On Being a Christian School

Apr 17, 2013

As I have worked with and observed schools over the past twenty years, I have become ever more concerned about the degree to which the infinite and immortal souls of the children who attend them are treated as tertiary matters (maybe, at a good school, secondary) by the school leadership. What keeps leaders up at night seems to be whether enough parents will enroll their students to pay for the building program or whether the bills will be paid. 

What seems not to concern them anywhere near as much is the warning Christ Himself gave that, while it is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, it would be better for those who cause the little children to stumble if they were taken out on a lake with a two-ton millstone tied around their neck and to be thrown into the sea. I suppose we who are in leadership must not think this applies to us, since it's the teachers who teach the children, not us. And yet... 

The fact that we make decisions that other people have to implement does not mean our decisions do not cause these little ones to stumble. In fact, our refusal to examine closely the implications of our decisions on the immortal souls affected by them only shows how very little we really care about them. 

We cannot hide this lack of love behind the excuse of stewardship. A steward is measured for his faithfulness, not his anxiety over money and the ease with which it distracts him from his real stewardship, and our faithfulness will be measured by the affect of our decisions on the souls of the children we, perhaps too proudly, represent as a school leader. 

That passage we all like to rationalize away, Matthew 25, seems particularly apropos. Surely we remember the words. Jesus says, 

Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto me.

And then He declares His verdict.

Either:

Enter into the joy of your Lord

Or:

Depart from me, you cursed. 

We know that we are saved by faith and that no amount of works can ever make us just before God. But we also know that faith unexpressed in acts of love is dead, which is to say, it is no faith at all. We further know that whatever is not of faith is sin. 

A school that is not built on faith, then, no matter what its "statement of faith", is not a Christian school. It lies somewhere in the range of a school for Pharisees and a school for the lukewarm, neither of which Christ will honor and both of which have done untold harm to American Christianity.

What provokes this diatribe? I am deeply concerned that, as we enter a time of grave trial for Christianity in America, our attention is being distracted from our first love to many other matters, ranging from doctrinal squabbles (or rather, for fear of doctrinal sqabbles, indifference to the truth about who Christ is and why it matters) to how we'll pay our bills. Especially how we'll pay our bills. 

We, like Martha, are worried and anxious about many things, and we don't seem to think our Lord was talking about schools when He said, "Only one thing is needful."

We are like the Gentiles, toiling and spinning so our children can wear the soft clothes of kings and eat at the banquets of the lords of the land. Parents worry about the educational world of the past, where college admissions was the god. Now, as colleges are about to crash and burn, they apparently want their children to go down with them, just so they can get in (as though it is hard to get in to an American college and as though getting in is always desirable!) 

Schools, driven by markets that they don't understand instead of by the love of Christ, build large buildings, take on great debts so they can compete for those who don't want more than a little of what the gospel offers, and find themselves dependent on the toilers and spinners that Christ will spit out of His mouth. 

We must set aside talk of producing leaders if what we mean by leaders is imitators of the dying world around us. We mustn't call ourselves Christian schools if the driving energy of our decisions is not the love of Christ for the children, the blood He shed, and the Spirit He sent to save their souls.

I entreat you from the wounds of Christ, standing in His sepulchre: I entreat from beneath the throne of Christ, kneeling under His feet, do not make decisions based on the fleeting rewards the Gentiles seek when you can be laying up treasures in heaven by remembering that everything is already yours in Christ and the children in Christ are the temple of the living God. He will not fail them. We can and do.

What does this mean practically?

  • A reorientation of our hearts, souls, mind, and strength to faith in the promises of God and in the faithfulness of Christ who loves the children so much He died for them and sent His Holy Spirit to teach them, and promises to destroy those who harm them - and away from anxiety and envy. 
  • A commitment that every decision we make turns its attention to one essential boundary condition, which I express in the form of a question: how will this affect the experience each child has in this school, in the environment and in the instruction he receives. Will it nurture his soul on the noble, the true, the just, the good, the lovely, the praiseworthy, and the beautiful or will it distract him with anxiety over his status in a dying and sinful world?
     
  • A commitment to focus primarily on supporting and enriching the moment when the teacher interacts with the child, protecting it, not interfering with it. This means focusing on the equipping of godly, faithful, loving, hopeful teachers. 
     
  • A commitment to set school priorities on the nurturing of the child's soul and NOTHING else. 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God. And such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. For we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed in him purifies Himself, just as He is pure. 

I John 3:1-3

Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book, Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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