Clarity in Morally-Confusing Times

As I get opportunity to interact with a host of schools these days, I am impressed at how much trouble we can get in when we adhere to traditional Christian teaching and morality. I don’t want that to be the case for Evangel Classical School and our community. (Sadly, that was not the case in recent months at Kings.) I wish to be crystal clear, for the record: We love the Bible, we are training the Raggants to submit to it, and we embrace what we are convinced to be the clear and traditional teachings about marriage and human sexuality. God’s intended plan for marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life. Sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful, and when Christians engage in such behavior we act like unbelievers and it betrays our status as new creations in Christ. God created male and female (Genesis 1:27); this is not socially constructed, and it is not fluid.

I realize that’s a doozy of a first paragraph, and not what you’re accustomed to reading from me, but I assure you, it’s because I love ECS, our community, our mission, and our opportunity to shape young minds and form tomorrow’s culture-shapers. If that is going to happen, we cannot compromise where God has been clear, though many in the pale of the Church are doing that very thing today.

And sometimes it causes me to wonder.

What would the Church fathers argue to be “of first importance” if they were drafting a creed today?

To be sure, these are morally-confusing times, and Christians are doing little to introduce clarity to the confusion. It comes as little surprise that – in the spirit of Romans 1 – even professing Christians are inventing new ways to muddy the waters of Orthodoxy. We have a whole new list of lines between the false and the true today.

In its ongoing effort to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, our culture is spending the spiritual capital our fathers left us like entitled teenagers with a besetting addiction and old money…and the Church is not far behind. We’ve invented our own morality, traded in our freedom for shackles, and crafted diabolical knots for the consciences of our neighbors.

And where has that gotten us?

We murder our infants in the womb and call it “freedom.”

We normalize what God abominates and call it “love.”

We jettison the culture of our parents and call it “education.”

But I return to my original question. If the Church fathers were drawing lines in the sand today, would they insist on Sola Fide? The inerrancy of Scripture? Would they articulate afresh that a marriage is between a man and a woman? I wonder.

At ECS, our aim is to equip “another generation [to] carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.” This necessarily includes spending time studying the Bible, the Great Books of the West, and equipping students to think logically and speak clearly and winsomely. Along the way, we see some recurring lessons.

First, we see that the key to human flourishing is obedience to God’s commands. For instance, take my comments above on marriage. When we love and encourage marriage between one man and one woman for life, which is God’s intended arrangement, we find ourselves in strangely rare company…and our kids flourish in security and think that this sort of thing (i.e., a husband and a wife together in happy matrimony) is normal. Of course we live in a Genesis 3 world, and we’ve all been affected by divorce (including many in our own ECS community and the Sarr family tree), but I’ve never met a person who argued that divorce was consistent with God’s obvious design.

Or consider human sexuality. Two men can claim to enjoy romantic love for each other, but that’s not a sign of God’s blessing, and it is not fruitful as the marriage bed is intended to be.

Or what about politics? When we study history and the Bible, we can see what happens when Church and State blur their jurisdictional lines and try to do each other’s jobs. (Take the power struggle between Thomas Becket and Henry II. Juxtapose this with the the prophet Samuel and King Saul. What do you see?)

Through our study, our students see what happens when men dismiss what God has said and follow their own wisdom. God gives us just the sort of freedom, love, and education that we demand.

I realize that it’s becoming increasingly offensive to draw lines like the ones I’ve drawn here, but as many among us try to deny or redefine what God has said, we wish to be faithful to God’s Word and enjoy the variety of fruitfulness that comes of that faithfulness. Nor can we deny the results that we can see historically when men prefer their own wisdom to that of the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The trendy thing in our culture today would be to label ECS as anti-gay (as happened with Kings) because we love biblical and traditional marriage, for instance. Not only is this lazy and inflammatory, it doesn’t go far enough. We believe that homosexuality is sinful. We also believe that pride is sinful. And adultery and gluttony, too. The list of things we’re against can fall safely under one big umbrella: sin. We want to be anti-sin…though we’re a community of sinners trying to kill that sin and live in fellowship with God and with one another.

Instead of thinking of our anti’s, it may be more helpful to think in terms of our pro’s: We are pro-obedience to God’s commands, pro-personal holiness, pro-relational harmony, pro-loving our neighbors sacrificially, and lots more! Beyond this, every day at ECS is more like a work party than it is like what I grew up thinking of when someone said “school.” So we are pro-partying.

