Back in the day before cell phones, GPS, and onboard navigation systems, I decided to “camp across America” as part of my move from California to Boston for graduate school. I stopped by AAA and with their help, prepared a paper TripTik which mapped out the journey. I made sure to hit all the hot spots like Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Great Lakes, Corn Palace (yes, there is such a place in Mitchell, South Dakota), and many other spots. I also pinpointed all the cool campgrounds and tented for two weeks as I made the trek across this extraordinarily expansive and picturesque continent. A highlight was fishing on the Flathead river in Montana and eating the roasted protein that I cooked in foil on the red-hot coals of my campfire that night in Wyoming.
Along the way, I also experienced some unexpected interruptions. A tornado touched down one night not far from where I was camping. The strong winds and rain broke some tent poles and left me soaked and sleep deprived, but luckily there was a laundry facility on site where I could huddle up and refresh my belongings.
It was an adventure of a lifetime, and I drank in every moment of it. However, without the paper maps and well-planned-out TripTik, I would not have been able to navigate such a journey. It was not only essential to know how to reach my final destination (Boston) and all of the meaningful pit stops along the way, but I also needed to know how to navigate the roads near each place, what to avoid, and what I must pay close attention to.
My thoughts had to be clear on what I was doing and how I was doing it.
In Christianity, we are also on a journey. Life is an adventure which has a specific destination one intended by God: to know Him, to love Him, to love others, and to serve Him. This means that Christian educators have a clear mandate to teach these truths above all else and to prayerfully expect these results. Jesus promised that if we follow Him and adhere to His teachings as our roadmap that we will experience liberation. He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Because of this wonderful promise, Linfield has applied God’s expectations as our guide. Our mission at Linfield as an independent college preparatory school is to develop and inspire students –
- To know Jesus Christ as Lord
- To love others as themselves
- To grow in knowledge and skill
— In order that they may serve the Lord and the world through their character and leadership.
Our thoughts are clear on the final destination, and we know what we are called to teach as a school community. The first priority is to inspire students to “know Jesus Christ as Lord.” Additionally, our navigation towards final destinations has to be clearly mapped out as well, like any journey upon which we embark. However, what does this enterprise look like for a Christian school? How do we foster an environment in which students can know and love Jesus? What thoughts must we foster in students, faculty, administration, and families to accomplish this? To answer these questions, we must consider what shapes our thought lives. How we view ourselves, our purpose, and what brings us together as a school community will drive what we love and what we do. Ultimately, these are questions of worldview.
One of the goals of Christian education is for students to gain a biblical worldview, seeing themselves, God, others, and the world from God’s perspective. This worldview must be rooted in Scripture, and it
involves the intellect of the student. The physical map for the journey toward Christ-likeness is the “content” or truth we teach, where basic comprehension is desired. A second essential component to the map is logic and critical thinking, where biblical principles are compared and contrasted with the 21st century culture and context of student life. While a variety of perspectives of Christ and culture are represented in various church traditions, a simple understanding of the gospel message and salvation in Jesus through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone, as taught in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone, will remain the emphasis (See 5 Solas of the Reformation for details –https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/the-five-solas-of-the-protestant-reformation.html ).
When we believe what God has revealed to us in Scripture about Himself and His plan of salvation in Jesus, we begin our journey of spiritual formation with Him. In a Christian school, when students start to believe and follow a biblical worldview, we can expect there to be changes in perspective, priorities, and understanding of relationships. However, these changes will take place slowly and over time. According to our Vision 2020 document, “As students learn to see the world from God’s perspective, they begin to experience true spiritual formation. This is sometimes a slow and uneven process, so we are patient and steady, having been grateful recipients of God’s grace and love throughout our own journeys” (p. 28, emphasis mine). The highlighted portion is key for behavioral management and expectations of student character formation.
Spiritual growth and the conforming of our thoughts to God’s expressed desires in Scripture is a “slow and uneven process.” It will require understanding by all of the adults: parents, teachers, administration, etc. While we may extend grace easily toward some students, we may find ourselves tempted to be impatient with others. Preferential treatment should be identified and avoided. There are no “good kids” and “bad kids.” All children are made in God’s image and are imperfect because of sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The first step in achieving our mission as a school is to partner together to patiently “teach” expectations.
Spiritual formation will always:
- Be a slow uneven process
- Require grace & truth
- Require “patient and steady” leadership
On our journey towards a “Christ-like” campus in which students know Jesus, love each other, and serve the Lord and the world through their character and leadership, there will be educational, relational, personal, and other emotional tornados which will touch down. We will find students broken, soaked, and needing refreshment and redirection. Our job is to shape the thought life of students by teaching them how to read and navigate the roadmap of life found in the truths of Scripture. We do so patiently, knowing that their comprehension, obedience, and transformation will be an imperfect process in which learning from mistakes and mis-steps is expected. Our prayer is for each student to reach the final destination of knowing Jesus. So we ask our Heavenly Father to shape the Linfield environment into an ever-increasing haven in which discerning adults partner together to teach truth with grace, patience, and steady leadership.
Linfield Christian School