Avoiding the Ditches in Building True Christian Community
Written by Marlin Detweiler
One of the outcomes of godliness ought to be Christian community that loves and serves one another in so glorious a way that the world is drawn in and wants to know more of what makes us tick. Scriptures say, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I remember having the pleasure of a breakfast with a board member from a classical Christian school. Several years prior he found himself as the headmaster of a different, well-established Christian school. He also coached the girls’ soccer team. While his team was playing the girls’ team from the school on whose board he now sits, he observed extraordinary Christian character in the lives of his opponents—even in defeat—so that he just had to meet the coach and find out more about this school. What he learned changed his life, and he now has a child enrolled there.
As we think about educating children—ours or those placed in our trust—we should keep this one end (of several ends) in sight. One of the reasons we memorize a timeline of history in grammar school or study Latin or logic is to educate in such a way that this education is one that helps to produce godliness and that this godliness is one that produces Christian community.
As we think about parenting, we need to think of raising children whose education will aid the process of developing godliness and, in turn, help produce Christian community. Such is the calling of parents and teachers.
Unfortunately, the road we travel has two ditches. The obvious ditch is the one where the “classical” of classical Christian education succeeds mightily but fails to instill the Christian character and godliness needed and expected of those that have been given much. If our children receive a great education, giving them great advantage in life, but it is not used to the glory of God, we have done very little, if any, good. In fact, we have done more harm than good.
The other ditch is when we begin to substitute the role of the school or our educational environment (such as our homeschool) for the church. Recently, I have heard far too many folks suggesting overtly and sometimes not as consciously or intentionally that the community we seek to build will be or should be centered around the school or homeschool association.
This thinking, subtle or otherwise, is riddled with great problems. Where do childless couples fit? How about empty-nesters?
My involvements in education have been more extensive than I ever dreamed or imagined they would be. Yet I don’t ever want to presume that this educational world, as close and consuming for a family as it may be, can in any way or at any time supplant the role of the organization given to build Christian community—the Church.
It is by the grace of God and through His ordained means that we find the Church to fill the role of building Christian community. In doing so we find that no age group, no stage in life, no childless couple and no single adult is functionally or otherwise left out of the communities we hope and should seek to build.
There are certainly churches with so many programs and meetings that they can be overly consuming of our time. But what I’m talking about here is when the church doesn’t give itself over to scheduling too many things, but educational organizations create the same problem. I remember a pastor at a teacher training conference who came to realize this and determined that fundamental changes were in order. Praise God for examples like this man.
And, finally, we find frequent divides in churches resulting from school cliques, homeschool cliques, etc. It is certainly natural to develop good relationships with those with whom we work and spend the most time, yet it should not be the case that we have so many meetings and activities within these organizations such that we have little time or energy to serve the needs of others within our churches.
Mature Christian thinking will produce mature Christian communities. May we be blessed with a double dose.
Marlin Detweiler, Founder and President, Veritas Press