Russell and Duenes

Why Do We Not Plant Churches and Schools Concurrently?

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Is it a sin for a Christian to keep his or her child in a public school?

I’ve been asked this question, and it’s not easy to answer, as important questions rarely are. But let’s try to build an answer from the ground up, as it were. Does God require an explicitly Christian education for His children? I believe strongly that the answer is “yes.” I believe this for many reasons, but I think the first and greatest commandment sheds light on this question. Jesus said that the whole law is summed up in the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” I don’t see how a public school education, where Jesus is officially excluded from the curriculum, can comport with obedience to this command. Kids are absolutely not taught to love Jesus with all their hearts, souls, powers, and minds in the public schools (and in many Christian schools, too). I would add that the Scriptures enjoin us to follow wisdom, and wisdom tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” If that’s true, then a school system that officially excludes the fear of the Lord, as the public schools do, is out of step with God’s will, and thus, is sinful. So this is where we must start, and we must start with repentance. The church must turn away from her disobedient participation in an idolatrous educational system, which is what our public schools are.

Now, when I mention repentance the obvious question from the Christian with kids in public schools is: “If you say I need to repent, then you’re saying that I’m sinning by having my kids in public schools, aren’t you?” Well, it’s not that simple. Why not?

First of all, there is the obvious financial issue. Private schools are cost-prohibitive for many, many families. So I can imagine that there are Christian families out there who would love to put their kids in a Christian school but simply can’t afford it. I’m not convinced such a person is sinning. They agree that a Christian education is biblical, but for them, in our current system, it is not feasible.

I suppose they could homeschool their kids, but this is not a panacea for all woes. Some are ill-equipped to homeschool, and some are just unable to homeschool due to circumstances, such as a family illness or unemployment or inability to purchase the required materials, to name a few. In fact, though I think the homeschooling movement has been a tremendous blessing, I’m in favor of children going to an actual brick and mortar school where they will be educated by trained teachers. Obviously this should be done in tandem with parents, but I think it should be done. So there are various reasons why having one’s children in public schools, given our current situation, may be unavoidable.

Where I believe the sin comes in is when Christians think that a public school education is not only unavoidable, but actually desirable. I’ve dealt elsewhere with the common arguments Christians make in favor of public schools (e.g., our kids are being salt and light, they’re learning to defend their faith, we don’t want them to be sheltered), and I think such arguments are ultimately wanting. I have tremendous sympathy for parents who desire a Christian education for their children but can’t pull it off. What I object to is the attitude of the church in general toward Christian education. If the church suddenly stopped putting any money in their budgets towards missions and outreach, what would we think of such churches? Surely we would say they are sinning. So then how come we don’t say they are sinning when they don’t have at least a line-item in their budget for Christian education (and I don’t mean Sunday School)? Why are we excited about planting churches but complacent about planting Christian schools? The two should go together. As we plant churches it would only be natural (and biblical) to plant schools right along with them. This is where the change of heart – repentance – is needed. What I hope God will do is raise up an army of pastors, elders, and deacons who see a distinctively Christian education for the children in their congregations as absolutely central to spiritual formation in Christ. I pray that God’s people will recover the vision for Christian education that moved Medieval Christians to found the schools and universities that shaped Western Culture. I pray that believers will recover a larger vision of education, as something more than “job training,” as an investment in cultural engagement for Christ. When this larger vision is recovered, then we will stop thinking that a Christian education is “sheltered” and “cut off from the world,” and we will see that true Christian education leads to unleashing Christians upon the culture who are well-equipped to influence it in all areas: Science, Engineering, Computer Technology, Architecture, Music, Filmmaking, Law, Literature, Journalism, Business, and on and on.




Written by Michael Duenes

November 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education

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