Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Teaching Students to Have the Mind of Christ

This is always our basic educational philosophy in a Christian school.  It will be the theme for our 2020-21 school term.  

However, in the presence of mature believers, we do impart true wisdom—not the phony wisdom typical of this rebellious age or of the hostile powers who rule this age. Despite what you may think, these ruling spirits are losing their grip on this world.  But we do impart God’s mysterious and hidden wisdom. Before the ages began, God graciously decided to use His wisdom for our glory.  This wisdom has not been grasped by the ruling powers of this age; if they had understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. But as the Scriptures say, 
"No eye has ever seen and no ear has ever heard and it has never occurred to the human heart all the things God prepared for those who love Him."
God has shown us these profound and startling realities through His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep mysteries of God. Who can see into a man’s heart and know his thoughts? Only the spirit that dwells within the man. In the same way, the thoughts of God are known only by His Spirit. You must know that we have not received the spirit of this rebellious and broken world but the Spirit that comes from God, so that we may experience and comprehend the gifts that come from God. We do not speak of these gifts of God in words shaped by human wisdom; we speak in words crafted by the Spirit because our collective judgment on spiritual matters is accessible to those who have the Spirit. But a person who denies spiritual realities will not accept the things that come through the Spirit of God; they all sound like foolishness to him. He is incapable of grasping them because they are disseminated, discerned, and valued by the Spirit. A person who walks by the Spirit examines everything, sizing it up and seeking out truth. But no one is able to examine or size up that kind of spiritual person, for the Scripture asks, “Does anyone know the mind of the Lord well enough to become His advisor? ”But we do possess the mind of the Anointed One. I Corinthians 2:6-16 The Voice
This is one of those passages of scripture where it seems that the author was looking directly at the world we live in now, and writing to it specifically.  In the sense that God was inspiring the author to write, he was speaking to us with relevance and meaning.  Human intellect has never been powerful enough to overcome the problem which is at the base of all of humanity's problems, and that is sin.  Only God can do that, making these words as relevant for Christians today as they were for the Corinthian church to whom they were written.  When the church relies on the Holy Spirit, God reveals his will.  That's the difference between our definition of "education" and the world's definition of it.  
Developing a Distinctively Christian Worldview
When you send your children to a Christian school, one of the goals that set us apart from other forms of education comes directly out of this passage of scripture.  We frequently reference the phrase, "helping children develop a distinctively Christian worldview."  Many of the elements of that objective are found in this one passage of scripture.  The "world," meaning the philosophical foundations which drive our society and culture, sees the lifestyle that is produced by submission to the principles and values of the creator God we worship because we believe that what he wants to give to us is better than what we can come up with on our own.  
The prevailing philosophy in the western, American culture in which we live is a humanistic view that acknowledges the human intellect as the highest form of intelligence in the universe.  And according to that belief, education is the key to resolving all of the problems of humanity.  So the public education system that we have in this country has as one of its goals the salvation of humankind through education.  That's been the predominant view for at least a century now, yet education has clearly neither solved any of the more prevalent problems in our society nor can it point to any real progress in doing so.  Whatever progress we might have thought we've made has paled when placed against the dramatic backdrop of events which have occurred since mid-March.  It has become quite clear that human intellect has failed, and that only God has the power through his spirit to resolve these problems. 
The priority for our little Christian school, one of the few still remaining in the heart of this huge city, is to train our students to listen to God, be redeemed by the blood of Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  "Blessed are the Peacemakers," said Jesus as he enumerated a set of core values that become part of the character of spirit-filled people, "for they shall be called sons of God."
There is Value in Academic Achievement
