Sunday Night Live Sermons
GROWING THE INTELLECT
Megatrends That Have Guided Us
The Bible calls us to educate children in God’s ways. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” Deuteronomy 6:6–7 Parents usually entrust their children to the Government school system, partly because they hope teachers will have an influence for good in the school and partly because the parents believe that God’s existence is immaterial to maths, sciences, language, history and the arts. But if God is Lord of every area of life, then education should reflect His Lordship.
State schools are expected to do everything with their students. Yet many pupils are not supported or motivated by their homes, many are socially dysfunctional and do not want what the schools offer. Teachers are expected to prepare students for University or employment, enabling both brighter and slower students to excel at respective levels, inculcate the “right” values, teach proper sexual behaviour, teach students to think critically, raise the self-esteem of students, discipline children, prevent them from turning to drugs, alcohol, or suicide, teach a wide-ranging curriculum, create racial, sexual, and gender understanding and harmony, win at sports, and do all of these things in a manner that is pleasing to the students so they will not be bored. In spite of these messianic expectations, public schools are not sure what they are supposed to be doing. There are so many bugle commands; they do not know which way to charge. There is no clear philosophy or direction as in many private schools.
In an age of cultural rootlessness, moral relativism, religious pluralism, social disintegration, and future uncertainty, how can we expect anything other than educational chaos? Unstable times call for a return to basic cultural and theological norms. But today we live in a multi-racial society where even most Christians see the Bible either as a book to be studied in a separate subject such as religion, or as a devotional book. But in fact Christians must develop a worldview that applies biblical concepts to every area of life. Otherwise the secular, compulsory and egalitarian education system of today debases the value of the education.
Wesley Mission encourages analytical management of knowledge among children, youth and adults. We have Christian education among children attending our worship services, among the thousands who attend our camps, among young adults and adults in our home study groups our Institute and Schools. Our two Schools for Seniors have 1500 adults enrolled in our city and Central Coast campuses. People over the age of fifty years attend a unique school in Wesley Centre where they can develop mind, body and soul in over 120 courses five days a week, plus a Summer School. We offer a range of classes in languages such as English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Cantonese, Japanese, Mandarin, Linguistics. In Arts, painting in Oils and Watercolours, Acrylics, Cartooning. In Dance, Line, Tap, Ballroom, English folk, Polynesian and more. Other subjects include Piano, music appreciation, Science, Philosophy, choral and computer courses which are constantly booked out.
Our second area of adult education is in training in Ministry and the Arts. In 1889 three young men started in our Evangelists Institute. Over the next eighty years over half the ministers in the Methodist Church in NSW were trained by Wesley Mission. In 1972, we changed names under Rev Fred Nile, and it became the Jesus Institute, dedicated to training young people in radical forms of street evangelism. When the flower generation wilted, it evolved into the International Christian Leadership College with students from a dozen Pacific and Asian countries. Following an approach by Dr David Johnson in 1988, his fledging college was accepted by Wesley Mission as Wesley Institute. I made it a condition that we join the Sydney College of Divinity as I wanted to offer a fully accredited Bachelor of Theology.
By 2000 Wesley Institute commenced offering studies in the Master of Theology and Bachelor of Theology (Hons). We then expanded our academic profile with the addition of several new postgraduate courses, and our first doctorates, the SCD Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Theology. In 2002 Wesley Institute offered the nation’s first Bachelor of Theology in the Korean Language. We gained Government recognition of our Bachelor degrees in dance, music, drama, graphic design and Advanced Diplomas, Diplomas in Ministry and the Creative Arts and the Graduate Diploma in Christian Counselling and then our Master of Arts in Christian Counselling. Then we were accredited in our Graduate Diplomas of Education for primary and secondary teaching, and a Studies Abroad program for American students, with one hundred attending.
All other institutions look very old fashioned and locked into a nineteenth century paradigm. We have 420 students and 120 staff attending our Drummoyne campus for ministry and the Arts.