We want our kids to be trained to love what God has said, to submit to it (even when they don’t feel like it) and then to be wildly blessed and happy as God rewards the faithfulness He effects in them. We want for them to be able to discern truth from error, see through the lies of the enemy, and to stand strong in their biblical convictions to love and honor Christ in their choices. Amazing blessings await the faithful, and we fiercely fight for this on behalf of every Raggant.

May God give us the conviction of the Church fathers to know where to draw lines with grace and wisdom, and the courage to remain on His side of those lines.

Risus est bellum.
—Mr. Sarr

Uniform Un-standard Deviations

‘Tis the season to make a hundred shopping decisions related to school uniforms. In the spirit of playful clarity, I’d like to share with you some helpful reading material. We have had the same Uniform Committee for eight years, answering the same questions for eight years, and they’ve normalized some responses for our benefit…and amusement. And though the responses to the supplied questions and objections are intended to be smarmy and playful, they are nonetheless accurate. So here ya go.

Uniform Un-standard Deviations

AKA Teacher’s Uniform Cheat Sheet Addressing Common Confusion, Questions and Offenses

Skirt Length

  • Length should be at the knee, not mid-thigh OR mid-calf. It is purposefully not a precise measurement as a kindness to those tall, skinny girls among us who are unable to conform to the policy length without purchasing a skirt eighteen sizes too big and wadding up the waist in a rubber band.

Pants

  • Boys need to be wearing a black belt. Even if they don’t like it.
  • Pants can’t be saggy or droopy. Even if you have the above-mentioned belt on.

Shoes

  • No high-tops.
  • Nope, for real, no high-tops.
  • No boots. Think of these as high-tops that had real ambition in their rebellion.
  • Dress and Event Uniform requires DRESS shoes. Everyone really does know what this means. I promise.

Tights

  • Tights need to have feet. No leggings or footless tights. This is because the girls have feet and we don’t want them feeling left out.

Dress and Event Uniform Confusion

  • There is literally only ONE difference between these uniform requirements:
    • Dress: NAVY tights or socks
    • Event: WHITE tights only

Freezing Children

  • No outerwear other than uniform jackets and sweaters are allowed in the school or classrooms. (That means no hats, too.)
  • Yep, not in the school at all. No, not even in the hallways. But yes, outside during recess is great.

Shirts

  • Everyone except for secondary girls must have their shirt tucked in at all times.
  • The tucking exception for secondary girls is to allow for modesty when it can be difficult. However, the look shouldn’t be sloppy and the shirt can’t be hanging out beneath any sweater or jacket worn on top of it.

Masculine Details

  • Hair should be clean, neat and modest in style and appearance. Be wise.
  • Hair needs to be off the ear and collar. Unless said boy has a very, very short neck.
  • No jewelry. Except a wedding ring would be okay. But hopefully none of the boys are married.

Feminine Details

  • Girls are allowed to have subtle feminine detailing on their shirts like modest ruffles or shaping. It is a glory for girl Raggants to look beautiful while still looking generally…uniform.
  • Jewelry should not be distracting in any way. Necklaces should be tucked into shirts. Earrings should be a single stud or post earring per ear.
  • Makeup should be natural and not over-done.
  • Here’s a short Q&A to sum up many of the discussions about the girls’ uniforms:
    • Q: But…how will my daughter look special enough to really stand out?
    • A: 😑

Okay, it’s me again (Jonathan). While these represent our most common uniform questions, “common” shouldn’t be confused with “frequent.” It’s not as though we have a community of uniform fussers. I’m grateful for a culture where the students generally don their uniforms with pride and joy. I’m grateful for the parental contributions to that culture. I’m also grateful that our Uniform Committee has reasons for the decisions they’ve made, and I hope you find this to be as worth reading as I did.

Risus est bellum.

-U.H.

A Culture of Singing

I am often impressed that our school is uncommon, and most of the evidence is of a cultural (rather than, say, a curricular) nature. High schoolers commonly hang out with kindergarteners; all sorts of quirky individuals fit well in our hodgepodge of personalities; clusters of chatting parents bring this administrator delight rather than angst. But one cultural ingredient that brings me particular encouragement is the singing.

