Saturday, August 03, 2013

Adventist Schools - From Discipline to Discipleship

On August 24, 2005, while at an Executive meeting in Launceston our worship time diverged into a discussion about our schools. I was so moved by the discussion that I wrote an article about the thoughts that came from the meeting. Have a look... And enjoy!

Where our schools were once designed as a safe place for our kids, they are now, by necessity, being redesigned to mentor secular kids and evangelise them with the basic stories and teachings of the Bible. This restructuring has been necessary due to the huge influx of non-Christian kids that are enrolling and enjoying our Adventist schools. Why are secular people attracted to Christian schools? The parents are told clearly that their children will be taught Christian beliefs and values. And, to our amazement, the parents often inform us that our values and teaching are the very reason they are enrolling their children in our school! Why?

In discussion on Aug 23, 2005 the Board of Directors for the Tasmanian Conference of The Seventh-day Adventist Church a number of reasons were unearthed. Primarily, it is our values based lifestyle that is so attractive to parents. Secular schools can promote a values based system, but the foundation of their system is a society that is focused on punishment for crime rather than healthy moralistic living. As Christians, we come from the exact opposite position. We are values based because our God is Love and his values compel and empower us. This difference results in public schools that have very little ground to stand on in convincing kids to be good for goodness sake and Christian schools that, following the example of Christ, teach and model servant leadership and self-directed behaviour. It is as if we have a virus of goodness and purity with which the world wants to be infected. As Pastor Kevin Amos, President of the Tasmanian Conference, stated, “People want to catch what we’ve got!”

In has been said that if you make a better mousetrap or preach a better sermon, the world will make a beaten path to your door. This is what is happening in our Schools. Our mousetrap is effective at catching the unkempt kids of today’s world and turning out passionate young people who pursue righteousness. Our sermon is one of being “other’s focused” and Christlike. It is a sermon that public schools cannot preach. And it is a very effective and life changing message!

What precisely is it that draws the world to our doorstep?

According to Neil McGrath, Principle of Northwest Christian School in Penguin, Tasmania, the specific drawing cards are our values (such as respect and clean language), our lifestyle, our peace of mind, and our detail to the little things in regard to the character development of their children. In a nutshell McGrath said, “The parents are drawn to the differences between us and other schools. And the kids actually like to be disciplined.”

It was this statement that got me fired up! A continuum of Christian experience formed itself on the paper in front of me. The word discipline is negative (at least every time I heard it as a kid I didn’t like it!). The word discipleship, on the other hand, is one of training, empowerment and Christian growth.

Discipleship is a foreign concept to the world and is exclusively Christian to those who do understand it. The actual concepts of discipleship and discipline are parallel. They are the same process, but from different foundations. Secular society disciplines wayward kids, youth and adults through it’s various disciplinary systems. Christian organisations, however, disciple people toward their Christlike potential and purpose.

The shift in thinking that happens at the cross is radical. We move from being controlled from the outside – discipline – to being controlled from the inside – discipleship. Our compulsion to obey comes not from rules and regulations, but from the indwelling Spirit of God. We are drawn toward glorifying God through emulation and away from impressing our peers and leaders through obedience. Our nature becomes Christ-centred rather than self-centred, and our desire to obey comes from a passion to represent our God as accurately as possible rather than to identify ourselves as inherently good people deserving of praise.

So, back to school. Why does our Christian principled educational system draw secular people? Because we are representing Christ. What happens if we cease to represent Christ and begin to focus on our values based system? I would suggest very dangerous things would happen. If, on the other hand, we as Christian leaders and educators keep our connection to our Saviour strong through daily devotions and passionate prayer then our nature, as his representatives, will continue to draw all men, women and children to Jesus!

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