In my work as a college professor I’ve taught a number of courses online, and I’ve designed a few online courses as well. I like the experience.
Because my university has encouraged my professional development in the field, I recently joined several colleagues at a conference addressing online coursework. Just the other day I received a newsletter from the sponsoring organization, and the lead article caught my attention. It’s about characteristics of leaders in rapidly changing fields, of which online education is certainly one.
I was struck by the fact that these characteristics are solidly grounded in biblical principles, even though a great many researchers in the field—most likely a great majority of them—have no commitment whatsoever to the Bible as authoritative.
Here’s the list, with my comments embedded in italics:
- Taking radical responsibility. You take full responsibility for your life and help others do the same.
This concept is a direct consequence of the image of God in man, which includes dominion. The Bible reminds us that we will be held personally accountable for our exercise of that dominion. Jesus identifies the second great commandment as loving our neighbor as ourselves.
- Learning through curiosity. You view every opportunity, whether positive or negative, as a time to learn about yourself and others.
Through general revelation we learn about God by observing the entire cosmos and all that it contains, as well as current and past events and developments, or providence.
- Feeling all feelings. You commit to experiencing your feelings through to completion.
Our personhood in the image of God includes our emotional makeup. Although our emotions are tainted by sin and thus are not authoritative or reliable, they still reflect God’s image in a limited way and thus are worthy objects of study.
- Speaking candidly. You commit to speaking the truth and allowing others to do the same.
As God is truth, we are to speak and hear the truth.
- Eliminating gossip. You commit to ending gossip, as an active and passive participant.
We just talked about that, didn’t we?
- Practicing integrity. Your personal integrity enables you to meet your commitments and take responsibility for your actions.
Of course. Living a lie, or hypocrisy, the Scripture roundly condemns, as it violates the character of God.
- Generating appreciation. You live in a space of appreciation, able to express it and also receive it.
Thankfulness is a key element of proper worship, as demonstrated in the Psalms and often elsewhere. As God receives our thanks, so we should imitate him by receiving the thanks of others.
- Excelling in your zone of genius. You live in your full magnificence and empower others to as well.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and believers are gifted and empowered for service. God has providentially placed us where we can glorify him by accomplishing his will. Despite the fact that this point likely springs from a humanistic mindset, it is still grounded on biblical truth.
- Living a life of play and rest. You have a life of play, rest, and enjoyment.
As Ecclesiastes notes.
- Exploring the opposite. You recognize that your story is simply your story and is as right as the stories of others.
Nope. Not this one. Truth is not relative, and our perceptions are not in fact reality in all cases. There is absolute truth, which springs from outside of us, and we are successful only as we recognize and orient ourselves toward it.
- Sourcing approval, control, and security. You know you are the source of the three most basic human needs of approval, control, and security.
Not the primary source, of course. But humans are designed to help and provide for one another, under the guiding hand of their Creator.
- Having enough of everything. You are content with what you have.
That’s pretty much a direct quotation of Heb 13.5.
- Experiencing the world as an ally. You believe that everyone around you is here to help you learn and grow.
Within the church that is certainly true.
- Creating win for all solutions. You spend the time creating a “win” for everyone involved.
In the providence of God for his people, that is exactly the outcome (Gen 50.20).
- Being the resolution. You see problems as an invitation for you to create a solution.
Again, in the providence of God, certainly.
The Scripture is clear that all humans are in the image of God (Gen 1.26-27) and that the image persists even in fallen humans (Gen 9.6; Jam 3.9). Everyone has God’s Word written on his heart (Rom 2.15). I think this has at least 2 consequences:
- It demonstrates the power of God’s image, in that it shines through regardless of the fall, even in people who may well reject the biblical God and his Word altogether.
- It can strengthen our outreach by providing common ground for conversations about the basis for agreed truths.
The opportunities are endless.
Photo by madeleine ragsdale on Unsplash