Should I Go To Public School To Challenge My Faith?

Feb 3, 2019

Student: I am thinking of switching to public school next year.

Gibbs: I see. Why is that?

Student: I don’t think I am being challenged in my faith at this school. I’m worried that I’m just going along with the crowd, just going through the motions. It’s easy to be a Christian here. Everyone here is just kind of passive about their faith.  

Gibbs: What does it mean to be “challenged in your faith”?

Student: I don’t think my faith in God is growing deeper here. I want it to grow deeper.

Gibbs: Why don’t you get rid of your phone?

Student: Why would I do that?

Gibbs: Without your phone, you would have to rely more on God than other people. Without a phone, you would become something of an outsider at this school. You would be excluded from quite a lot, miss out on a lot, which would let you connect with other outcasts and help them. Also, you would waste far less time texting and scrolling through Instagram. You would probably end up praying more and reading your Bible more, too.

Student: Having a phone is not necessarily bad, though. 

Gibbs: Is your phone helping your faith in God grow deeper?

Student: Not really.  

Gibbs: So your phone is an impediment to your faith?

Student: I guess.

Gibbs: It doesn’t seem like your faith responds well to challenges, then. I would suggest you stay at this school.

Student: So whether I should go to public school or not is dependent on whether I have a phone? By that rationale, everyone should have gone to public school twenty years ago.  

Gibbs: A moment ago, you suggested that you wanted your faith in God to grow deeper. What ways have you tried to deepen your faith while at this school?

Student: I can’t just snap my fingers and deepen my faith. It doesn’t work like that.  

Gibbs: True. How often do you read your Bible?

Student: Being a Christian isn’t all about going to church and reading your Bible. You’re not a Christian just because you go to church. There’s more. It means having a deep relationship with God.

Gibbs: Agreed. Nonetheless, how often?

Student: Not as often as I should.

Gibbs: Why not?

Student: Probably the same reason you don’t read your Bible very often.

Gibbs: Ha! Good one. I do not read my Bible very often. Then again, I’m not the one who said I wanted my faith to be challenged.

Student: Why not? Why don’t you want your faith to be challenged?

Gibbs: Because my faith is weak.

Student: If it was challenged, maybe it wouldn’t be weak.

Gibbs: If it was challenged, it would wither up and die. If I make it into heaven, St. Peter’s going to be stamping out a fire on the back of my robe.  

Student: My faith isn’t weak, though.

Gibbs: Praise God. What makes you say that?

Student: When I pray, I feel God’s presence. I love singing to Him at church or in the car. There’s this amazing quote from the runner Eric Liddell. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Running was like going to church for him. It was like worship. I feel God’s pleasure when I share the Gospel. But I also feel God’s pleasure when I’m just reading or going for a walk.

Gibbs: It sounds as though you’re already quite close to God. If your faith is strong, it doesn’t need a challenge. If your faith is weak, it cannot stand a challenge. I simply don’t see why anyone should seek out a challenge to their faith.

Student: Maybe “challenge” was the wrong word. Perhaps “exercise” is better. I want my faith to go to boot camp, toughen up, grow some endurance. There’s nothing to endure at this school.

Gibbs: Maybe you could help your friends endure their problems. Perhaps that is why you are here.

Student: See, that’s the thing. I’m not like the students who go here and so I don’t really have friends.

Gibbs: There’s the solution to your problem. Not having friends is the exercise your faith needs. Isn’t that something difficult for you to endure? Doesn’t a lack of friends mean you have to rely more on God?

Student: I mean, there are things to endure at this school, but those things aren’t drawing me closer to God.

Gibbs: Could they?

Student: I suppose. But, let me just lay all my cards out here, I’ve always been drawn to missions work.

Gibbs: What does that mean?

Student: I’ve always wanted to share the Gospel.

Gibbs: Share the Gospel with the students at this school. Trust me. They need it.

Student: But most of the students don’t need to hear the Gospel. They’re not the unreached.

Gibbs: How do you know?

Student: I mean, most of them already go to church.

