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F.F. Chong—London, U.K.

It has long been recognized within the church that religious education (RE) is integral to the spiritual future of the church and spiritual wellbeing of each individual believer. However, whose responsibility is it to provide RE for the young and lifelong RE for adult believers? What are the strategies, systems, and structures that the church needs to deliver RE effectively?


It is widely acknowledged today that secular learning is lifelong, and impressionable children learn from everything and everyone around them. But God had long set this principle. In the Old Testament, He established a testimony in Jacob and a law in Israel and commanded the fathers to make this known to every generation (Ps 78:5–6). This clear divine principle remains unchanged—the elders amongst God’s people are to faithfully convey God’s law and instructions to the succeeding generations. RE does not simply happen within the four walls of the church’s classroom. It is not the sole responsibility of RE teachers, but is the collective responsibility of every parent and every church worker.

God has also clearly set out the objectives of RE: to shape a godly mindset and to warn against the dangers of not setting one's heart aright before Him (Ps 78:7–8). Meeting these objectives will enable His people to live a God-centered life, regardless of circumstance. How, then, can we cultivate an environment that allows all of us to effectively convey God’s word to His people?


Equip Spiritual Educators with the Truth

The primary ingredient in any education system is the quality of the people tasked to deliver the education – the educators. Since these spiritual educators work for a spiritual education system, the spiritual qualities of educators are paramount.

To accomplish the mammoth task of imparting God's word accurately and faithfully, all who teach must be adequately equipped with the truth. They need to search the word of God with a prayerful heart, and have a strong and constant desire to pursue deeper knowledge of God's word. His word, His guidance and His abidance with us are inextricably linked. The deeper our relationship with God, the more we want to study His word and, therefore, the closer we shall draw to Him. When we are close to God, His guidance and help in our ministry will be a natural consequence.

God's guidance is critical for RE work. We must first teach and save ourselves before doing the same for others. Having been freed from sin and given the capacity to teach, we must use God’s word to explain how we should live a victorious life in the face of corruption and deception. Saving others and ourselves will only be a reality if, and only if, we hold on to the pattern of the truth. This pattern has been given to the church by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Tim 1:13–14) and it forms the foundation of our faith. If we were to shift or change the foundation of the church, its entire faith would collapse, much like a building falling on itself in a demolition. Therefore, it is essential that teachers be trained and rooted in the sound pattern of God's word. This ensures that the core precepts of our faith are conveyed from one generation to the next. The foundation of the church will hence be intact.

Encourage Spiritual Educators to Live What They Teach

“Actions speak louder than words”—this adage is critical for effective RE. RE is not just about words. It is about imparting the life of Christ to students. God’s principles are concretely demonstrated when teachers lead a life worthy of Christ. Those who teach God's principles must be models for the church, particularly for the young, by living a God-fearing life.

Understanding God's teachings and putting them into practice is not always easy; for some, it can be abstract. However, walking in God’s principles is well worth the effort. Not only are we securing our own salvation, our effort to translate God's word into action will help members, both young and old, understand how to live out a godly life. Our conduct often has more impact on believers than mere words.

A great challenge for spiritual educators is the perversity of the secular environment that we have to continue to live in. There are RE teachers who try to separate their lives into two parts—“private” and “religious”—and try to keep one away from the other. They argue that private space and behavior are rights that ought not to be infringed upon. For example, they feel that they are entitled to behave like their non-Christian friends when they are not within the confines of the church. However, if we have received a solid RE and are rooted in the faith, we will always remain godly in every aspect of life regardless of whom we spend time with. This means being mindful of God's principles above all else in speech, conduct, and thoughts, no matter where we are: at home or away, in or outside church.

Those who impart God’s word have to be beacons of light in this dark world. We can shine if Christ is abiding in our lives. As we live and walk in God’s word, the Word shines forth in our lives. This is how it works. By nature, no man can do good in God's eyes—human nature requires constant transformation (cf. Rom 12:2). However, when we put on the nature of God (Col 3:10), doing good will become part and parcel of our inner selves (cf. Eph 2:10). Such ability to naturally do good will be a shining example to all.

