The Purpose of Christian Education...and NCSAA
By Nate HartmanOctober 11, 2009
Even as I direct NCSAA, I often lose sight of the purpose of what we're doing -- and by "we", I do not simply mean our staff. I mean all of us -- Christian schools (administrators, teachers, staff, coaches, parents, students, and all involved)...and not just high schools, but elementary schools, and prechools, and colleges, and homeschooling families...and not just schools, but families and churches and all of us who call Jesus Christ our Lord. It's easy for us to trudge along each day, delving into the work and routines that lie in front of us -- forgetting to listen.
And tonight I listened, and I realize that we all need to listen -- and that maybe that listening can change the course of what we're doing. While reading the book of Amos, I heard..."The Lord roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem..." (v. 2). What follows in this book of Scripture is not just a worthwhile reading; it is a shout from God. When God roars, we need to listen -- and respond.
The whole of chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Amos are filled with God's judgment upon nations that did not recognize and obey Him. As I read, I nodded in support of many of these proclamations of God's wrath -- upon Syria for its cruelty, upon the Philistines for their enslaving Israel, upon Tyre and Edom and Ammon and Moab (all pagan nations known for their disregard for God's commands). And then come the final two statements of judgment...upon Judah and upon Israel -- God's people.
God promises His punishment -- fire and destruction -- upon Judah because "they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, lies which their fathers followed" (Amos 2:4). Likewise, God declares that Israel will be punished for its transgression, "because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, and drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god" (2:6b-8).
Read further...I encourage you to do so. (This won't be the end of my comments on the book of Amos; keep checking back here throughout the coming week, as I'll be writing more each evening.) God accuses His own people of turning away from Him, and He promises the weight of His wrath upon them.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the difficulties faced by Christian schools -- by Christian education, in general. Our culture is driven by priorities and motivations contrary to the desires of God, and in the face of the choice between those purposes, even many who profess belief in Jesus Christ are wavering in our commitment to Christian education -- to teaching everything to our children in the light of God's truths, to maintaining the right priorities in our schools' activities and operations, to seeing a purpose beyond serving only ourselves. In the days to come, I'll share more thoughts about the purpose of Christian education, the problems facing it, and the consequences of missing the mark...but for now, let's just say that Christian education is facing some serious struggles.
In the midst of those struggles, it's important that we -- God's people -- not overlook God's wrath. We live in the midst of a culture (and are part of a culture, and have engaged in its ways) that bears similarity to Judah and Isael -- that needs to hear the message from God that Amos spoke. Our culture has despised the law of the Lord and has not kept His commandments -- and has turned instead to following lies. We have prioritized wealth and riches -- a lifestyle of comfort and selfishness -- ahead of caring for the poor and needy. In the presence of God we have defiled the good things that He has given us, and the habits of our sinful culture have perverted the minds and ways of our children. We are a part of a culture that should fear God's wrath, and that fear of God should drive us to seek what He desires.
What does He desire? How can we respond? "Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart -- these, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:14-17).
What does God desire? He desires that we humble ourselves before Him. He desires that the purpose of our lives be found in relationship with Him -- and nothing else. He desires that families commit to that purpose, and that schools commit to that purpose, and that athletic teams to commit to that purpose -- and (as I am convicted of all of this anew tonight) that NCSAA commit to that purpose.
So, today, I ask you to walk with me through these passages and thoughts in the days to come. I ask that you pray with me -- and with your students and families and staff -- in humility before God. I ask that you pray for NCSAA, that our staff will be challenged by Scripture -- and how God's Word applies to the task He has given to us.
In the times ahead, we are recommitting our work -- our entire purpose -- to the realization that Christian athletics is a part of Christian education...and Christian education is under attack. Thus, we desire to come alongside Christian schools not just to help strengthen their sports programs and give them some nice "bells and whistles" to use, not just to hold tournament events and recognize athletes...but to help schools and students and families and communities to be reminded of the purpose of all of life -- to be found and claimed in a right relationship with our Maker. We're excited about coming alongside your schools and families in that effort, and we hope you'll pray and dialogue with us about that in the near future!