If you walk the halls of ECS during an afternoon passing period, the odds are you’ll hear one of the cool kids singing. Strange, I know. If you go to one of our obligatory choir classes, you’ll see (and hear) students who are being challenged and stretched and who are having a great time doing it together. I suppose it should come as little surprise that the singing often carries on long after (and before!) the bell.

Recently (yesterday, as I write this), I got to be in Leavenworth (of all places) with 28 of our secondary Raggants where we had stopped for lunch on the return trip from the Trinity Evangel Church youth retreat. As we were readying to leave, the students congregated on the grassy hill in the town center. When I came to join them, one suggested that we should sing something. This suggestion was greeted with general enthusiasm. Next thing we knew, we had two dozen junior-high and high school-aged students belting out Psalm 94 (which shares a melody with the German national anthem, which is only fitting for a Bavarian village rendition) and Psalm 128 and Doxology in four-part harmony for all the tourists to hear, enjoy, or to resent.

Someone forgot to tell these students that Psalms are for church, that choir is for school, and that singing isn’t cool. Oops.

Yesterday’s episode reminded me again of how grateful I am for this part of our school’s culture…and for a number of reasons. I’ll offer three for now.

Readiness to sing is a hallmark of joyfulness. Generally speaking, folks with a song on their lips are in a good mood. God has given us much, so it is proper that we should be grateful and ready with our thanks and praise. Raggants sing a lot and they’re happy doing it.

Songs with substance are a fantastic cultural weapon. With Psalms and hymns, we combat the Devil’s lies and dour defeatism. Last summer, I was there when a smarmy knot of students stood near an altar to Jupiter inside the Vindolanda Roman Fort and sang (you guessed it!) Psalm 94. Risus est bellum! These same students sang an Isaac Watts’ hymn beside his grave and later sang “The Son of God Goes Forth To War” in a chapel frequented by Scottish Covenanters…many of whom were later martyred.

Each morning at Matins we give the students opportunity to get some good theology stuck in their heads before they head off to first period. The Apostle’s Creed is great, but “Crown Him with Many Crowns” is catchy. Singing loudly about the “Potentate of time, Creator of the rolling sphere, ineffably sublime” can have a powerfully orienting effect before parading off to Logic or Math class. Even better when you’re parading off to Walmart or the library.

Singing is countercultural. Sure, there are talented pop artists who can sing well, and many of them are today’s cultural idols. But generally speaking, if you want to make beautiful vocal music with your family or friends, you’re regarded as weird. And the more theologically substantive your song, the less you’ll fit in.

It turns out our students are immersed in a cultural context where singing Psalms is both cool and fun. That is grace. We sure couldn’t manufacture it. But I can’t help thinking that it pleases God, who is giving us the reason and the ability to sing. By His continued grace, may this only increase.

The U.H.

Presenting…The U.H.’s Hot Tips for Completely Wasting Your Summer!

Summer break begins for Raggants a few days from now, but it’s not too early to be thinking about how you can optimize your regret for how you squandered the precious twelve weeks between June 7 and September 4. Effective slothfulness takes some planned neglect, and some of you need help being lazy. The Unruly Headmaster is here for you!

Before I offer my list of hot tips for wasting your summer, it’s important to remember that undergirding all these recommendations is a principle of selfishness. Do your best to make your decisions based on what is in your best immediate interest. When in doubt, do whatever you want, and trust that others will pick up your slack (or your Kleenex) whether now or in the fall. Make sense? Good.

Now, as promised, here are the U.H.’s Hot Tips for Completely Wasting Your Summer!

Tip #1: Sleep In Every Day

The school year is brutally stable. Week in, week out, it’s the same schedule. This summer you’re freed from the shackles of school bells. Sleep is sweet, and you’ve earned what’s coming to you over the last nine months. So unplug that alarm clock, turn on the white noise app on your iPod, program the DVR to record anything you might accidentally sleep through, draw those heavy blackout curtains, and catch some Z’s. You deserve it.

While you’re at it, this is a great time to become the night owl you’ve always wanted to be. Staying up late has its allure. Once the sun finally sets around here, it’s a great time to start a movie, right? Just think about how many movies you could get through if you practiced this discipline this summer. That takes us to our next point….

