Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thoughts on Christian Education (Part 1)


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. [5] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] 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. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] 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.

14 comments:

GUNNY said...

Uh oh ... I think I see where Part 2 is going:

Part 1 - I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools.

Part 2 - I wish I could convince all Christians to pull their children from government schools ... and send them to Westminster Christian Academy.

C'mon, what cut are you getting? What's your "finders fee" for this?

;-)

Sure, sensitive subject, but there are many factors to consider in these areas, including the quality of the government schools, and the quality of other available options.

It also depends on what my goals are for my children. Education may be approached differently, for example, if the goals include getting a son into Harvard versus raising a daughter who will never aspire to work outside the home.

I'm just saying there are a myriad of things to consider in what is often see as a "no-brainer" by folks on all sides of this issue (e.g., homeschool, private school, Christian private school, classical education, homeschool co-op slooge, and the local public school).

AJF said...

Gunny,
Nope, that's not where I'm going with this. No "catch" coming. What you see is what you get.

I wish Christians would take their kids out of government schools, period.

I think there are multiple valid options for Christians when it comes to discipling their children. Home schooling and Christian Schooling are the wide categories, but there are many approaches to these. I'm not commenting on the approaches, just the macro issue.

Quality of government schools? Sorry, high quality humanism is just as bad as low quality humanism.

I agree that discipleship/education should be "customized" for each of the children entrusted to you, so I am not advocating a one size fits all as it relates to what form of Christian Education you employ.

Obviously I think Westminster is an excellent choice to ASSIST parents in disicipling their children- so much so that I send my own children there gratefully.

The only no-brainer I can see is not giving our kids to Caesar for 14,000 hours of training before they are 18.

Rick Calohan said...

I worked in the United States Department of Education Office For Civil Rights from 2002-2007. My position was Reader-Assistant, i.e. I read to an Equal Opportunity Specialist/Investigator who has been blind since birth, whom all his life attended parochial schools in Queens, New York, and who got his BA in History at St. Bonaventure, and MA in Education at NYU. His wife who also is partially blind, BA,MA, UMKC, both lived in the Waldo area of Kansas City. They have two kids, whom they sent they sent the son to St. Elizabeth’s, Pembroke Hill, and Rockhurst, and the girl to St. Elizabeth’s, St. Teresa’s Academy, and Rockhurst. Two parents who worked in the old Health Education and Welfare now U.S. Department of Education, the wife later moved to the Social Security Administration were sending their kids to private schools because they new how terrible the Kansas City Public Schools were, are, and forever will be. Yet, the majority of people who worked who lived in the suburbs sent their kids to various suburban area school districts outside the Kansas City Public Schools.

During my time at Department of Education, I read 64 cases of so-called civil rights cases to my liege. When, I came on board, I thought majority of these cases would be race related, or true discrimination against the disabled. Sad to say majority of the cases were discipline issues since the majority of the complaints were about multiple offenders whom the Districts could not enforce discipline because the student had ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome. On the other hand, the students may have had mild disabilities such as asthma or TMJ, and were granted keys to the school district, in other words, whatever the parents want, whatever the student wants, the districts and their attorney’s would cave so as to appease the parents and the largess of the Federal Government. Not to mention but I will the witch hunts/Compliance Reviews, which in my view to see if these districts are in compliance with Title IX and Title II Section 504, and ADA. Not to mention but I will the No Child Left Behind Act. Actually what it should be apply named is Every Child is Left Behind. Or after reading, some of these complaints Some Children should be Left Behind. For a complete listing of how your tax dollars are wasted go to

http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/aboutocr.html

What I am getting at is that inner city schools are in chaos, because there is no genuine involvement between parent, teachers, and student. Teachers spend most of their times filling out reports, memorandums, CYA emails so that Johnny’s parents will not sue. District’s are so hamstrung they cannot teach or instill discipline. Never mind he cannot read, write, understand basic math, science or know the fundamental history of the Untied States. Suburban schools fare much better because of the money, parents, teachers, and students strive together for a better outcome. However, as anyone knows in the state of Kansas, what do you mean the schools don't teach EVILoution there? Yes, I meant to misspell it because that is what evolution is EVIL. All Government Schools teach Humanistic Socialistic Darwinianism. Heaven forbid you mention Jesus Christ other than as a profanity in the public schools. Don’t dare teach that a bunch of Puritans before they came ashore with the Mayflower Compact for those of you stuck in public schools who have never heard about it or read it here is the complete text.

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.


Oh I’m sorry did I offend someone for using God, Amen, Grace of God, God, Covenant, Anno Domini (Year of our Lord in Latin not After Death or Common Era as taught in the public schools)

Repeating again, from what I wrote in earlier post because it applies again in case you missed it but it needs to be drilled in every parent’s head.

