What do you see in the photo above?
I have shown this image to many groups around the world, and I have asked the same question: What is it? What is the truth about this? What are you looking at?
The most common answers I receive are: "the rings of Saturn," "a tire," or "a coffee cup."
The object in the photo is something familiar. In fact, some of you may see it every day. But in all the years of doing this exercise, I have never had anyone correctly identify the image.
Why? Because there is not enough of the whole to make proper sense of the part. I have whited out most of the photo. There is not enough of the complete picture to decipher the portion. To put it another way, there is not enough of the context to bring true meaning to the piece.
This illustrates the power and import of contextualization. That is, putting "pieces" into the context of a "larger whole" that will bring more meaning to the pieces then the pieces can have by themselves. Great teachers don't find meaning in the topics they teach. They bring meaning to them.
In the case of school teachers, a "piece" can be a piece of history, a piece of science, a piece of literature, a piece of athletics, or a piece of music. Christian teachers are in the unique position to help students put these "pieces" into the context of a much larger, significant whole. One that is real, purposeful and powerful: the biblical world-and-life view.
When this is done by skillful teachers in a classroom, biblical contextualization brings far greater meaning to academic "pieces" than the "pieces" can possibly have by themselves. This is what authentic Christian education is about.
Contextualization is a vital skill for followers of Christ in the workplace, too. A "piece" can be a piece of carpentry, from a whole house, to a small cabinet. A piece of business can be a contract, or a return policy. A piece of civil service can be a legislative bill, or a way to handle public input.
How can we put the "pieces" of our jobs into the context of a larger, significant whole that will bring greater meaning to our work than paying the rent?
To find out the true meaning of the image at the top of the page, you may view it in context here.
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Take the on-line course "Increase Meaning: A Wholistic Approach To Christian Education."