Many people, even parents who have enrolled their children in a Christian school, tend to look past the academic achievement of the students.  We do not believe that human intellect alone is capable of resolving human problems like poverty and racism.  But that doesn't mean we don't place appropriate value on the quality of an education.  The more we learn, the better capable we are of understanding who God is and who we are.  Who knows us better than God, who created us?  Education is one of the main functions of the church, a process through which God's wisdom is revealed to us in a systematic, orderly way.  It provides us with the means to interpret the revealed wisdom and knowledge of God in a way that puts us in a position to be salt and light.  
A person who walks by the Spirit examines everything, sizing it up and seeking out truth. So in our Christian school, we challenge our students to achieve the highest academic goals possible at their age and to work to do their best as "unto the Lord."  Look, compare and see how our students perform when it comes to measuring what they have learned and the ability they have gained to practically apply it.  The world needs people who understand how to take the wisdom and knowledge given to us by God in his written word and not be afraid to exercise the kind of leadership that, more than any human effort, brings the very Spirit of the living God right into the middle of the problem.  
An Environment Where the Truths of Scripture are Models on Display
Your local public school is a microcosm of the community from which the students come.  What that means is that within the walls of a building where a student spends from seven to nine hours a day depending on how involved in extra-curricular activities they are, children from as young as 4 in some cases, 5 in most, up to 18 are exposed to whatever comes through the door with the rest of the student body.  Most of what they encounter will be something for which they have not been prepared at home.  And in many cases, if they come from a home environment that doesn't conform to the influences of the social norm, they will be ridiculed, tormented and made the victims of someone's derision or insecurity.  
That philosophy that I mentioned earlier, the one that dominates our culture, including its educational institutions, seeks to make converts.  When you think "school," the content that comes to your mind is learning how to calculate math problems, learning to read words, phrases and sentences, learning how to spell and communicate in written form, learning about George Washington's presidency and the impact of World War 2 on America, and making calculations in order to get a chemical reaction from a drop of sodium in a beaker of water.  But that's only part of it. 
For seven hours a day, part of what your child will also be taught, in an authoritative manner designed to mold and shape their "worldview" will include acceptance of moral principles which are based on human reason, leaving out any acknowledgement or mention of God, or the Bible.  They will be taught a subjective view of right and wrong, values based on personal experience and feeling which, for the most part, reject Christian principles and deny the existence of God or claim that the idea of an all-powerful creator is a product of human reason without scientific explanation.  
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy because I am holy."  I Peter 1:13-16 ESV
We're certainly not perfect, and when kids get together, because they lack maturity and haven't learned quite yet how to treat others, it is up to us to model and teach that to them.  A Christian school is a place where parents can send their students and expect that their intellectual ability will be challenged, their spiritual life will be discipled and fed, and they will be in a social atmosphere that sees each one of them as a special creation of God, loved by him equally and treated by us as equals.  They should be able to come together here, learn how to get along with their peers despite differences, feel safe and loved, understand that they will receive discipline to correct what's wrong and praise to reinforce what's right.  The school's staff needs to be color blind, but also able to discern and understand that most kids have already developed sensitivity to racial and ethnic differences and a sense of security and acceptance needs to be present.  
A Christian School is Worth the Sacrifice
There are several generations of Christian school graduates out there working and changing the world around them.  There are no guarantees and of course, not every student responds or appreciates everything they are given when it comes to Christian school.  But most certainly do.  Christian character development is certainly easier when your church ministers to your family to help you with it and the same thing happens in a Christian school, especially since your children will spend far more time in school than they will spend anywhere else outside your home while they are growing up.  
Midwestern Christian Academy has been here for over 60 years, and we have generations of students who have left here with the character and the tools they need to make a difference for Christ in the world.  We have graduates making a difference as policemen on the streets of Chicago, lawyers in the courtrooms, business owners who serve their customers with integrity and homemakers who are raising their children to understand what it means to be a peacemaker and believe in God.  