Our third area of adult education is Wesley Vocational Institute which provides accredited vocational education and training programs in career development including in Information Technology by online learning. As an Approved Training Provider for the Department of Education and Training we fulfilled several contracts to deliver funded training programs across NSW. Some 3,785 attended last year our training centres at Circular Quay, Sydney, and Wollongong.
Our fourth area of education is The Young Performers Academy. We teach children and young people in the performing arts. The Academy brings together the different elements of music, dance and drama in a unique mix prior to them coming to Wesley Institute. This year we have a new Master of Music degree and Master of Arts in Urban Mission. We have an amazing qualified faculty who between them have earned 37 PhD.’s as well as many other doctorates in psychology, education, theology, music and other disciplines. No other educational institution in the Uniting Church has such a large and a qualified faculty. Ministerial training is changing and with our emphasis in training ministers in the same institution as trains people in drama, radio and television presentation, dance, the visual arts, counselling and psychology. We are on the cutting edge of education in the nation. We do it internationally and interdenominationally.
Wesley Institute seeks to achieve and maintain high standards in teaching, scholarship and research in the study of the Scriptures and the history of the people of God, and the study of human culture as the various ways in which people have tried to understand and control their social environment, to define their position within it, and to give structure and meaning to their existence. Students are encouraged to develop a critical awareness of society so that they may become active and innovative participants in the process of social and cultural change. The Institute’s integrative approach to studies in the arts and the Christian faith encourages students to develop a holistic Christian perspective on social and cultural issues. Academic excellence and evangelical Christian faith and practice are twin ingredients of the Institute’s mission. Wesley Institute continues to equip men and women for Christian service in contemporary society. Communication is seen as a key to effective ministry. The Institute’s courses offer training in the visual and applied arts as well as in counselling, pastoral care, youth ministry and theology.
Wesley Institute is specifically committed to encouraging, educating and equipping those seeking to be involved in ministry within the church and community. We provide an integrated program of creative arts and ministry training which will enable students to be effective communicators of God’s love and purpose for living.
We provide an environment where faculty, staff and students are able to pursue their commitment to God. Christian education prepares students to understand and deal intelligently with modern life. Christian faith is not an additional subject you take, it is the foundational world view by which everything else is understood and interpreted. Christian education is not a matter of starting a class with a few Bible verses and a prayer and then teaching from secular textbooks. Christian education is teaching everything: science, mathematics, art, literature, physics, dance, — everything — from an integrated Christian viewpoint. It means taking academic discipline into God’s Word while critiquing non-Biblical assumptions.
During this week we have celebrated Reformation Day and the anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 thesis on the door at Wittenberg Cathedral. Those hammer blows not only signalled the great theological doctrines of grace, of justification by faith, of the priesthood of all believers and the development of every Protestant and Anglican Church, but it placed the expectation that every believer would read the scriptures for himself or herself, and interpret it by the light of his or her own conscience. This was a huge step forward in Christian education. As William Tyndale said of his translation of the Bible into early English, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives the plough to know more of the scriptures than any learned priest.”
John Wesley expected every Christian to belong to a home study group, to learn to read the Bible and be able to expound it. As a result the early Methodist farm hands, labourers, miners and farmers, became literate, Biblical and able to judge life from a Christian world view. The Apostle Peter gave us an insight on how the whole of life is permeated by our Christian faith. 2 Peter 1:5–8 “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As I said at our most recent graduation Service, “Your graduation from Wesley Institute should be the mark, not merely of competence in your chosen field, but of Christian character, effective and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Nothing is more important in a secular humanist society than to hold to a consistent world view that has stood the test of time. The Christian world view starts with a commitment in faith to the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He has accomplished for you upon the Cross. We invite you to commit your life, your intellect, your character, your beliefs and your future into the hands of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Rev. Dr. The Hon. Gordon Moyes A.C., M.L.C.