Have you heard the story of the three stonecutters?

A traveler came upon three individuals working with stone. Curious as to what these workers were doing, the traveler approached the first worker and asked, “What are you doing?” Without the slightest hesitation, the worker replied, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones.”

Still unclear of the workers’ task, the traveler approached the second worker and asked the same question. To this the second worker thought for a moment, gazed briefly at the traveler and explained, “I am a stone cutter and I am cutting stones to earn money to support my family.”

Perplexed by the two different responses, the sojourner approached the third worker and asked, “What are you doing?” Stopping for a moment, the worker stared at the stone in his hand, slowly turned to the traveler, and said, “I am a stone cutter and I am building a cathedral!”

(Author Unknown)

The First Student

If a visitor walked into a classroom and asked three students what they were doing, it’s not hard to imagine a student responding like the first stonecutter:

  • I’m a student and I’m solving for x.
  • I’m writing a paper…
  • I’m reading pages 118-120 and answering questions 1-4 on a worksheet…
  • I’m taking notes…

The first stonecutter isn’t wrong. His answer is matter-of-fact. It’s also nearsighted and uninspiring.

The Second Student

What might the second student say?

  • I’m trying to get good grades so I can get into college so I can earn a living…

This student sees that there are some pragmatic, long-term benefits to having an education. That’s good and it has motivated many students. But is that all Christian education is good for? Are we simply preparing workers to enter the workforce and increase GDP?

The Third Student

What might the third student say if a visitor to your classroom asked what students were doing? Every Christian teacher needs to have a clear cathedral answer to the question, “What are we doing here?” This is what we’re getting at when we talk about the core practice of Classroom Storyline. When a powerful and compelling Storyline lives in our classrooms, any passerby could ask our students what they’re doing and receive a cathedral response:

  • Christ is becoming greater and I am becoming less.
  • I’m learning to see the lordship of Jesus Christ over every square inch of this universe.
  • I’m beholding and enjoying the glory of God on display in his Word and his works.
  • I’m a discoverer learning to see the greatness of my Designer.
  • I’m learning to think God’s thoughts after him.
  • I’m studying His-Story and finding my place in it.
  • I’m tracing the themes and plotlines of the glorious unfolding of God’s Story.

The story of the stonecutters has deepened my understanding of Classroom Storyline. In fact, I started telling this story to my students to help them understand what I mean when I talk about our Classroom Storyline.

When I think about it, maybe no one ever told the first stonecutter that he was building a cathedral. If all he ever heard was, “Cut another stone,” or, “You won’t get paid if this stone isn’t done on time,” how would the beauty of the cathedral ever capture his imagination and motivate his heart?

This year, my Classroom Storyline–my cathedral answer–is Telescope. What are we doing? We’re peering through the lens of God’s Word and his world in order to see his glory with breathtaking clarity. Not only that, by God’s grace we are actually becoming telescopes, the kind of people who magnify God by living in a way that helps others catch a glimpse of how great and awesome God actually is.

If you walk into my classroom, you’ll see real telescopes and posters of telescopes. These are the visual reminders. My ultimate hope is that if you stop my students and ask them what they’re doing, they would tell you how the content in class is helping them magnify the glory of God the way a telescope magnifies the stars.

Thoughts? Comments?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. How might the story of the three stonecutters help you understand and apply the core practice of Storyline?

Imagine asking three teachers what they are doing. What might be three different teacher answers?

Do you have a compelling cathedral answer that stirs your imagination and the imagination of your students? Share it with the rest of us below.


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