Christian Education and the Diversity in Heaven

Christian Education and the Diversity in Heaven
A Biblical Unity Perspective by Steven J. McGriff, Ph.D., Director of Biblical Unity, Valley Christian Schools

Author's Note: I am writing this perspective at the end of a five-day tour of a few critical South Civil Rights sites with the VCHS Juniors, January 2 - 7, 2022. The thoughts flow from the experience of learning more about the profound impact of slavery, systemic racism, segregation, and oppression throughout the history of the United States and continuing into our present-day society.

As an eighteen-year-old at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in a published essay: 

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."

At an early age, Dr. King understood the power of education to transform the mind and the character of a student, which is also manifested in the Valley Christian Schools' Philosophy of Christian Education. Changing minds and building character were the purposes of touring the civil rights sites of the South in January 2022 with sixty-five junior year students. During the tour of museums and sites in Memphis, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Atlanta, the VCHS group did a deep dive into critically thinking about the history of the United States from the perspective of the struggle of African Americans for civil rights.

However, educational outcomes that include intensive and critical thinking do not simply happen. It requires thoughtful planning—educators who plan instruction start with the end in mind. The "end" is the goal or outcome of any human endeavor, whether product development, business negotiations, or education design.

Visionaries who imagine the outcomes of education have a more significant challenge. To achieve the end goal, they must plan and design interactions with different systems, practices, and policies. Christian education systems also have an added purpose, an eternal goal to accomplish God's design for the school stakeholders: the students, families, and the general school community.

The tour of the civil rights sites reminds us to think critically about the diversity of the human race. God makes people in many diverse ways; therefore, Christian education has the call from God to take civil rights and social justice to the highest level of God's righteousness. One goal for Christian education (and churches) is to model the same diversity of people that God is planning for in Heaven. Revelation 7:9 reveals this end goal in the Apostle John's words; "After this, I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." Later in Revelation 19:6-9, John says the Lord invites the multitude to come to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and they shout in reply, "Hallelujah!" 

God's end goal is Heaven filled with a diverse population of believers. John reveals God's vision for Heaven includes everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And this means ALL of God's people, regardless of differences in economic status, social position, racial identity, gender, and any other difference. What are we doing on earth to achieve God's vision for Heaven?

During the Valley Christian tour through the deep South, we walked through civil rights sites and social justice museums. For all of us, the recorded history and horrifying outcomes of racial discrimination in the United States came to life vividly. As students and educators, we applied critical thinking and became more intelligent about slavery, human trafficking, racism, and civil rights. Hopefully, our characters have also become more empathetic about injustice in our society. We also experienced the people of the South and their southern hospitality, like good food, genuine charm, and polite mannerisms. Characteristics starkly juxtaposed against the historical backdrop of oppression, slavery, and segregation in the South created a bittersweet revelation for the students and chaperones. 

While complex and very emotional to absorb at times, the experiences were worthwhile. A majority of students replied to a mid-trip survey that their number one goal on tour was to "learn through experience, not just in the classroom." Indeed! The chaperones had frequent impromptu conversations about the experience that spurred us to create "true education" for our students that reveals God's truth about U.S. history and hope for our future. 

The call for action in the VCS community is to think of varied ways to create true education that fulfills God's vision for the inclusion of diverse people in our present-day community as it will be in Heaven. 

Consider these actions:

  1. Reflect, pray, ponder, and wonder with God how you might make a difference in your own community.
  2. On Instagram, follow @vchsalumni "Junior Trip" for student reflections and trip updates.
  3. Read about the civil rights movement, racism, and social justice at list.
  4. Visit the civil rights tour sites online