Every organization has its own way of thinking, behaving, or working that sets it apart from other organizations. It’s often called our culture. It’sthe atmosphere or climate that marks the protocol, relationships and interpersonal activities that take place day in and day out. In our case, we are talking about the culture of Trinity Christian School.
Like everything we do here, our culture should be subject to scrutiny, review and correction if necessary. As Christians, whether we’re looking at our conduct individually or collectively, humility would dictate that we take stock of ourselves on a regular basis. We must never get beyond the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23-24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
This past spring and summer was a time of soul-searching for the administration and board of TCS. We were deeply saddened to learn that fifteen students would not be returning. Nine of them were for reasons that we could readily understand. But there were at least six and possibly more who left for reasons we found to be most discouraging. Sadly, we were forced to acknowledge that we are seeing something of a paradigm shift in contemporary Christian culture that is troubling, to say the least. Unlike some other countries where Christians are thrilled to have even one venue for Christian education, in America, “consumerism” is rife, and many parents, under the pressure of finances and discontented kids, are choosing other options.
But one of the compelling questions for all of us in leadership at TCS was this. With all of our strong points as a classical Christian school, are we cultivating and nurturing an atmosphere that motivates our students to want to be here? In other words, is our Christian school a Culture of Grace?
Under the leadership of Doug Prol, our Head of School, this subject became the core of the week of faculty development that preceded the beginning of the 2016/2017 academic year. Using an excellent DVD teaching series by Dr. Paul Tripp entitled, "Your Christian School: A Culture of Grace?" the question he asks in his first session is this: "Are we asking the law to do what only grace can accomplish?"
We must be reminded that, even in education, we are waging a battle. This battle is a spiritual battle for the heart. And in the case of our dear children, the heart they start with is a sinful heart. And this sinful heart motivates sinful actions in our homes and in the classroom. How do we respond? Do we simply let these children act out, chalking it all up to inexperience that they will one day grow out of? The answer to this is a very clear "no". The Bible teaches us instead that there is something called law - specifically God's law - that must be applied in these situations. This law is not a sinister, oppressive catalog, but it is God's holy, good, and chosen instrument in revealing to man his sinful nature (Romans 5:13; Romans 7:7; Matthew 5:17).
But the story doesn't stop here, because, while the law may shine a light on a heart, it does not have the power to save that heart. Dr. Tripp uses the illustration Christ gives us in Luke 6:43-45 to remind us that good trees bear good fruit, while bad trees bear bad fruit. If all we do is bring law, law, and law, we might encourage what Dr. Tripp calls "apple-nailing"; in other words, we are trying to get kids to produce good-looking fruit by making them attach external works to the branches of their own bad trees. They will jump through hoops to earn favor and acceptance rather than being led to consider the heart behind their actions.
We have to be reminded that only God's grace and working can change a sinner's heart (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ezekiel 36:26). And in light of that truth, we must always be sure that we are pointing our children to that reality. This doesn't mean we abandon God's law - and more practically, rules and procedures for the operation of our school. But we must also reflect on how these things are used, and how we might improve them. And, we must be ready to do more to show God's love and grace.
We all agree that this change must be fueled by prayer and a growing knowledge of God and his Word. At TCS, we are committed to pray that God would continue to help us cultivate a culture of grace in our school. Let us pray that teachers, parents, staff, and school board members will all be motivated to have rules and systems that encourage this culture, and that we would all continue to have a heart to lead our children to a place where God will change their hearts.