Tip #2: Take a Break from Reading

The reading load many of you face during the school year is downright oppressive. So much mental stimulation can hardly be good for a young brain. Fiction? Too much conflict and adventure. History? Too much irrelevant information from a past that probably doesn’t pertain to you anyway. Theology? Boooriiiing! Take a break from reading. It requires a lot of mental energy, and you’ve probably exhausted your supply for the year though it’s barely June! This is your time to build up your attention stores that you’ll need to draw on again in the fall.

A wise alternative is the television. It is far less mentally-demanding than reading; you can passively receive information while reading requires actual mental initiative. It’s possibly your mental muscles may atrophy a bit before September, but it’s okay! You can start building them back up some other time! That’s what school is for, right?

Tip #3: Abstain from Work

The misguided and industrious among us look at the summer weeks as offering more time to get projects done, to make repairs on the house, or to build and produce. The poor simpletons have it all backward. This is a time to rest, and I don’t mean the occasional recuperation and recovery that humans normally need to operate at a high level. This is prime time to log some serious R&R minutes. So do your best to work as little as possible.

In the Pacific Northwest, the summers are glorious; you can rest in the sun or the shade, inside or out! The anti-work options are limitless. To help us out, it’s peak movie season, so hit the theaters. Or hit the hammock. Or hit the remote control. Stock up on paper plates now so you don’t have to hit the dishes later. You’ll probably get fat, so you may want to pick up plenty of stretchy pants (enough to last you the summer without having to do any laundry).

This is YOUR time. Don’t forget that. Work is largely for others; summer is for you.

While there are infinite ways to squander the coming weeks, I trust you’ll find this short list helpful. You’re welcome to email me with your own ideas, but, you know, I may not read that email until the fall.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

A Feast to Remember

Feasts in the Bible are associated with special occasions and remembering. Passover (instituted in Leviticus 23) was a feast to recall Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh; the wedding at Cana (in John 2) was a feast to celebrate the union of a husband and wife before God; the Supper of the Lamb (in Revelation 19) will be a big feast celebrating the union of Christ and His bride, the Church.

So is it a misnomer to call our annual fundraising effort a feast? Wouldn’t it rake in more dollars if we had a gala or an auction? Maybe. But that’s not the point. If it is a feast, what exactly are we celebrating? What are we remembering?

Well, the Fundraising Feast is a combination of two things: a fundraiser, and a feast. We have financial needs as a school, and we’re not bashful about sharing those needs with those who love the school and are glad to be used by God to help meet those needs. But as those who affirm happily that God is in control and He will ultimately meet our needs, we trust God to raise the necessary funds. We don’t need to freak out if we don’t meet our fundraising goal in one night, and we don’t freak out if we do. Our job is to be faithful, and part of that faithfulness requires expressing those needs.

But we also want to remember the ways God blesses the school (especially contrasted with what we deserve), so we want the fundraising element to be enveloped in the grace-saturated context of feasting and revelry. Every week we conduct classes and sing psalms and chant multiplication tables and scrape knees beneath a Niagara Falls of God’s blessings. We are getting inquiries from awesome families, we currently comprise awesome families, we have teachers who are discipleship-oriented, and our Raggants love their classmates and their teachers. We sin against each other all the time, but God has given us a handbook for dealing with that, too! (See Matthew 18:15-20.) While we watch and even take part, these students are being trained to engage culture, love Scripture, debunk Nietzsche, love their families and worship robustly Sunday through Saturday. For my part, I just don’t get tired of talking about at the great things He is doing at our school.

Our school is financially stable, growing at a healthy pace (to keep us dependent and humble), failing with a healthy regularity (to keep us dependent and humble), deeply committed to our mission, and bafflingly blessed. And we boast of our blessings because they’re God-wrought. All such boasting is humility; we make no claim to be worthy of our situation or to be the makers of it. God is at work among the families of ECS, and let us remember!

To be sure, God uses faithful human elements to effect His will; I don’t mean to downplay the role of the parents, grandparents, friends, students, teachers and the Board in all this. But what we are reaping is far greater than what is commensurate with the academic and spiritual seed we’re sowing. The difference can only possibly be attributed to a gracious God. And that is worth a feast.

There are a few dozen spots left, and I hope you’ll join us at our feast on May 10. You can RSVP to Leila Bowers at lbowers@evangelcs.org.

