The Threefold Purpose of Lutheran Education

With so many challenges facing Lutheran fathers and mothers, pastors and teachers, and our parish schools in these days, it is essential that we keep our bearings and retain our focus on the fundamental goals and purposes of Lutheran education. Whether it be our homeschools, our parochial schools, association schools, Lutheran high schools, or the church’s universities, we dare not lose sight of what we are about, what we are aiming to do and accomplish, and why. How we go about serving those purposes and reaching those goals will certainly vary to some extent from place and to place, depending on a host of circumstances, but the solid intentions of a Lutheran education remain steady and consistent and ought to undergird all of our practice.

First and foremost, a Lutheran education works to catechize students with the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel, unto repentance, faith, and life in Christ Jesus. We understand that it is only by the Word and Spirit of God – by the Holy Spirit working through the preaching and teaching of the Word – that anyone believes in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or comes to Him. That is how we are brought to faith in Christ in the first place, and that is how we are kept with Jesus Christ in the one true faith throughout our life on earth, even unto death. So, then, for the students who are already members of the Church, and for the students who come to us from outside of the Church, it is of utmost importance that they be catechized with the Word of God on a daily and ongoing basis: not only in “religion classes,” but throughout the day, and especially in being gathered together for the Word of God and prayer, for God’s Word and the preaching of it. The Christian faith is not an academic subject but a way of life, guided and governed by the Word of the Lord; and at ground level, a Lutheran education seeks to instill and sustain that life in every student.

Second, a Lutheran education acknowledges and savors the First Article gifts of God – His many and various gifts of daily bread – and thereby trains students to recognize, receive, and use those good gifts of creation with thanksgiving, in faith toward God and in fervent love for one another. This purpose of a Lutheran education is closely related to the first, because the things of creation, of this body and life on earth, are “made holy by the Word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). In teaching the Christian faith and life through daily and ongoing catechesis, we also teach and train the students under our care to recognize the gracious hand of God and His providential care in all those things that we confess in the First Article and pray for the in the Fourth Petition. Therefore, from mathematics to music, from literature to athletics, from history and science to the fine arts, we view all these things as gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Triune God. And, as Lutherans, we teach our students to receive these gifts in faith, to enjoy them as dearly-beloved children of God, and to make use of them to the glory of His Holy Name in accordance with His Holy Word.

Third, a Lutheran education equips students to live within their respective callings and stations, to love their neighbors with the many gifts and opportunities that God provides, and to prosper as lifelong learners. Because we live by faith and receive all things by grace from the Lord our God, for Christ Jesus’ sake, we recognize and confess that who and what we are – and all that we have – is a stewardship entrusted to us in love. We are created, redeemed, and sanctified, not to live in lonely isolation, but to live with God within the fellowship of His entire household and family. Both within the congregation of His Church and within the community where He has placed us, He calls us to glorify His Name by loving our neighbors, by praying and confessing His Word, and by using our talents and occupations to serve the needs of those around us. Accordingly, a Lutheran education aims to prepare students, not for the pursuit of worldly “glory, power, and wealth,” but for lifelong growth in knowledge, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord, and for the ready and willing exercise of charity, compassion, faithfulness, and generosity toward others.