Things were going smoothly in my life. I was completing 16 year at Lynchburg Christian Academy where I served as Superintendent for the last nine years. In addition to my school life, I had completed my course work and passed all my comprehensive exams for my EdD at the University of Virginia. My future plans were in place. I would continue serving the Lord at LCA, write my dissertation and receive my degree. All was good!
But God…. Little did I know that God was preparing me for somethings that would shape my understanding of what true biblically based, Christ centered education really was. In 1989 God uprooted our family and we moved to Atlanta, GA where I assumed the role of Southeast Director for the Association of Christian Schools International. For the next 7 years I would serve what grew to be over 600 schools in 8 states.
Because of my thirst to understand God’s design and purpose of education, I made a biblical philosophy of education the major theme of the Southeast’s services to schools. We tried to bring in the best speakers on the subject to our teacher and administrator conferences. We stressed the importance of the philosophy of Christian schooling in our student activities, student leadership conferences and regular school consulting efforts.
Through all of these efforts, I constantly asked myself if this is really what God’s purpose of education is? Were Christian schools merely an alternative to other forms of schools? Were Christian schools a Christianized version of secular/public schools? One verse was on my mind constantly. I thought about this verse on an almost daily basis.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)
More questions grabbed me by the heart. How much of Christian schooling was merely following the tradition of men? After all, Christian schools operated pretty much like all schools. They had similar calendars, course offerings, graduation requirements, athletic and other co-curricular offerings, and even used many of the same textbooks. Were we being taken captive by false ideas/philosophy of education? What would it look like if Christian schools were doing everything according to Christ?
When I first started serving the Southeast Region of ACSI, I wasn’t able to begin my work on my dissertation. One day I was near Charlottesville, VA and stopped by UVa to inquire about how much time I had to complete my dissertation. I was told by one of my professors that I had one month left to complete everything. However, he told me that if I would get him a proposal that he would approve, he would get me a one-year extension. I don’t have time to go through how God worked this out but I had my dissertation approved exactly one year from the date I visited the University.
My dissertation involved a national study on the religious beliefs and practices of Christian school graduates. It was a fascinating study but what was taking place behind the scenes would eventually become my life’s message and mission. To complete this study I had to provide proof that education, especially formal schooling, was more about developing a belief system than on accumulating facts that would guarantee success in the future. I spent hours upon hours in the basement levels of the UVa library reading about the purpose of education during the founding of the USA. I read chapel messages by Noah Porter while he served as President of Yale. It was exciting to research and find out what our Founding Fathers had written about education and its true meaning.
As I traced the history of American education from its beginning to its current time (it was 1994 when I was doing this research), I became aware of the secularization of education and society. This dangerous shift in educational philosophy started slowly in the early to mid 1800s. However, it increased in intensity in the early 1900s. Today, public schools operated under the authority of the government are completely secular in philosophy and operation. Of course, many Christian leaders warned of this demise of education when the shift was starting to take place. However, very few parents and church leaders paid any attention to all of the warning signs.
God was working in my life and I was starting to understand what education’s purpose was supposed to be. I was convinced that it involved the home, church and school. However, I didn’t know how all of this fit together. God had to, once again, turn my world upside down. He did this in the summer of 1996. What I was about to experience would change my life completely. Tomorrow I will share how it all came together but it wasn’t easy.