This post is an introduction to a series of posts about the importance of Christian Education.
By Christian Education I mean the discipleship of our children based on the mandate of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 in particular). I am referring to the development of a Christian Worldview in the children entrusted to our community collectively (the Church) and our families individually. I am addressing the process of spiritually forming our youth. Christian Education isn't just about the kind of "school" program or method used, it's far more holistic in scope. Education for the Christian is synonymous with discipleship. Discipleship happens all our waking hours. As it relates to our children, we are to be intentional about their training. Effective discipleship requires a cooperation between the various influences in their lives, particularly family, church, and school, where they spend the majority of their time and receive the most training. It is essential these entities are promoting the same message and working in concert to form a consistent worldview.
God's sovereignty is holistic, He gives lordship to no one else, including man. Confusion about who made and owns everything will prove disastrous. A person who does not rightly know and fear God will spend their lives kicking painfully against the goads. The atheist, humanist, or hedonist may appear peaceful, but it's a ruse. A life lived against the Creator is wrought with pain and unrest. As our children are developing spiritually, they must be exposed to the whole of God's sovereignty over every aspect of their lives. In time they will certainly come to understand that God has enemies and there are competing worldviews, but in their developmental years they must become strong in the foundation of God's sovereign reign over all things as revealed by His Word. Our children must develop a biblical view of God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics (worldview). Equipped with such a perspective, they will be able to interpret the many competing views and be used of God to tear down strongholds as Paul alludes in his second inspired letter to the Corinthians-
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...
In this light, words cannot describe my excitement and joy concerning the ongoing development of our school, Westminster Christian Academy. We are currently laboring to add High School to our existing Pre-K tru 8th grade ministry. Westminster is a covenantal commitment our church made when it was planted. We are "doing" Westminster because we believe God has specially called us to do so. Westminster was started primarily as a way to assist church families in the discipleship of their children, however we have welcomed families who are members of various other evangelical churches. Such an arrangement has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the ministry.
I'll say it straight- I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools. I have had this conviction since college, but have been careful not to heap expectations and attending guilt on people I am serving. Societal conditioning has been so pervasive in the church that pastors have to be patient and careful when helping people biblically analyze the idea of sending our children to public schools. Many pastors have wimped out completely and they won't address the issue of education. Pragmatically I know why: education is a sensitive subject and addressing it as a pastor inevitably offends someone. Believe it or not, I hate offending people. I know what a minefield the subject of education can be. I am absolutely committed to minister to every family that is part of our church, no matter what choice of education they make. I believe faithful pastoral ministry means guiding people according to Scripture. As an under-shepherd of Christ called to guard and feed the flock and give an account to Christ for these duties, I am committed to be biblically honest with people. The stakes are too high for me to be more concerned with popularity than sharing what I(and the combined leadership of the Church) believe to be true. It is certainly possible that I have missed something biblically, and as long as Scripture is the common ground, I'm willing to be shown where I am wrong and how I need to change my teaching.
So, once again- I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools. Don't get me wrong, I think a Christian young person can go through a public school curriculum and culture and come out still believing in Jesus, however they will not likely be well equipped to change the world for Christ and they will undoubtedly have a worldview that is dichotomous at best (sacred vs secular) or totally secular at worst. It should be noted, according to Barna 70 % of Evangelical church kids essentially renounce their faith by the end of their Freshmen year in college. I think it is sad that many Christian parents see their children "surviving" the public school (meaning their child still believes in God, hasn't done drugs or gotten in to pre-marital sex) as the goal or somehow a success. This is pathetic. God wants our youth to be trained and equipped to change the world for Christ as they venture out. How can this happen when they are in survival mode in a place where few actually survive, even according to the lowest of standards? Survival mode doesn't train a person, it weakens them.
Please understand, I do not mean to belittle or scold people who disagree. Maybe you haven't thought about this issue from the angle I am presenting. Maybe you have analyzed this issue thoroughly and disagree with my conclusions. I'm simply speaking from a pastor's heart based on biblical conviction and hope each parent will be honest about what they are committing their children to when they turn them over to the public school culture and curriculum for 14,000 seat hours between Kindergarten and 12th grade. All too often parents are shocked when their "Christian" kid goes off to the state university and bails out on church and the Faith, but why? As one analyst put it- if we give our kids to Caesar (government schools) for 14,000 hours in their chief spiritual formation years, why are we surprised when they come out as Romans?
It has been said by many that whoever controls the schools controls the world. Further, I would add-whoever is teaching our children is also discipling them. Parents in partnership with the Covenant Community (The Church) are responsible for discipling young people, not the government. Deuteronomy 6 is addressed to the Covenant Community (Israel) and it directs individual families within that community regarding the discipleship of her children:
Deut. 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
This command is given as the means to effective discipleship of children. It depicts the realistic effort that will be necessary to develop a Christian Worldview in our children. Clearly, to faithfully disciple/educate our children, it will take many hours daily. When we place our children under the increasingly antagonistic government school authority, for 14,000 seat hours before they are 18, how can we expect to fulfill the directive God has given us in Deuteronomy? Do we think a couple hours at church per week will do it? Is it really possible for parents to offset these daytime hours at a government school with some kind of biblical discipleship? When would that discipleship come? After school? Doing what? Let's face it, the most captive hours for our young people are between 8am and 4pm, when they are at school. That's some serious discipleship time. Who is discipling them? There couldn't be a more important question. I hear the protest- "But Johnny's teacher is a Christian". Maybe so, but what is their worldview? What curriculum are they using? Many Christian teachers in public schools have been trained by the state themselves. They mean well, but they are essentially paid to teach the curriculum, not disciple covenant children.
The New Testament, using fewer words, restates the mandate to the church and parents concerning the discipleship/education of our children:
Ephes. 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
To "bring them up" requires a holistic educational strategy. "Discipline", by definition, happens with constant repetition. In other words, the discipleship we are called to provide for our children will be time consuming and all encompassing or we can't be doing it right. Again, to give up 8-10 prime hours per day to the government discipling our children seems to render faithful obedience to God's discipleship mandate impossible to fulfill.
I honestly believe the Church will never impact the current culture if it insists on having it's children be discipled by the culture it is supposed to be transforming. The current culture is hideously sick, it makes no sense to let that culture train our children, then expect them to grow spiritually. We all have high expectations for what a godly generation can do to change the advance of moral decay that is obvious, yet we seem unwilling to take the radical, necessary step, of taking our children out of the system that is a major source of the rot. Christians really need to take back the spiritual formation of their children from the state, I think actual healing of this sin-sick culture depends on it.
In future posts I will address more of this, specifically what it means to develop a Christian worldview in our children. It is not enough to pull our children from government schools, we must also provide an effective, worldview-shaping discipleship plan and practice. We hope that Westminster Christian Academy is a trustworthy part of such a discipleship plan for the families who partner with us.