Risus est bellum!

U.H.

Party Enough for the Occasion

It’s hard to believe that we’re only a month away from our annual Fundraising Feast. But here we are! There remain but a few short weeks until one of the best nights of the year.

Purposeful feasting is wonderfully orienting. When we gather consciously to celebrate the goodness of God over a bountiful meal, replete with laughter, singing, entertainment, coffee, dessert and friends, gratitude flows like the wine…especially at our feast.

The Fundraising Feast is always particularly special for me as I wonder at the goodness of God. I know it sounds corny, but I mean it: every year at the feast I am amazed that God would show such favor to the school as to bring into our circle amazing people like yourselves.

I admit, however, that more than planning logistically for the Feast, I have spent recent days wondering what needs I’ll have to share with our people. Sharing the needs is not hard, because our people are so wonderfully supportive. What’s hard is not having more answers about the logistical future of the school. We are trusting God to take care of our needs – all of them – while trying to be faithful to be used by Him along the way.

So with confidence that God will provide for us and with gratefulness for His innumerable blessings, we will gather to feast on May 10th.

Now, I’m not much of an alarmist nor a manipulator, but we barely fit in the barn last year, and we’re going back this year, so I would encourage you strongly to RSVP for this spectacular evening very soon. At this point, seating is limited to the first 150 guests (adults only please) who RSVP. (Admittedly, we may choose to have the feast on the patio, which can seat more guests, but that’s a major gamble in Arlington in May. Ha.) The tentative plan is to have it inside the beautiful barn.

The dinner is for adults; sadly, childcare is unavailable for younger siblings, though your Raggants will be supervised before and after they perform. I guarantee they’ll have a good time.

The dinner is free, but we do ask that you RSVP, and that if you do RSVP and then your plans change, please let us know so we can give your seat to someone else.

One more word on feasting. In the book Prince Caspian, when Aslan shows up in a Calormene-controlled Narnia, C.S. Lewis writes into the story a redeemed version of Bacchus, because the Roman god of wine and fertility is the only partier in all of antiquity who knew how to party hard enough for the occasion. Remarkably, the revelry was devoid of drunkenness or debauchery (the behavior or Selenus notwithstanding), but was full of breathless merrymaking in the presence of the True King. Let’s party like that, because God has been very good to ECS and very lavish with His gifts, and we have great reason to celebrate. I can barely wait.

This promises to be a fantastic evening with dear friends of the school, so don’t miss out: join us on May 10th.

You may RSVP by email or in person to Mrs. Bowers (lbowers@evangelcs.org) or to myself (jsarr@evangelcs.org).

And remember as always: RISUS EST BELLUM!

Mr. Sarr

Raising…and Being the Cool Kids

I don’t know about you, but growing up, the “cool” kids in my school were the ones whom everyone wanted to be. They were the best-dressed, the richest, the best at sports, or the most self-assured.

Years later, with the relentless assistance of Facebook, we see that – in many cases – the life that looked so great in junior high became a sad existence later on. There’s no guarantee that the person with the most alluring life in the eyes of the world is the person who is happiest.

The same holds true when we get older. Everyone wants to be a rock star, but there’s a disproportionately high suicide rate among rock stars, too, and we don’t hear people clamoring for that.

In reality, striving for celebrity status provokes the wrong kind of jealousy. Striving for a blessed status provokes the right sort of jealousy.

Paul was unapologetic when he said the following:

“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:13-15).

All of Paul’s ministry had a telos of jealousy. He was working hard (as a Jew!) to make Jews jealous of the glorious blessings the Gentiles were enjoying….and there were plenty of blessings to go around! All the Jews needed to do was repent and embrace their Savior, and they would share those glorious riches with their Gentile brothers. It would then complete the salvation of the full number of the elect, and usher in the end of the age.

Likewise, I make no apologies when I say that we wish to provoke the world around us to jealousy. We want them to want what we have, because what we have been given in Christ is absolutely glorious. We didn’t manufacture it, and we don’t deserve it.

It takes deep humility to boast in the cross. Those who do so proclaim that they have been bought by Christ’s blood and adopted as sons though we were spiritually dead and haters of God. And so when we are happy about our identity in Jesus, we are the cool kids.

