Making Disciples: Christian Education

Keith S. Goodman
Rethinking Adventist Structure
September 16, 2014

Making Disciples: Christian Ed
Every Adventist Child Should be Given the Option to Attend one of Our Schools

This morning I logged onto Facebook to see one of James Sampson's characteristically provocative posts. He was challenging the thinking of our denomination's adherents who are consistent and faithful financial supporters of the church, but who struggle to afford to put their children in church school. He said, "You've been in your religion for 20 years plus ... Have paid tithes and offerings ... and your church is worth at least a billion dollars ... but your kids can't afford to go to private school ... In what universe does that make sense?" Then he tagged it with the hashtag #ThinkAboutIt

Well, I have been thinking about it. And while we could pick apart his language "paid tithes" when the truth is we "return tithes." Or even argue against the concept that we give to the church expecting a return as if our financial support is "dues" that give us "membership" into a "club" that owes specified benefits for it members. There is a core of an idea that won't give me rest and that I deem worthy of further discussion. 

The mission of the church is to prepare people to joyfully and peacefully meet the Lord of the Church at His Second Coming. 

If that is the case, what better way to prepare our young people than through their schooling? Children attend school 180 days out of the year. For nine months, no other single activity consumes more of their time. And, other than their parents, no adult has more influence upon them than their teachers. Every child in our churches should have access to a quality Christian education. 

While we could establish after-school programs for Christian education, that is less powerful than weaving the Christian perspective into the science, arts and literature curricula our children are studying five days a week. Instead of trying to "add on"  Christian education, we should provide Christian education instead of letting them go to public schools. The secular education they receive is in environments increasingly hostile to the tenets of the Christian faith. We  ought to take advantage of the opportunity to incorporate our values into their educational careers since they spend so much time going to school.

But here is the problem. An idea like that requires blood. And precious few are willing to shed it to make it happen.

Earlier this week I was in a discussion with some colleagues who work at the administrative level of the denomination about the need to reallocate both human and financial resources. While we all agree when we look at the millions of dollars collected and spent globally that too many dollars are consumed in administration and too few are spent on mission, not many are willing to give up their particular position and salary to be a part of the needed change. It will take a large number of positions eliminated and persons reassigned in order for the current flow of monies to begin going significantly in a course that is mission-driven.

There is an inertness that pins our people to the status quo even when we can look down the road and see that we are headed down and dead-end street in a car that has no reverse gear. No matter that we are going in the wrong direction, we refuse to get out of the car.

Take, for example, the portion of conference budgets that goes into staffing tiny and sometimes toxic churches within their territory. Some conferences that have lots of small churches are reluctant to close them. Conference leadership can tell you that the church won't grow, and they can name the megalomaniac local lay leader or the unreasonably entitled "key family" that is hindering the church from growth. But they won't close it down. Everybody knows it's not going to grow, save a miracle, but we keep it open. What will we do with it? We'll send energetic young pastors out to cut their teeth on these barely flickering lighthouses. We use them as "starter churches" for the uninitiated. 

Some of these churches have less than ten people attending Sabbath after Sabbath. Economically, we would do better to shutter their doors and contract a van/limousine service to transport those ten people to the nearest sizeable church every week than to continue to place a pastor (human resources) and pay to upkeep (financial resources) a church that hasn't baptized and retained ten people in ten years.

But a proposal like that is easily dismissed because we figure "it would never fly."

In old drafty houses the heating bills in winter tend to be high. The heat escapes everywhere! It goes out through all those old hard-to-seal windows, those insulation-less walls, those pre-Green-era building materials. It's not just one window that was left open that is the culprit of the wallet-draining winter heating bills. No. The whole house has to be winterized if the bill is going to come down. New windows have to be installed. A more energy-efficient heating system needs to be put in along with better ductwork. 

What I'm suggesting by way of analogy is that we need to acknowledge that dollars are getting away from us in many different ways. 

We need to start looking at where the resources are going and then courageously redirect them so that we are doing the work Christ commissioned us to do. "Go ye therefore ..." (Matthew 28:19-20).
I'm thinking that providing a Christian education for our school aged children qualifies as a good strategy for making young people disciples of Jesus Christ. What do you think?


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