A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about how we’ve become better critical thinkers – in our years since college – and about how we apply that to some of the spiritual conversations or messages we hear.
It’s a scary truth: Christian college students probably do a lot of “lapping up” of what you (and other Christian leaders) teach. It’s not completely their fault: They don’t have the “wisdom of years,” and many have come out of homes, churches, and youth groups that didn’t push critical evaluation as a priority. (How many teachers encourage their audience to “take me with a grain of salt”?)
But my encouragement today, as we start a new year, isn’t about training our students in discernment (though of course that would be great). My encouragement today is to make sure our own teaching isn’t going to fool or confuse students who – naturally – aren’t as skilled in discernment as they will be in 20 years. We’ve got to make sure our teaching is thoughtful, wise, and true… and it’s incredibly easy for our words to be hasty, unthoughtful, and zealous-without-the-requisite-wisdom.
In other words, be extremely careful and thoughtful about what you teach – even in your examples, your illustrations, and your “asides.”
It’s tempting to utter platitudes… when principles are all that’s called for.
It’s easy to treat extremely wise guidelines… as outright rules.
It’s common to hear Bible verses used a little bit wrongly, stereotypes given a little too much credence, and the personal experience (or personal soapboxes) of the leader given a little too much weight.
Want to help your students walk forward in wisdom? Prayerfully scrub as many “near truths” and (untrue) platitudes from your teaching as you can this year. (And while you’re at it, teach them discernment, too.)