As we shepherd young hearts, we see this in a microcosm. The cool kids on the playground are the ones whose happiness is not dependent on anyone else. This is an interesting phenomenon. The kids that are the most fun to hang out with don’t need you to hang out with them to be happy. They’re happy playing by themselves or happy playing with others. The celebrity is rarely content to be left alone; he’s beefing up his Instagram following and “Likes” count. The cool kid can jump rope by herself or play tag with the others with equal contentedness.

If we have been bought by Christ, we don’t need the approval of anyone else. At the same time, we should be conscious of showing off the gracious goodness of God in how we live blessed and happy lives. The sad and relationally-malnourished world around us is watching with curiosity. And by God’s grace our blessed living will make them jealous in all the right ways…and it’ll make our enemy pretty cranky. Laughter is war.

When I think about what I want for our students to become like, I want them all to be the cool kids whose life is actually worth wanting because it’s a life of blessing that they didn’t earn and that any can have who will live in happy submission to Christ and in fellowship with others.

Risus est bellum!

Jonathan

The “Other” Graduation Requirements

Forging potent worshipers is hard. It’s hard enough to just remain in fellowship all the time with those we love. How much more difficult is it to develop – in others – loves that you cannot see?

And yet that’s what we believe we’re called to do here at Evangel Classical School. Our work of enculturation includes the important and necessary element of academic training. We believe education is a good thing (which is probably good, since we’re a school), but we also believe that education is an element of enculturation. Immersion of our students in a certain kind of culture is our self-conscious aim. And our students flourish when they move from the spiritual greenhouses of church, home, and school with regular forays into the world.

As parents, our task is to fashion arrows, and we’re enlisting the loving help of the ECS community to help us.

We happily affirm Psalm 127:3-5:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
   the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

The effectiveness of these proverbial arrows depends, in part, on their academic training. We utilize the classical and Christian model as we straighten and smooth out these fresh shafts.

As a guy who likes to shoot bows and arrows, I can tell you that not all arrows are effective or of lethal design. Some are built more effective than others. The more effective the arrows, the greater the confidence of the father who “speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

Indulge me for a moment, as I tease out this illustration a bit more.

If academic training can be likened to the straightening of an arrow shaft, training in character is like the application of feathers to the back end of the arrow. If you’ve ever tried to fire a featherless arrow, you’ve seen that it flies erratically after ten feet or so. Character steadies the scholar to “fly” truly.

Since this is all so important, we think it is also important to check in on our students regularly to gauge progress in the forging of Raggant character. How do we do that? Glad you asked.

The HOW Behind the Other Graduation Requirements

We’ve identified six different descriptors for the fully-trained Raggant. We want our Raggants to be…

  1. Stout Image Bearers
  2. Generous Disciples of Christ
  3. Copious Producers
  4. Prodigious Learners
  5. Thankful Stewards
  6. Jovial Warriors

Now, we recognize that we will not enjoy full maturity in any of these areas this side of glory, but we all need to be progressing in these areas if we would be the sorts of people we’re aiming to produce…the sorts of people who are a threat to our enemies and a fragrance of life to the world.

And if this is our aim, then it behooves us to keep these attributes before our people. We do that in three ways:

Application for Enrollment

In each of our application packets, we have a document with the “Other Graduation Requirements,” and as a part of the application, the applicant must review and sign the document. This signature is not itself a wholesale endorsement, but it requires that the incoming family at least be exposed to the character pieces we aim for.

Report Cards

The attribute grading on each report card includes six different headings (one for each of the Requirements above), and each of our criteria for evaluation falls under one of these headings. For instance, the criterion “Accepts Responsibility” falls under the category of “Stout Image-Bearer.” Maybe you can take a closer look at these headings next time you review your child’s report card.

Interviews with Secondary Families

We implemented this piece last spring for the first time, and it was met with good success. If, for instance, we want our graduates to be identified as Copious Producers, then it is good for us to check in with families along the way to ensure they’re making progress in this area. It’s a pretty bad idea to bring this concern to the fore on the doorstep of graduation. Just because a student has collected twenty academic credits does not mean he’s ready to graduate as a Raggant.

So we meet with each eighth, tenth, and twelfth grader (and his or her parents) in the fourth quarter to talk through these requirements, identifying strengths and areas where each student needs to grow. Before the meeting, the students (for themselves) and their house advisors have completed an evaluation of the student in light of these six Requirements and compared (and talked through) the responses.

