Jake Kounter loves seeing the gospel come alive in the lives of his students.
As the Bible teacher at Immanuel Christian High School in Virginia, Kounter works with students who respect the Christian faith, but he wants to ensure they’re enthralled by it, too.
“Your job as a Christian educator is not to make [Christianity] seem exciting; it’s just to show them how exciting it actually is,” Kounter told The Lion.
He also wants to help his students view culture through a biblical lens, which is especially important for youth so influenced by social media today.
Enter The Culture Translator, a podcast produced by another group, which Kounter uses to introduce controversial and culturally relevant topics to his students to debate.
“[I] put the ball in the kids’ courts and say, ‘Here’s the question, but the rules are [that] you have to be able to back up what you’re saying using the Bible,’” he said. “It’s not just, ‘This is what I think,’ because what you think doesn’t really matter. What God thinks is what matters.”
And his students eat it up, debating topics ranging from corporeal punishment to Will Smith’s infamous Oscar slap.
Students aren’t the only ones who enjoy it.
“Parents oftentimes are happy with [the exercise],” Kounter said, “because they can ask their kids, ‘What’d you talk about in culture translator today?’ and get a recap. It offers a bridge between a lot of other discussions that they wouldn’t ordinarily be having.”
His passion and innovative methods are a few of the reasons Kounter is one of 12 educators nationwide to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion.
Working in the Christian community, Kounter says he sees many parents worry about their children being beguiled by the current radical culture.
“There’s a tendency for parents to say, ‘My kids are either going to become trans or they are going to be missionaries,’” he told The Lion. “And what’s often the case is most kids land somewhere in the middle.”
For youth who are apathetic toward religion, the danger isn’t that they’ll become radical activists. The real danger is that they will live their wholes lives without ever encountering Christ.
“Satan doesn’t have to get your kid to change their pronouns. There are millions of false avenues. He just needs to get you interested in anything – anything else than Jesus,” Kounter explained.
“You can be straight-edged, Fortune 500 company CEO, and you respect Jesus, but you’re mostly interested in making money and moving to Hawaii someday,” he explained. “Satan’s just as happy with that as he is with the person that’s like, ‘I’m changing my gender.’ It doesn’t make a difference to him.”
Kounter recalled what it was like coming to Jesus in his early adulthood and said he draws from his personal experience to share the universal truths of the gospel with his students.
“The way you solve [students’ apathy] is [to] explain to them the way the story really goes,” he explained. “You actually have a purpose now. You have a real purpose, there’s a real adventure that you’re called to.”
“And they won’t all accept,” he warns. “They won’t all believe. But [that’s] not really your job as a teacher. That’s the Lord’s responsibility and you don’t know what he’ll do in the future. It’s in his hands.”
Teaching is a God-given gift, Kounter believes, and he’s glad he gets to use it at a Christian school.
“Every school has a foundation. Every school has something that they’re ultimately working toward even if it’s not expressly stated. That’s the best thing about Christian education,” he told The Lion. “The assumption underlying every single class at the school [is] ‘We are doing this to the glory of God.’
“Thats what you get to do at a Christian school,” Kounter concluded. “There’s not really anything more exciting to do.”
The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will receive a monetary gift and a trip to Washington, D.C. in September to attend a special awards gala.