The School of Christ

It is interesting how the meaning of words changes over the years. Take for instance the word disciple. In today’s culture we may think of a saffron-robed follower of a guru, or if we are antiquarians we may think of the earliest followers of Jesus. But the word “disciple” has a more basic significance. In its simplest form it means “learner” or “pupil.”  As Jesus commissioned the apostles, he said “As you go, make disciples (learners) of all the nations, by baptizing them…and by teaching them…” (Matthew 28:19-20) Later we see these same leaders carrying out this commission; “those who accepted his message were baptized, and… they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42)

Over the past few centuries the “ battle over baptism” has grown. There are all sorts of theories about the “true” significance of this ancient rite. Some believe it washes away the guilt of original sin, others that it is a public declaration of internal faith, still others that it becomes the church’s incorporation of new converts into its membership. It may have all of these meanings, but in its earliest days it carried one central meaning. Baptism was the act that officially enrolled a person into the School of Christ.  As the Dean of a college, I signed the application for admission of every student who was to be enrolled. I admit them as learners, but I give no guarantee that they will necessarily graduate. If they fail a required course, they will need to retake it until they do pass it. If they fail to learn they may fail to graduate.

So what are the implications of this for us? Discipleship is a commitment, not simply to belong, but to be a learning, growing person. We participate in the life of a small group, and in a congregation, and in our private “homework” moments, in order to become adept in Christian understanding, Christian lifestyle, and Christian service. Conversion to Christ is not the end of a journey; it is but the beginning of life-long learning and preparation for our God-given vocation.

The School of Christ

  • The primary textbook        The Scriptures of Old and New Testaments
  • Supplementary readings    Christian books, magazines, CD’s, DVD’s, etc.
  • Field Labs                             Ministry while we learn
  • The instructors                    Pastors, small group facilitators, etc.
  • Classrooms                           Plenary sessions in the sanctuary
  • Tutorials                               Small group projects & student interaction
  • Curriculum                           Courses in Christian theology, Christian ethics,
    and skill development for the Christian commission.

For further reading:

Robert Brow, Go Make Learners, (Wheaton, Harold Shaw Pub.1981.) This book can be read on line at

Published in Light and Life,  May-June, 2004

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