[These are my notes for a talk I gave at the recent Logos Teacher Training 2019]
Perhaps the only institution that is often more dangerous to Christian faith than a Christian school, is the Christian Church. It’s one thing not to know God and to know it, but it’s another thing to not know God all while pretending you do and spending your days telling other people that they really ought to know Him too. Of course this can happen with high handed hypocrisy or high handed sins (e.g. adultery, unrepentant porn, lying). But some of the greatest dangers in this regard are more subtle, sins like anxiety and complaining. This sins can undermine a Christian school, all cleverly disguised as “prayer requests” and “sharing concerns.” While God draws straight with our crooked lines, great evil is done by people claiming the name of Christ who may be able to quote Bible verses backwards who nevertheless give off vibes of fear and fussing and panic and complaining about every problem. I want to work through this material answering two questions: What are we doing here? And what do we do now?
What’s the Problem?
The problem is sin, and this problem cuts straight through the entire history of the world, the whole human race, and every human heart. So whether we are talking about mass illiteracy, opioid addictions, depression and self-harm, abuse, abortion, divorce, the homo gestapo, the problem is sin. In other words, there is plenty to be worried about, plenty to fear, plenty to complain about (humanly speaking). And on top of that one of your fellow teachers is a real piece of work. One of the board members is a problem. And you have a couple of boys in your class that are probably headed to the penitentiary. This problem is a “natural” one, and what I mean is that sin infects all of nature: creation groans and we humans have a nature problem. In Matthew 7:15-23, Jesus uses three images that consign us to a particular nature (wolves/sheep, good/bad trees, and true/false prophets). You cannot do other than what you are. You cannot teach a turtle to fly. You cannot coax a thorn bush to produce grapes. This is why we have problems. This is why the Bible uses the word regeneration – unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Jn. 3, 1 Pet. 1). Men have to be given a new nature. Or to flip it around, we have to be given a father-transplant. Jesus said that the reason the Pharisees hated Him was because they did the works of their father, the devil (Jn. 8:38-44). In other words, the problem (all of them) is humanly impossible, and so we must be always alert and on guard against the innate human tendency to attempt to hot-wire salvation. This can happen when we try to dress up wolves in sheep clothing (even short, cute wolves), to put grapes on thorn trees with scotch tape, to substitute Christian rhetoric for real fruit. This can also happen when we look to the world for solutions to our problems: new curriculum, new diet, new educational fad, new seating arrangement (even if some of those things may be helpful at points). There are particularly fierce warnings in Scripture for teachers (Matt. 18:6, Js. 3:1). So what are we doing here? We are determined to face the problem. The Great Commission is marching orders against this sin problem, and the Great Commission includes teaching. What do we do now? Believe the gospel and obey Jesus where we are.
The solution is two-fold. Actually, it’s just one thing with two elements to it. The one thing is Christ crucified. The first element is you knowing Christ crucified. In fact there is a sense in which you must know nothing but Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, and this means that fundamentally, He is the only lamb, the only natural sheep. Everyone else is or was a wolf, a thorn bush, a loudmouthed hypocrite. He is the lamb slain for wolves, the only good tree cut down for rotten trees, the only true man condemned in the place of the false men and liars. If we are Christians, every one of us were those things by nature, and that old nature, although it has been defeated, still needs to be crucified (Col. 3:1). So what are we doing? We are believing this fundamental truth. Christ is the lamb of God who takes away our sins. The solution to our problems is not fundamentally a new diet, a new lesson plan, a new curriculum, a new administration, a new board, or a long vacation. The solution is a new heart, a new nature. And this results in a joy that cannot be taken away from you and a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4). What are we doing? We are serving Christ. This will of necessity also mean that you are serving families, administers, students, boards, and communities, but do not lose sight of the fact that in the first instance, you are serving Christ (or you are not).
And the second element is the announcement of Christ crucified to all wolves, thorn trees, and hypocrites. And this task is nothing short of preaching in a grave yard, prophesying to dry bones, telling them to arise and live (Ez. 37). The problem is humanly impossible and so is the solution. Men are not reborn by blood, nor of the will of the flesh, or the will of man, or sitting in chapel, or memorizing Bible verses, Latin paradigms, or tucking their shirts in, but only by the power of God (Jn. 1:13). It is not up to us to teach blind eyes to see or deaf ears to hear or dead hearts to beat, but it is up to us to tell them to anyway. And when I say “them,” I mean all of them: teachers, staff, students, and parents. This is because the Living God gives life through the instrument of people believing, living, and explaining the gospel. So what do we do now? Tell the truth about sin, the cross and resurrection, forgiveness, joy, and believe and obey the Bible.
To be a Christian school must at bare minimum mean at least two things. First, that we, as teachers and administrators are Christians, and this means knowing and loving this gospel, this good news for ourselves. We are committed to knowing nothing else, so much as we know Christ and Him crucified. He is our life. This means cultivating joy and peace in our own lives, quite apart from anyone or anything else. John specifically points to confession of sin as the source of fellowship and joy (1 Jn. 1). If you have a backlog of unconfessed sin, your joy is going to be low and limited. Your peace is going to be stifled. One of the central Christian duties is rejoicing always and being content in every situation (Phil. 4). God hates whining and complaining. Do you know Christ? Then what is a difficult student? What is a difficult co-worker? Give thanks and rejoice.
And second, more important than anything else is that whatever we teach, we want to constantly be pointing to Christ and Him crucified, in the midst of all the other good things we teach. And I want to frame this carefully. On the one hand, a bunch of perfectly memorized Latin paradigms, rhetorical sophistication, or logical prowess will not matter in Hell. On the other hand, math facts taught with simple Christian joy really is a profoundly Christian education. Praising God’s greatness when studying history or science really is a Christian education. So the point is not that you have to turn every lesson into a gospel presentation. Sometimes that will be the right thing, but if you actually did that, you’d probably be in violation of your curriculum objectives (at some point). The point is that when you know you have been forgiven and that you are serving Christ, these tools (math and science and logic and Latin) are anointed with the peace and joy of Christ and become mighty for pulling down strongholds of unbelief and facing every problem.