Why did Jesus come to this earth? What did he do and teach? What does he want for us? We could speculate, but it is better to let Jesus speak for himself. Let’s begin with how Jesus chose to launch his ministry. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus has just spent 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for ministry. After that, he enters the synagogue in his hometown. There, in front of everyone, he stands up and reads this passage from Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
Jesus came to deliver good news. Good news of healing, freedom, and God’s favor. In John’s gospel, we learn more from Jesus about his good news. In John 10:10, Jesus declares, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” In the Upper Room with his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus tells them, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Later, Jesus prays to the Father, acknowledging that “this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth” (John 17:3).
GOOD NEWS OF FLOURISHING
Jesus came to deliver good news of flourishing. He came that we might have a rich and satisfying life. That we would know him, who is the way, the truth, and the life. That we would have eternal life in knowing the one true God and him whom God sent. God created us to flourish in abundant life with him and others. This flourishing life is found in knowing God and his Son. What we can know about this life and how to live it well comes ultimately through knowing Jesus, in whom “lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 3:2). He reveals to us what is true, which is foundational for our individual and community flourishing.
In Agents of Flourishing: Pursuing Shalom in Every Corner of Society (IVP: 2022), Amy L. Sherman writes,
It is not that difficult to understand why the realm of human knowledge and education is vital to human flourishing. As social beings humans are “wired to connect.” Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence, explains, “Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person.” As believers in the Trinity, a Godhead of three separate but deeply interrelated beings, we know this truth at a gut level. Made in the Trinity’s image, human beings are built for connection and communication. Literacy, by definition, is the ability to “read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.” Illiteracy and ignorance fundamentally hinder human flourishing because they inhibit connection and communication.
Sherman goes on to identify six principles from God’s Word that show the importance of education in the world God has created.
1. “God designed human beings to be learners.”
2. “The goal of pursuing knowledge and wisdom is to know God and to embrace his mission of shalom in the world.”
Pursuing knowledge is one avenue for learning more about God, his multifaceted creation, and his present work in renewing all things. This pursuit, though, must be informed by wisdom. Simply learning a bunch of facts or gleaning information from the internet does not lead us inexorably toward God and his purposes. Knowledgeable people may know some facts about a wide variety of topics. But wisdom refers to a deeper sense of understanding about the world. It perceives the connections between things. Wisdom involves having the perspective to apply one’s knowledge appropriately in the right settings and times. Wisdom helps us put our knowledge to good use, to direct our labors in alignment with God’s mission of shalom for the world.
3. “Scripture affirms the place of parents as the principal agents of transferring wisdom. Human learning takes place first and foremost in the family.”
Scripture indicates that parents have a responsibility to pass on wisdom to the younger generation. In Deuteronomy 6:7, God commanded parents to diligently teach their children “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Proverbs 1–7 offer a description of how a parent puts into practice this command. Proverbs 4:20-22 is illustrative of the theme of all seven chapters.
4. “The story of Jesus affirms the educational process. In the incarnation God did not come to earth as a man but as a child.”
This dignifies childhood and the very human process of development, including intellectual development.
5. “In his word, God teaches us about many things beyond religious matters.”
The Bible’s scope is not limited to discussions of theology, religion, or religious rituals. Apparently, God wants us to learn about a lot more things than just those topics. Consider, as one example, all that the Old Testament law has to say about public health, earth keeping, conflict resolution, and economics.
6. “God’s gifts of common grace and general revelation show he desires that nonbelievers, as well as believers, gain broad-ranging knowledge and insight.”
THE VITAL ROLE OF FAMILIES AND CHURCHES
We have more access to information and knowledge than ever in human history. But mere access to knowledge does not translate to gaining wisdom or living better. Knowledge and wisdom are not found in knowing facts but in knowing a Person – Jesus Christ, the source of all wisdom and knowledge. He is “the Truth,” and our children must be taught truth to gain wisdom in applying their knowledge to life and living well. This is the path to flourishing.
The Bible is clear. The primary responsibility for communicating truth and wisdom belongs to the family:
Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
My child, pay attention to what I say.
Listen carefully to my words.
Don’t lose sight of them.
Let them penetrate deep into your heart,
for they bring life to those who find them,
and healing to their whole body.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
FLOURISHING FAMILIES IN SCHOOLS
For over 30 years, Dr. Gary Arnold has been head of school for a number of independent schools in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Arkansas. He currently directs the Head Certification program for the Council for Educational Standards and Accountability (CESA). Dr. Arnold often refers to what he calls the Golden Triangle of the home, church, and school as the structure to best support the needs of every developing child.
The Church is a “family of families” and plays a vital role in teaching, equipping, and supporting all of its families in discipling the next generation in the home. Churches help strengthen families and give parents a vision of the high calling God gives them in bringing up their children in such a way that points to Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Schools are also part of the Golden Triangle in supporting the needs of every developing child. Recent data shows that more than half the children in Central Arkansas Schools are not reading at grade level. This has significant implications for present and future flourishing, as Sherman acknowledges when she writes:
Moreover, education is connected with economic prosperity. Generally, less education means worse job prospects. Students who do not read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. High school dropouts generally earn low wages and are more likely to experience unemployment or incarceration than are high school graduates.
For this reason, CityChurch Network is actively working to help churches partner with schools to strengthen and encourage families to complete the Golden Triangle. Today, churches are partnering with schools to build flourishing families through family support events and initiatives, mentoring, and ongoing family-to-family relationship connections. Behind these efforts is the belief that our children must know the One who is the Truth and discover abundant life and wholeness (shalom). That the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. That seeking to learn and know Jesus Christ is the way to flourishing now and for future generations.
If you are interested in a church/school partnership, contact Anthony Hampton (email@example.com).
Together we can build a flourishing community!
Ray Williams (Co-Founder and Network Team Leader) and Chris Loux (Communications Director – CityChurch Network)