Return to Where God Wants Us to Be

Jesus once said that He would give His disciples the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, to have power over the enemy and to be unharmed by them (Lk 10:19). This is a very reassuring promise from the Lord, but the reality is quite different. Many of our children (and adults) have been taken captive by the power of the wicked one. Some of them, very unfortunately, have adopted non-Christian attitudes and behave very much like unbelievers. They live lives completely separate from the life of Christ.

One reason for such a drastic departure from the faith is Satan's influence on Christian families today. Satan's strategies are cunning, subtle and sophisticated. Such strategies are very difficult to identify without spiritual insight from God. The scripture warns us not to draw near to places which are spiritual booby traps. However, such has society become today that we need not even step outside our homes to be gravely attacked or influenced. The introduction of home entertainment has intensified the spiritual onslaught against God’s children. Films and television serial dramas may appear to be harmless entertainment but the values and conduct these espouse is a subtle injection of venom into our spiritual lives. They numb our sensitivity to sin and increase our thirst for the world’s pleasures; unchecked, these lead to spiritual feebleness and even death.

Falling away from His grace is not just something that has happened occasionally to one or two families. It is an unprecedented problem and its scale is unimaginable. We sometimes experience our spiritual strength being drained away by the things of the world, slipping into lethargies from which we can no longer easily recover. The resulting effect is a rapid decline in faith and zeal to serve and worship God—a critical sign of complete spiritual bankruptcy that must not be ignored.

In Revelation, the woman, who is the church, was given two wings of an eagle to fly back to the wilderness, to her place, where she is nourished (Rev 12:14). Satan's corrupting influence on believers has led the church to wander away from where God first took her: the wilderness—a place where she is nourished. In other words, the church has shifted away from where she is supposed to be. If the church does not return to where she was before, she will be swept away by the fearsome flood generated by the dragon (Rev 12:15).

How Can the Church Return?

According to Elder John, the two wings given to the woman (the church) allowed her to fly back to her proper place. In the book of Exodus, God likened His salvation for His people to an eagle with great wings bringing them back to Himself (Ex 19:4). Similarly, the church today can only return through God's great mercy and power.

However, the world has a strong grip on our believers and the Ancient Foe will not give up this grip easily. While God offers these wings, we must respond by taking up these wings to fly with great determination. Moses tells us specifically what returning entails: the chosen must assemble to listen to the word of God and obediently keep the Lord's commandments all the days of their lives (Deut 6:2–3). This will enable them to draw distinct boundaries against corruption and allow them to keep themselves in the Lord.

There are four main points in this Mosaic instruction that the chosen must inscribe on their hearts and minds:

1.      The Lord is the only true God (Deut 6:4)—there must be no other gods, visible or invisible, besides the Lord God. The presence of God will not abide with a believer if foreign gods are found in his/her midst (Ps 81:9).

2.      Love the Lord wholeheartedly (Deut 6:5)—the chosen people are required to love the Lord with their whole being. God, being a jealous God, will not tolerate anything less than complete loyalty and faithfulness (Ex 20:5; Deut 4:24).

3.      Keep God's commands in your heart (Deut 6:6)—the chosen are to follow the Lord's commands. In order to love the Lord fully, we must not stray from the prescribed path. God abides with us when we apply His word fully and consistently in our lives (Jn 15:7).

4.      Teach the chosen people completely (Deut 6:7–8)—the chosen are required to listen to and to know every aspect of God's word. Only by knowing and understanding His commands can they go on to carefully keep these (11:8–9; 12:1; 13:18). When we strive to know and keep His teachings, God’s promised blessings follow (11:27).