The late Dr. D. James Kennedy in his sermon: “A Godly Education” said, “If there is one thing which is made abundantly clear, both in the Old Testament and the New, it is that children are a gift from God, that they are loaned to us for a little while, and that we as parents are responsible for giving them a godly education. We are to rear them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That line upon line and precept upon precept, His truth is to be taught to them.”

He also pointed out these facts:


• That from 1620 – 1837, all education was private and Christian. During that time, only four out of 1000 Americans were illiterate.

• From 1837 - 1987: 150 years and over a trillion dollars later there are 27 million illiterates and 30 million functioning - illiterates.

According to Doctor Kennedy:

“In 1837, our modern public education was born in Massachusetts under the influence of Horace Mann. Who was he? He was a Unitarian. He did not believe in the Trinity, he did not believe in the deity of Christ, he did not believe in the inspiration or author of the Bible. He looked around him and saw that the entire educational system of all the children of America was in the hands of the Christian Church. That, to him, was deplorable!”

“John Dewey established educational theory for teachers' colleges throughout America. So who was he? He was the first president of the American Humanist Association. No wonder the Bible is missing-in-action in public schools today!”

“John Dewey, the father of modern progressive education is so lionized in our country. Yet, Dewey and the various leaders of the progressive education movement have said, "There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. "With dogma and creed excluded, immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed natural law or moral absolutes. That has been the basis of all of the great "advances" of our modern public education.”

http://www.coralridge.org/

Thanks be to God that Redeemer offers an alternative with Westminster Christian Academy for parents who are tired of Human Secularist Darwinism that is poisoning our youth stuck in Godless Public Schools. And thanks to Ben Stein for presenting the truth about our abysmal educational system.

grj said...

I agree with you totally about discipling our children, once that is the priority, then the Christian discipleship/education is essential...14,000 hours!!!
What a difference 14,000 hours could make in a Christians training!!!

JON MEYERS said...

El Felicho, I am a product of organized Christian education during my 14,000 seat hours of formal education as a child and had a Christian home. I am forever grateful for such an upbringing.

Thank you for this post. These things needed to be said in a public forum, so that all can see why Redeemer's leadership is so supportive of Christian Education.

Hough said...

Gunny,
You can't make this conditional on "goals" as though going to Harvard requires a public school education. As followers of Christ are first goal must always be their discipleship in Christ.
How could a parent even find joy in having a brilliant child in Harvard if that Harvard education is only going to further their personal name and bank account rather than the Kingdom of God?
As far as great public school teachers, they exist, I had them in school. But there is a fear to discuss Christ with students, or to bring the Bible into anything. The best you get are "Biblical Principles" that are presented in the hope that someday these youth might learn where these principles came from. That is simply not discipleship. It is a well meaning believing teacher doing the best he/she can do given the gag order on Christ.
Students can survive, I did, but since when is survival our goal?
Some of our students are in public schools, they do fine, they are known as believers there and live according to that name very well. But they are not being discipled to think Biblically during those seven hours of school each day. Instead they are being fed a worldview that has no place for Jesus Christ 49 hours a week. The church gets 2-4 hours a week. You can add to that however many hours parents are praying with their children, reading scripture with their youth, discussing things from a Biblical worldview, etc. Even at best, it would be impossible to come close to those 49 hours a week.
I love these students and enjoy both praying for them and encouraging them to live out Christ in their schools, but I would be lying if I said I thought it was ideal.

Rick Calohan said...

PS: Any spelling or gramatical errors on any of my earlier post are because I am a byproduct of the Kansas City Public Schools from 1972-1985, with only one year 1977-78 in a private school which, was not enough to offset the tide.

Hough said...

"our" not "are", see public school failed me.

GUNNY said...

Hough wrote: "Gunny,
You can't make this conditional on "goals" ..."

Sure you can and that's what Tony's advocating. For him the goal in education is to minimize a non-Christian worldview while maximizing a Christian worldview (or some such, right?).


Hough wrote: "... as though going to Harvard requires a public school education."

Actually, I'd be willing to bet that a person would have a better chance getting into Harvard with a private education.


Hough wrote:

"How could a parent even find joy in having a brilliant child in Harvard if that Harvard education is only going to further their personal name and bank account rather than the Kingdom of God?"

Who said the goals in going to Harvard were (necessarily) fame & fortune at the expense of the kingdom of God?

Suppose the goal is infiltration of the world with the light of the Gospel and a Harvard education (for example) is a means to the advancement of the kingdom of God?

