Transformational Education: a byproduct of personal transformation

Yawning, laughter, and sickness are all contagious. In a similar way, people who are in transformation themselves become agents of transformation. Ask yourself this: Who in your life has inspired you to become a better person?

Change is God’s ultimate goal for each of us. We are to become like Christ for the sake of others. In the classroom, the Messenger often becomes the Message. You probably don’t remember all the grammar rules your middle school English teacher taught you, but you do remember her kindness and passion. Change is most often attached to a relationship. Since students spend so much time with their teachers, this relationship has huge potential as a change agent. Teachers who are themselves being transformed are natural and effective agents of transformation.

But what does that change look like in practical terms for the Christian teacher? The late Christian philosopher and author, Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart[1] expresses the idea that every aspect of our being as humans must be touched by this transformation. As Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Let’s consider together at what this new creation looks like.

Our minds must be renewed (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 10:5). Our brains need an “operating system update” to a biblical worldview. They have the world’s system of thinking as a default setting. Old governing ideas – strongholds that keep us in worldly patterns of behavior and draw us away from God – must be torn down and replaced. Our thinking must be converted by God’s Word, not just our soul.

In addition, we must learn to govern our feelings (or they will rule us). Feelings make great servants, but disastrous masters. Maturity means having consistent character and actions despite our circumstances. When a feeling or desire is given a place of ultimate authority in our lives, we become addicted. This is an all-to-common way of life in today’s culture. Someone has said that self-control is the slowest fruit of the Spirit to ripen. That may be, but it doesn’t let us off the hook.

Our minds and emotions are not the only aspects of our humanity that need an overhaul. Our wills also need to be surrendered to God, so that we desire what God wants and not our own selfish ways. The spiritual disciplines shape our wills and keep them fit. These, along with regular confession and worship, keep our wills rightly aligned with God.

Society draws a lot of attention to our physical appearance. So, our bodies are to be presented to God as another facet of our ongoing transformation. This is a “living sacrifice” we make to God. We must avoid the two common extremes of worshiping or hating our bodies. Instead we must ask the Spirit to help us see ourselves through His eyes.

True change, however, goes beyond ourselves. Our relationships too, must change to become focused on God and others (Romans 12:9-21) – loving, interdependent, just, and with integrity. Students and neighbors may be open to our verbal message because the way we relate to others is surprising and attractive. Jesus’ words to His disciples are still true – “We will be known by our love.”

Finally, our souls are to be restored and find satisfaction in God alone (Psalm 62). Idols that promise fulfillment, but cannot deliver, are identified and torn down. We find meaning and joy in God alone. As believers, we should have both a freedom and depth about us. We are not mastered by our circumstances or dominated by our selfish desires. Wounds are being healed through Christ’s loving presence, truth, and the support and help of others.

Personal transformation is a life-long pursuit, but the good news is that God can use us as agents of transformation even while we’re in process. We don’t have to be perfect to be used by God, but God’s good work should be evident in our lives. When I asked you who inspired you to be a better person, I bet a teacher made that list. As a teacher, you are now in a unique role to be used by God to transform others.

Mark Giebink, M.Div. 
Member Care Director
TeachBeyond Global

[1] Willard, Dallas.  Renovation of the Heart. NavPress, 2002.

Photo CreditsBinza, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo by Kay on UnsplashDesert Bloom. B. Hunsberger, 2012. Body imageGemmaFinch93 Flickr via Compfight cc.

Mark Giebink, M Div., has been in the transformation process spiritually for over four decades. He’s been hanging around the Church and ministry his whole life, and currently serves as Global Member Care Director for TeachBeyond. Mark lives in sunny Arizona (USA with his wife of over 30 years. He has three pretty much grown children, one adorable grandson, two dogs, and a Sulcata tortoise.