"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and which now is in the world already." I John 4:1-3, ESV
Midwestern Christian Academy describes itself as a school with a "distinctively Christian character." The term "Christian" is part of our name, and is put there intentionally so that those who seek to enroll their children here know exactly what to expect in terms of the kind of school that it is. But what does it mean for a school to describe itself as having a distinctively Christian character?
Here's what that means to us.
1. It means that the content of all of our instruction rests on the foundational belief that God exists, that he created the universe, including humankind, out of nothing, and that in order to redeem a humanity that had separated itself from God by falling into sin, he sent a savior in the person of his Son, Jesus.
We view education as the process of discovering knowledge revealed to us by God about ourselves, and the world in which we live. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are the written word of God, inspired by his Holy Spirit, and are the measuring rod of truth, so education becomes the scope of learning skills that enable us to be spiritually discerning, evaluating all things by the principles and precepts of the Bible.
In contrast to that, the predominant system of education in our culture accepts the idea that the human intellect is the highest form of intelligence in the universe. According to this philosophy, if the human intellect is properly educated, it is capable of developing a level of reason which will resolve all of humankind's problems. Human intellect is capable of learning to avoid previous mistakes, therefore, with the passage of time, the world becomes a better place because human reason is at work. This philosophy denies the existence of God, and of any human need for a "higher power." Students in the public school system are taught from this perspective in every subject, every day.
2. It means that everyone who works for our school, from the administrator and teachers, to the secretary, and the cafeteria staff, has a testimony of becoming a born-again believer in Jesus as their savior, and believe their work on behalf of the school is a ministry to which God called them to serve.
Students spend seven hours a day, five days a week at school. That means the people they are with all day long are among the primary influences in their lives. They are people who can be involved in the education of the "whole child," and believe that the work they do with children is a ministry with a specific purpose related to their faith. They are people that parents can trust to support their family's values and who will support their God-given role of training up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
3. It means that worship and the study of the scripture are a regular part of the school day so that students see these things as being essential and important to the learning process, and a normal, natural part of the educational experience.
Students perceive their school experience as authoritative. Teachers are experts in their subject areas. They are learning new things and having new experiences. When the content of what is preached and taught at church is left out of that experience, kids tend to compartmentalize those things in their thinking. The educational authorities in their lives are not teaching things which support their church experience, and in many cases, which contradict it.
That doesn't happen here. Our students worship together, and through that experience, they learn what worship is, and they learn how to give glory to God. The study of the scripture becomes an experience of applying other learning experiences and skills to something that can be practically applied.
4. It means that our students come to school every day, and they are confronted with the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus as their savior.
Here, they see people who are living out their faith in a way that is visible, that glorifies God, and that encourages others to do the same. The gospel message is relevant to everything, and it is integrated into everything. It's not pounded like a drum, or used as a club, but there is a clear demonstration of the relevance of the gospel present in each classroom every day.
We have come to a point in our society where a secular philosophy of living has become the predominant expression of our culture. Open expressions of faith are rare, and the most visible people in our society aren't associated with any kind of religious identity. While Christians are migrating from smaller congregations to larger, more visible "megachurches," the total number of church attenders in the community at large is declining at a relatively steady pace, and the number of people who self-identify as "born-again" or "Evangelical" Christians has declined by more than 20% over the past two decades. The Millennial Generation has become the most unchurched in history, with fewer than 10% claiming regular church involvement.
A Christian school offers students an environment that differs from the culture at large, and is a place where the expression of faith is a normal thing, and an expected behavior. So students are able to develop a healthy respect for Christ's church, and good spiritual disciplines to strengthen their faith.
5. It means that the quality of the academic program, curriculum and instruction is high.
We do our best to give glory to God. While our size limits the full scope of what we can offer, we are committed to excellence in the classroom, challenging our students to perform to the best of their ability. We don't aim our goals at the lowest performance possible, or at "minimum standards." We have a highly qualified teaching staff, all with degrees, several with advanced degrees, and all who have completed a teacher certification program. Our curriculum objectives aim our expected student outcomes higher than the minimum standards of the state, or of common core. The annual assessment of learning we conduct in the form of a standardized achievement test, shows that we are reaching our academic goals, as our students perform as expected and score well above the achievement levels of their peers in the public education system.
All of these things together make the character of our school distinctively Christian. When you visit the campus, you can visibly see this character. The building is just brick and mortar, but the students and the staff are where the distinctively Christian character of our school can be seen. And beyond that, we hope that it is visible in each student and employee, when they are scattered out among their neighbors across this part of the city.