What Makes a School “Christian?”
Dr. Clarence Sexton
For the first time in the history of America, more people believe in reincarnation than in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many young people could tell you more about karma than they could tell you about Christ.
A recent Gallup Poll® reported that 88% of the people in America are religious, meaning that they practice a religion. This is the highest level recorded in our nation’s history. Yet, 80% of these same people do not believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
There has never been a time when the need was greater for Christian schools and Christian education. But what is it that makes a school “Christian?” The Bible warns us in Colossians 2:8, “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
Notice the last two words in that verse, “after Christ.” We are either “after Christ” or we are not after Christ. The Bible says, “Beware, lest any man spoil you...” The word spoil means “to rob, to steal from, to plunder.”
One of the things that is most heartbreaking in our society is a generation of “cursed children,” as the Bible calls them in II Peter 2:14; cursed because they have been robbed. It is not that their homes or possessions have been stolen. Infinitely more tragic, it is their minds and hearts that have been robbed.
We are warned to beware, lest anyone rob us through “philosophy and vain deceit.” Philosophy is what one thinks, what one believes. If you want to affect the behavior of a person, change what that person believes. People behave a certain way as a consequence of how they believe. “Vain deceit” speaks of the idols we take for ourselves.
The Bible goes on to say: “...after the tradition...after the rudiments...” This is the thinking process of man without any regard given to God. The verse concludes the thought with the phrase, “...and not after Christ.” On one side we find “philosophy, vain deceit, the traditions of men, the rudiments of the world.”; on the other side “...after Christ.”
A Christian School Ought to be Patterned “After Christ.”
We say we have a Christian school. This is a meaningful statement. This conviction should be held and articulated by pastors, principals, and Christian school teachers. Also, the young people who attend and graduate from our Christian schools ought to hold these same convictions and be able to articulate them as well.
There ought to be no greater champions of Christian education than the young people who have received it. Their lives should advocate to others that Christian education is desperately needed.
We must understand that Christian education is far more than what occurs in the classroom. The Christian school is just one of the places where Christian education can occur. Christian education can take place in an automobile, as a father travels with his son, and instructs him in the Christian life. Christian education can take place as a mother stands in her kitchen, and shares the things of God with her daughter while cooking a meal. Christian education can take place in a Sunday school class as a teacher faithfully shares the Word of God.
The scope of Christian education takes in all of life. Christian education can and must go on night and day. This is what is spoken of in the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy. It is the responsibility of parents under God.
However, to answer the question, “What makes a Christian school “Christian?” we must give our attention to what takes place in what we commonly call the Christian school.
We often refer to our school as a “private” Christian school. There is nothing wrong with the word “private,” but it should never be used to describe our schools without including the word “Christian.” A school can be private without being Christian. But we have a private Christian school as opposed to the public secular school.
Never before has Christian education been more needed, or under more vicious attack. Many Christian schools are dying, but not from external enemies. Christian schools are suffering from indifference at the hands of parents and pastors. The urgency, attention, and dedication once devoted to Christian schools is a thing of the past in many places. At a time when true Christian education is desperately needed, we have been lulled to sleep by our affluence.
There are only three guiding lights in our society: the Christian home, the local New Testament church, and the Christian school. Christian schools are only an opportunity; they are not a guaranteed outcome. We can guarantee that our school has the right philosophy and employs a faculty that embraces and teaches from that philosophy. However, we cannot tell parents, “If you will only enroll your children here, we guarantee that they will become...” We cannot guarantee to a parent that if they send their children to our Christian school, a changed human being will walk across a platform someday with a diploma in hand. It is a mistake to make a promise the Christian school cannot keep. The Christian school is not a production line. We are not building cars; we are seeking, with God’s help, to assist parents in building the lives of their children.
It is vital that we understand that a school is not “Christian” because it is clean. It is not “Christian” because there is a dress code, because students are not attacked in the restrooms, or because profanity or drug use is not tolerated. A school is not “Christian” because there are rules forbidding certain kinds of behavior. A public secular school can do all these things and more, but it is still not “Christian.” Christian education has more to do with what is put into it then what is taken out of it.
What is it that makes a school a “Christian” school? The first distinctive, essential element of a Christian school is Biblical leadership.
A Biblical leader is marked by his unending pursuit of Jesus Christ. Much is made today of “servant leadership.” A Biblical leader will serve others, but service is not his goal; obedience to Christ is his goal. Obeying Christ will bring us to be ever ready to serve others.
God has established authority and commanded that we follow God-ordained authority. Authority is not designed to be used to dictate to people, whether it is in the classroom, the home, or from the pulpit. A position of authority has nothing to do with a person’s value; it has everything to do with order. If the teacher is not in charge of the classroom, who is? A teacher, leading his classroom in a Biblical fashion, will see the value of each person he is working with and seek to serve that person. At the moment the heart of a teacher is not yielded to the need of any student, he ceases to have a Christian school classroom. Biblical leadership recognizes God-given authority is an opportunity to obey Christ through serving.
This world is looking for position, for a salary, for benefits. However, in the truly Christian school we begin with biblical leadership, whether it is in the classroom, the athletic field, or the principal’s office. May God help us to examine our motives, our calling, our leadership, and our commitment to obey and pursue Jesus Christ.
The Authority of Scripture
Another distinctive of a truly Christian school is a belief in the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Many educators in the secular school system will tell you, “I’m absolutely positive, 100 percent sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are no absolutes.”