Gibbs: A moment ago you said that going to church doesn’t necessarily make someone a Christian. So maybe there are church-going students here who still need to hear the Gospel.

Student: It’s kind of starting to seem like you just don’t think I can handle it.

Gibbs: What do you mean “handle it”?

Student: You think I’m going to lose my faith if I go to public school.

Gibbs: Do you think there are Christian kids who lose their faith in public school?

Student: Yes, but there are Christian kids who lose their faith at private Christian schools, too.

Gibbs: Ha! Don’t I know it.

Student: See, you understand the danger.

Gibbs: Yes, a private Christian school is a place of many spiritual challenges— wouldn’t you say?

Student: Very funny. So, what’s the difference between public schools and Christian schools? You act like they’re similar when it suits your argument, but you act like they’re totally different when it suits a different point. Are Christian schools and public schools similar or not?

Gibbs: No, they’re not very similar.

Student: Well, if I could lose my faith here or public school, how are they different?

Gibbs: What you think of as “challenges” to your faith, I would simply call “temptations,” and we are called to pray every day that God would not lead us into temptation. Are there not enough temptations in your life that you must seek out more?

Student: Aren’t we supposed to “do difficult things,” though? Have I not heard teachers at this school give that speech a dozen times this year?

Gibbs: Getting rid of your phone would be difficult, and it would call for an increase in your reliance on God, which would mean praying more. It is difficult to read your Bible, so you do not do it, nor do I. You might also try fasting— which I also rarely do—or you could give your pocket money to the poor. Any of these things might loosen the grip you have on this world and allow you to draw closer to God. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the holy works Christ calls us to undertake, and He carefully explains how to do them in the Sermon on the Mount.

Student: But Christ also says we should to go all nations and make disciples.

Gibbs: Yes. That’s what I think of myself doing at this school. Making disciples.

Student: So if we’re supposed to go to all nations and make disciples, shouldn’t we go to all schools and make disciples, too?

Gibbs: Before I answer that question, let me ask you this: How well do you actually know the Gospel? How well do you know the Gospel story? How well versed are you in sound doctrine?

Student: I know the Gospel story. Every Christian does. Jesus came to earth to—

Gibbs: Can you name all the apostles?

Student: No, but what does that have to do with Jesus being crucified for our sins? Being a missionary isn’t about knowing Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology front to back. It’s about being passionate for God’s truth. If you know the basics of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit can make up for what you don’t know. The Holy Spirit works in every presentation of the Gospel. 

Gibbs: Interesting. So why do you need to enroll in a public school in order to make disciples there?

Student: So I can become friends with the students and share the Gospel with them.

Gibbs: Why don’t you just show up at football games and preach the Gospel to the students in the stands? You could drive over to the public schools in the afternoon, as well, and preach in the parking lots and on the sidewalks.

Student: That wouldn’t work. People today don’t take that kind of thing seriously. I’d look insane.

Gibbs: The Holy Spirit works in every presentation of the Gospel, though. Besides, if you preached the Gospel at football games and basketball games, you could avoid most of the temptations which come with being a student, and you could stay enrolled at this school.

Student: I don’t like this school. It’s not a good fit.

Gibbs: Christians with very strong faith generally don’t fit anywhere in the world. They’re not residents here, but strangers and aliens.

Student: Now you’re just being coy.

Gibbs: I am usually coy. If you would like a little advice which isn’t coy, here it is: Christ prepared for the Satanic temptation by fasting in the wilderness for 40 days. He cut himself off from the world and drew close to God. If you go to public school, you will enter into great temptation. I could fully endorse your choice to go to public school if you were willing to prepare for it. Give up your phone for a year. If you still want to go to public school after that time, I would entirely approve the venture.

Student: Seriously?

Gibbs: Absolutely.

Student: I just might.

Gibbs: Go ahead. Skin the smoke wagon.

Student: What?

Gibbs: And watch some better movies before you go, as well.   

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches great books to high school students at Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia. He is the editor of FilmFisher and has two daughters, both of whom have seven names. You can find him on Twitter @joshgibbs. 

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