Two Approaches to Christian Education:
There are different approaches to Christian education that will change the answer to the question of the difference between Christian education and Spiritual formation. One approach, which is commonly seen in Bible colleges today, is that Christian education is about teaching information. Another approach, however, is that Christian education is about changing the individual and helping them in their relationship with Christ.
1. Christian Education = Information
Christian education, as viewed by some Bible colleges, focuses on training you how to be a pastor and teaching you information found in the Bible. If you’re learning information with your head, the same way you would study math or history for example, then you are just obtaining Bible knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Biblical knowledge is important information to know, but it may not always translate into a relationship with God.
2. Christian Education = Spiritual Formation
Spiritual formation is learning how to hear the voice of God and acting on it. It’s about character formation and developing your relationship with God. The information you learn penetrates your heart and encourages a close relationship with God. Practical life-changing practices are used to apply what you are learning to your spiritual life and lets God be the one who is primarily teaching and forming you. This allows you to continually grow in the Christian Faith.
Spiritual formation is the way we, at CLU, teach students. We want all our students to first and foremost know how to hear the voice of God, so our first course required for all students is titled Communion with God. If at the end of this 12 week course, you do not feel you are able to hear the voice of God, we will refund the cost of the course. We, of course, also teach the Biblical knowledge and practical training, a great deal of it, but all within the framework of your relationship with God and what He is telling you. The truth is that we include 8 courses in the Bible, where many Bible colleges only include 2.
So, which is better, Christian education or spiritual formation?
At Christian Leadership University, we think they are two sides of the same coin. Information for the sake of information isn’t always good; it can lead to a person’s reliance on their own will and reason. But that information, when provided within the context of spiritual formation is good and helps the student deepen their faith. The spiritual formation teaches the student to look to God, listen to His voice, and live out what they are learning how God is calling them to live it.