best classes I have taken in college.
To save time, I will spare you the details of Jones’s riveting lectures. There are two things you should know, however, that are important to my story. The first is that Dr. Jones used history to explain all of the world’s conflicts, often reaching centuries into the past. The second relevant part of his lectures is that when he was not diving into history, he was sharing stories from his life and lengthy career with the CIA.
Have you ever gotten to use the Bible as a history textbook in college? I was very surprised when I heard Dr. Jones quoting and then reading from Genesis as we discussed the origins of Middle Eastern peoples. He used the Old Testament as fact on which we can base political theory, and Scripture as a moral guideline on which we should operate in the world. Whenever faced with a question about his stories that followed the lines of “How did you deal with that?” Jones would respond, “It was in God’s plan to work out that way, and he had my back all the way through.”
What I got out of this secular class turned out to be fundamental to my Christian education. Jones had taught me how to incorporate God’s Word into everything I learn. Since finishing that course, I have been able to apply what I learn in secular school to my faith. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable that skill has been to me. Instead of getting frustrated when I am force-fed evolution, tolerance of sin, and godless philosophies, I just think about how Jones would have handled the material.
The goal of telling this story is not that everyone runs out hunting for a Dr. Jones to show them the way and make school, or life for that matter, Christ friendly. What I encourage everyone to do, and I pray that the Lord guides all of you in this, is to apply scripture to what you learn every day out in the world. When you are preached evolution, use the opportunity to refresh yourself on Creation. Study the Bible alongside your ancient history textbooks and see how they compare. Refute baseless philosophy with scripture instead of logic. Share your findings. Through your testimony, the Spirit may work saving faith in your neighbors, and your assurance of your salvation will certainly increase.
May He bless all of your studies, and send all the support and every tool you need to thrive.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9