For the Christian educator, the issue of the authority and truthfulness of Scripture is settled. The Bible says in John 17:17, the high-priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” There is an unchanging standard of absolute truth. Every Christian educator must understand the importance of what he is doing. He is equipping people with the truth. What a profound thought!
In II Timothy 3:7, we are told that in these last days men who reject God’s Word are “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” There is an apt description of public secular education. When God’s Word is removed from education, a person can learn forever and never come to the knowledge of the truth.
A Goal to See the Lost Saved
The third distinctive of truly Christian education is that there is a desire to have students who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ. The great issue in our society is not ignorance. The great issue of our society is sin. Secular educators scoff at this. They claim if we eliminate ignorance, we can lift men up by their own bootstraps and make the world a better place.
If this were true, the most serene, peaceful, and enjoyable places on the face of the earth would be educational institutions. But the truth is that one of the highest rates of suicide in the world is among the educated elite that fill such places, especially psychologists and psychiatrists.
If the problem is ignorance, the answer is education, but the problem is not ignorance. The problem is sin, and the answer is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Many public schools require their teachers to personally visit in the home of every student for the sake of their educational welfare. How much more should Christian school teachers visit the home of every one of his students for the sake of their spiritual welfare! Many parents and students alike need to hear the gospel message. A teacher who will not willingly visit the homes of their students is not fit to serve on the faculty of a Christian school. The faculty of a Christian school should have a fervent desire to see the lost saved.
The Responsibility of Parents
Another distinctive of truly Christian schools is the emphasis on the responsibility of parents for the training of their children.
Thomas Sowell, a well-known syndicated columnist, has written,
“No one seems to have a harder time figuring out who the cultural elite are than the cultural elite themselves. No one seems to have a harder time figuring out what the values issue is about than those who have been working overtime to undermine the values tradition to the American society. All across this country, the undermining and destruction of the values that children were taught at home is going on in public schools, from the kindergarten on up.”
Notice Sowell said that the values are being taught at home. He goes on to say,
“Only from time to time as particular books, movies, or lessons come to light and outrage the public, does this cultural warfare surface. Then the flurry of the moment passes, but the undermining of this country’ s values continues pervasively, relentlessly, and quietly.”
One of the first things parents try to teach their child is the difference between right and wrong. One of the first things the public school system seeks to accomplish is to erase that distinction. This erasing of values is being called “values clarification.” The stock camouflage for the destruction of traditional values is a claim to be solving a great social problem such as drug abuse, AIDS, or teen pregnancy. The public school might advise, “You don’t want to contract AIDS, so you might consider abstaining from sexual activity before marriage.” True Christian counsel would be, “Whether disease is involved or not, God’s Word commands that we abstain from sex before marriage.” There is all the difference in the world between the two. The secularist advises abstinence for fear of disease, the Bible commands abstinence for fear of God. Sowell goes on to say, “Only those few people who have the time to research specifics as to what is actually being done in drug education, sex education, or death education courses know what an utter fraud these labels really are. These are not courses about drugs, about AIDS, or about teenage pregnancy; they are courses about how right and wrong are outmoded notions, about how your parents’ ideas are no guide for you, about how each person must start from scratch to develop his or her own way in behavior.” And this warning is from a writer who makes no claim to be a committed Christian.
When pastors, principals, and teachers do not actively seek to bring parents to realize they are responsible for the education of their children, you do not have a truly Christian school. Parents for too long have abdicated the responsibility God has given them for training their children.
Understand that there is a world of difference between parental participation in education and parental responsibility for providing a Christian education. Christian educators, from pastors to teachers, must understand this principle and make certain they are teaching it to the parents of their students. When the troubled economic times come, it will be the parents who have been made aware of their responsibility that will sacrifice to keep their children in the Christian school. The challenge of educating parents is as great as the challenge of educating their children. They must be taught that the mandate to provide a Christian education begins with the responsibility of parents as taught in Deuteronomy 6. They must be taught that Christian education is an investment, not an expense.
It is not the church’s responsibility to educate children. It is the responsibility of the pastor to lead the local church to provide an opportunity for a Christian education. However, it is the parents’ responsibility to educate their children. We do not have the authority to relieve parents from that responsibility.
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”
This is a family matter. It is a Christian parent’s sacred responsibility to make certain his children receive a Christian education.
Teaching Young People of Their Personal Accountability to God
Another distinctive mark of the truly Christian school is that its teachers and leaders seek to make each child understand personal accountability to God. A child’s personal accountability must not rest in his teacher, the principal, or even his parents. Each child must understand that he will stand before the living God to give account for his actions. Yes, the Lord has placed us in authority over them, but when a child comes to understand that he is personally accountable to God, it will make a life-changing difference. The Holy Spirit directed Paul to write in Romans 14:12, “So that every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Teaching young people of their personal accountability to God is one of the marks of a Christian school.
Gaining an education is not an end; it is a means to an end, a conclusion. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, keep his commandments: this is the whole duty of man.” The conclusion of the believer is that life must be lived in the fear of God, keeping God’s commandments. We will each meet God some day.
When we say we have a Christian school, may God help us to make certain that we truly do.
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For more than 40 years, Temple Baptist Academy has provided students a Biblical foundation for life. Our schools hold to the highest academic standards for the glory of God. When we speak of Christian education, we understand it cannot be confined to a classroom. In fact, God has designed that the Christian home be a child’s greatest place of learning.
What a child must know about the Lord and the life God has given him should be taught in the home and reinforced in the school. The foundation for life should be laid in the home.