My intention with my kids, for example, is not that they would merely be unstained by the world, but be people of influence for Christ within the world.

That's why I don't feel constrained to have them go to a "Christian" college either.

Would you (e.g., Hough) feel the same way about college? Why send your money and child to a secular school for the demolition of the Christian worldview created up to that point?

Remember, the literature in the Christian book stores is all about "How not to lose your faith in college, etc."

I'm not speaking to anyone in this forum (as I don't know), but I have often found it interesting the number of folks who would never send their kids to a government secondary education, but readily do so for college.

In the former, they are there to nurture and guide, but then they're in college on their own.

Just some random thoughts, but don't be misled; I don't really have a dog in this race.

AJF said...

Gunny,
If a young person's discipleship is solid, state college is a possible option, no doubt. Also, I'm not advocating isolation from the world, a solid Christian Education will have exposure to various outreach ministries. Further, there's enough sin in families and Christian schools to get a dose of the world. Such places are not by any means without fault, they just have the proper mechanisms in place to address sin when it arises. That's a vital part of discipleship.

Finally, as a pastor, you do have a "dog in this race". You are responsible to guide those entrusted to your care, especially in this area.

Frontier Forest said...

On my first mission trip to the former Soviet Union, it amazed me, and I have to admit, thought it pretty pathetic, that so many of the dedicated Christian families I came in contact with had 10 or more children. My own unspoken and uneducated thinking said this; “Why do these people insist on bearing so many children, then bringing them up in such dire poverty?” And so my stupid Western thinking rationalized, ‘Ignorance must be the only reason they don’t these use birth control?”
As I have made now my 7th trip to the very poor country of Moldova, my mistaken conclusions have drastically changed. These families are so dedicated to the Lord and to bringing up their children with a Christian World view, they realize the only way they can help their country be changed, is for the future generations to know God, be educated in His Word and live by His sovereign rule. From the time each child is old enough to talk, a Christ-centered education and Godly thinking is faithfully administered. God ordained principles are as familiar and necessary to these children as the food they need to sustain and make them grow strong and healthy bodies. God forgive me for such ignorant thinking on my part! And Praise be unto Westminster Christian Academy!

Hough said...

I think there are good reasons for sending your children to "Christian" universities, but that is not really the issue here. Discipleship is not so much about protecting as it is shaping or training. Are you telling me that Rachel at her age is going to have more influence over her secular humanist teachers (and their curriculum) than her teachers (and the curriculum) have over her? Even knowing she is being raised in your home, a solid Christian home, you can't hope for her to be unaffected by that sort of secular humanist teaching.
But, if she has a holistic discipleship in her life (school, home, church) then when she goes to college she'll be much more prepared to deal with these ideas.
It is not about creating a bubble of safety from the unbelieving world, but about actively training our children to think about all of life with a Christian Worldview. Not defense, but offense.

jeff in nj said...

Tony & others -

Praise God for His timing! I knew I discovered this blog for a reason. for any who don't know, I'm a Christian father of 3 boys, and a public school teacher. My oldest (Ryan) is in a wonderful Christian school for pre-K this year. My 2nd arrow (Kevin) will be entering pre-K next year. We've been struggling with the decision of whether to keep Ryan in for Kindergarten, or to make the switch to public school. Up until last night, we had been praying, but so far, no response. We prayed earnestly for an answer last night, and now, I check Tony's blog, and I'm sure this is God's way of answering our prayer. Amazing that the Lord can use a bunch of guys in KS to answer the prayer of a guy in NJ who has never met the guys in KS!

Admittedly, the biggest stumbling block for us is the expense (no, really?). To go from one in pre-k to 2 kids enrolled triples the cost. But, one of the things that kept sticking in my mind was this; in December, my son learned, at school, the true meaning of Christmas. Now obviously, we're teaching it to him at home, and he's learning it at church, but contrast that with the public school at which I teach. The kids learn about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali (??), santa-christmas, and every other PC celebration. I know it's only one example, but it represents the difference in the emphasis of the education.

There's so much more I could write, but I want to go spend time with my wife now that the boys are in bed. Tony, thank you so much for this post! It really has been an answer to prayer! I would be curious to know when you decided to post on this topic...

AJF said...

Jeff,
What a great post.

The expense issue is no small matter. This is where the Church must be committed to help. If a family genuinely desires to send their children to a solid Christian School, we (the church family) have to be willing to help if there is genuine need. Also, hopefully the Christian school itself has financial aid.

If a family is willing to make various sacrifices, we find a way to make sure their children are at Westminster. We have never turned anyone away who has legitimate financial aid.

I know this is tough bro- I will pray for God's provision in this area!

Thanks for responding. Wow.