Many of us who have served as educators would be familiar with the phenomenon of the sudden decline in faith, e.g., the exemplary youth who suddenly stops coming to church or the student who has attended every RE class, bible camp, and student spiritual convocation but falls to temptation in young adulthood. The Lord reminds us that even one lost sheep is a loss too many (cf. Lk 15:1–7). Therefore, the church (ministers, RE teachers, and parents) should always be alert to signs of disengagement by our students, e.g., loss of interest in church activities, increasing skepticism about the church’s beliefs and so on. In addition, the church must also look at what areas of modern life are particularly harmful to our sheep.

There are perhaps two aspects that tend to be overlooked because of its apparent innocuousness. The first is the pervasive smartphone. From being an instrument that merely allowed us to be contacted easily, this tiny device now occupies virtually every facet of our life. We wake up to its alarm in the morning; it reminds us of our appointments; ensures that we can contact and be contacted 24/7; and provides updates on the world and entertainment on demand. For some, the world seems to just function within the cyber-world of their handsets, rendering them oblivious to the physical world. One of the factors contributing to this is the dominance of social media in the lives of youths in general.

The second is relaxation, which includes holidaying in different places and watching movies. For many of us, these are ways to find some relief from the stresses and worries of our busy lives. But like many things, done excessively, these forms of relaxation may absorb so much of our time and focus that they distract us from our faith. Worse still, the activities we pursue while on holiday, as well as the values and behavior we absorb from movies, may well make us unable to discern between the secular and divine.

Provide Guidelines

To help create an environment where God’s word is readily available for her believers (cf. Deut 6:8), the church (ministers, RE teachers, and local church board members) may want to consider establishing a set of practical guidelines that will help our students avoid an addiction to their smartphones and the pursuit of relaxation. Some guiding questions to help us arrive at these guidelines are:

Prudent Use of Handsets

         Is your devotional time to God or are prayer sessions regularly disrupted by mobile notifications?

         Has your or your children’s use of handsets at night time affected your family’s ability to have family altar time?

         Are we using our handsets to access inappropriate websites?

Appropriate Use of Social Media

         Is our behavior on social media reflective of our status as Christians?

         Do we indulge in irrelevant and irreverent chatting rather than use our social media accounts to encourage others, post edifying stories, and invite our friends to church?

         Are we spending so much time on social media platforms that we have little time left over to deepen our relationship with God and serve Him more?

         Are the comments and posts we share and “like” on social media harmful to the church’s image and/or our spiritual lives?

Relaxing the Right Way

         Don't be drained by activities: Has sightseeing become even more stressful than a normal work day or a day at home?

         Visit True Jesus Churches appropriately: When we visit places where there are True Jesus Churches, do we become a burden or inconvenience to believers or the church when we visit?

         Stay godly: Do we regard holidays as a license to indulge in lusts or sinful activities? Do we still make it a point to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy as one would do at home, e.g., seek a church in your holidaying area or keep the Sabbath with family members or church brethren? Do we realize that our attitudes to holidays will influence the young people watching us? Has our behavior inadvertently caused them to fall instead?

Emphasize Prayer Continually

To ensure that we have the strength and wisdom to meet new challenges that the world throws at us, prayer is of utmost importance. Besides encouraging members to lead a prayerful life, the church should create more opportunities for members to pray, e.g., having fifteen-minute prayers before and after service or prayers between services on the Sabbath. When the connection between ourselves and God is secure, fostered by learning God's word and constant prayer, the church will surely stand strong in the face of any challenge.


Imparting God's word fully and accurately is integral to a successful RE system. But beyond this, it is just as critical for us to help our students walk in God’s word. This will grow increasingly challenging as we become more and more connected to the world through technology. Therefore, the church must implement guidelines and share them in sermons and in RE classes. This way, parents will be able to inculcate God-fearing behaviors in their children, and both adults and young people will be edified. Adults must first set a good example by living disciplined lives at home, and this will, in turn, encourage young people to follow in these good footsteps. This healthy combination of RE education and reliance on God's mercy and power will surely build up a strong and God-fearing church.