Giving the Gift of Time in Education and Training

Two weeks ago, I stood next to a man who shaped my early life in Christ. I met Ed Barr when I was around twenty-one. I had been a Christian a short time and asked Ed, a lawyer, husband and father, to “disciple” me. I was the first believer in my family and had little notion of anything Christian.

Kindly, Ed agreed to my request and gave me an hour or two per week for a couple of years. I had met Ed in his law office, and then, weather permitting, we would go for a walk near a local park and lake. I don’t remember any specific Bible texts being used—although there were many—for Ed’s thinking was clearly immersed in Christian doctrine. Rather, in classical Socratic tradition, Ed would ask me questions about life and God. He often invited me into questions he was wrestling with and encouraged my response. I am so grateful to Ed Barr. He taught me to think “Christianly” and set me on a life-path of formal and informal learning, which sustains me to this day. Ed and a select few other men and women are my models for learning.

This issue of Lausanne World Pulse is devoted to the concept of education and training. I look forward to this dialogue with brothers and sisters from around the world. Cultural traditions and distinctives should inform us with fresh ideas and notions. From my office at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in the USA, I can see hundreds of students coming and going from our building. We do “formal” education and discipleship at Wheaton College. We offer degree programs in the liberal arts at the undergraduate level, and in several ministry areas at the graduate level. Our professors are gifted and godly men and women.

On the long walks and over the occasional coffee or tea, the real business of life and learning is discussed.

To them and other professors and teachers throughout the world, I offer this encouragement and admonition. Make time to go on long walks with students. Spend time over tea or coffee. Enjoy meals together. We (professors) have much to give outside the classroom and beyond the scope of our formal class curriculum.

This admonition is difficult for full-time teachers who carry immense teaching and research responsibilities. It is difficult to make time to simply spend casual minutes and hours with students. It is equally hard for busy pastors and mission professionals. Yet we must. For it is my opinion, that on the long walks and over the occasional coffee or tea, the real business of life and learning is discussed.

One of the best books I ever read is The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert Coleman. I have read it at least three times. However, it is not so much about evangelism, as it is about mentoring. Jesus gave large amounts of time to a few followers. But the result was that the few would reach the many. Since then, I am prone to say, “Jesus reached the few who reached the many.” Time is the greatest gift we give to those we seek to educate, train and disciple.

Dr. Lon Allison is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He also serves as director for the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at Wheaton College. He is co-publisher of Lausanne World Pulse.