Monday, June 8, 2020

Making a Difference Now

There have been many times over the 30-some-odd years that I have been involved in the ministry of Christian education when I've thought that we needed a reminder of why we are here and what we can do.  Events of the past several months have underlined exactly why we need Christian schools and why those of us who work in them need to refresh and energize our commitment to providing an education for students that leads them to become critical thinkers and capable of seeing themselves as spiritually gifted servants of God who are called, regardless of their career field, to go out and make a difference in the world.

We live in a culture and society that, for the most part, now believes it is capable of resolving all of its problems through the power of its own intellect. It accepts a basic premise that the human intellect is the highest power in the universe and if it is properly trained, through education, unlocks knowledge of human behavior and the operation of the universe through pure science leading to the creation of a utopian society.  That's an idea that goes all the way back to ancient Greek philosophers but which was pushed into American society and culture by the progressive education movement around the turn of the twentieth century.

Taking advantage of the "religious neutrality" enforced upon public education by various court rulings over the years, the progressive education movement replaced the influence of the Christian church, particularly the Protestant side of American Christianity, out of the schools and replaced it with "secular humanism", which is now the dominant educational philosophy in this country.  Christians began to notice the shift in the mid-1950's when it was too late to reverse the course.  By then, the universities had been turning out "progressive" teachers steeped in humanist philosophy and practice for several decades.  So churches began to start Christian schools, based on Biblical principles.

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."  I Corinthians 1:25 ESV

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.   The spiritual person judges all things but is himself to be judged by no one.  'For who has understood the mind of the Lord to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ."  I Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Human intellect has had a tough time with this viral pandemic.  For all that we know about the human body, the best that medical science has to offer has not yet produced a treatment for symptoms, a cure, or a vaccination to prevent COVID-19.  That it will eventually do so is fairly certain, but in the meantime, it has taken 400,000 lives in just three months, over 100,000 in this country alone.

Beyond that, human intellect has been unable to solve the problems that lie at the core of the social upheaval that has occurred following the death of George Floyd.  We have the best educational institutions in the world and yet the racial and ethnic diversity of America is still the primary source of unresolved social problems that are at the root of "institutional racism," including poverty.  We've spent decades tinkering with the curriculum in the public schools and doing everything from trying to achieve a racial balance in enrollment to cutting back on core elements of English-Language Arts, Civics and American History, replacing them with humanist sociology.  Looking at where we are now and what has happened in recent years, and the past couple of weeks, the effort has not met with success and it has also led to a decline in the academic effectiveness of the schools.

When things happen that upset the normal course of life, like a viral pandemic or a social upheaval over racial prejudice and inequality, our students need to know that Christians are peacemakers and the church is a place of peace where people are united.  Here, the Apostle Paul told the Christians in the church in Colossae, there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all."  Here is where people come together, united in Jesus.  That's quite a high standard to hold, but that's who we are and we need to teach our children that the church, and by extension their school, is a place where people of all racial backgrounds are both welcome and accepted.

School is a place of misery for many children and youth, not so much because they get bored with the content, but because the social experimentation that has occurred under the current dominant educational philosophy has failed to resolve the fallen nature of humanity.  The vacuum that has been created is filled with the shortcomings of human nature and kids become victims of insults, violence, and a general lack of order.

Reflecting the church's ministry, our Christian school, MCA, should be a place where we put into practice the kind of spiritual unity that resolves problems which human intellect cannot resolve.  While we hope that what our students learn is something they will eventually take with them and be part of the solution in the future, the environment we offer here at school should reflect the unity of the Christian community that Paul speaks about when addressing the Colossians.  If our school community teaches dependence on the Spirit's guidance and models the love of Jesus our students will experience the blessings of unity.  It starts small, but it grows.

Students whose families have experienced the injustice of racial discrimination should find acceptance, peace, and security in their Christian schools.  Students whose parents are police officers and have experienced the trauma that recent circumstances have caused should be able to come to school and find the same things.  Schools should offer security, not fear, order, not confusion, peace, not conflict.  We put love for others ahead of taking care of our own needs.  We have to get this right in our churches and in our school so that our students see what it looks like. Our job is to love others in Jesus name and that will glorify God and testify to Christ as our savior and Lord.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.