By God’s grace, may this be effective for helping us to identify areas where our students need to be shepherded, and may God give their parents (and us!) the grace and wisdom to do so well. Please pray for us to maintain faithfulness to our mission, and we’ll be praying for you as you fletch those straightened arrow shafts…and speak with your enemies in the gate.

What ECS is Not

It’s Thursday morning, as I write this. On Wednesday afternoon, two completely disconnected and unexpected parties dropped by the school to check us out. Times like these give me surprise opportunities to articulate our mission and vision. When a conscientious parent lobs me a softball like, “I saw a lot about laughter on your website; tell me more about that…,” I get to talk about what we are. When another conscientious parent says something like, “I want a place where my kid is not going to be influenced by punks, drugs and porn…,” I get to talk about what we are not. So I thought – for sake of my own mental clarity, if nothing else – I’d take a moment to revisit some about what Evangel Classical School is and is not.

Support vs. Substitue

ECS is a support system for parents. Parents own the ultimate responsibility to “bring up” their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). As parents, we have the responsibility not only top love the commands of God ourselves, but also to “teach them diligently to [our] children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). When a family chooses ECS, they are soliciting our support as they answer this charge from God. As a school, our authority to train and admonish our students is delegated authority from like-minded families. When that like-mindedness is threatened, we must come to an agreement or part ways, because those parents still bear that responsibility with or without the school’s involvement.

ECS is not a substitute for parents. When I’m speaking to a student in my office, I do so only with that delegated authority. I’ll sometimes envision a student’s dad standing behind me as I’m talking to his child; I always want to represent parents well when shepherding their children, enjoying that paternal support, but also not going too far as I represent him in that conversation.

In some other contexts (which I’ve even experienced), the school-home relationship is adversarial. I’ve spoken with parents who expected me (as the “professional”) to “do [my] job” and keep their disobedient kids in line. When the school starts to do the parents’ job, we’re substitutes (or even usurpers), not supporters. When that happens, sinning parties need to repent or the family needs to withdraw.

Boot Camp vs. Summer Camp

ECS is like a spiritual boot camp. Like in boot camp, we use live rounds, not blanks or Nerf guns. Our conversations are real. Our wounds are sometimes inflicted by friends (in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6), and they actually hurt. The students train hard as they prepare to fight a real enemy. They study the battle plans of previous victors and losers. They are surrounded with trainers and fellow soldiers who are invested in their success, and – importantly – they are all on the same side, with their enemies on the outside. With the muscles they build and the skills they develop, they’re prepared to do spiritual battle, with weapons like logic, holiness, and a grin.

ECS is not like a spiritual summer camp. Summer camp tends to be a retreat, or an escape from difficulties. It’s a shelter of protection where we’re safe from the harms of the world outside of camp. Summer camps often are characterized by the so-called “mountaintop experience,” where a spiritual “high” arrives around Friday night of the camp. The bummer about summer camp is that you have to leave. And when you’re on a mountain top, there’s only one way to go.

A Collection of Christians vs. a Church

ECS is a collection of Christian families. The school exists to support churched families as they shepherd their children. We love Jesus, we love justification by faith alone, we love singing psalms and hymns, we love to laugh, and we love being together. When there’s conflict, we appeal to Scripture. We thank God for our Western (and Christian-scented) heritage, while loving those with other heritages. We help one another to grow and encourage one another amid failures. We sip coffee, feast, and pray…together. These are sweet joys because of a Spirit who indwells us all.

This does not make ECS a church.

ECS is not a church. We teach Scripture, but we do not preach the Word in the same sense as your pastor does. We don’t practice church discipline, and we don’t take communion. These are classic hallmarks of a true church, and we don’t do them. Neither does the Board of Evangel Classical School give account for the souls of the Raggants (or their parents) in the same way your elders do. Of course, Christians love Christ and we love His people, and we do wise to surround ourselves and our children with Christian influences. But it is a mistake to rely on ECS to shepherd our families.

The work we’re doing at ECS ought to bear sweet fruit in the fifteen churches represented at the school. By God’s grace and with the Spirit’s help, our work should grow greater appetites for Bible teaching and worship that can only be satisfied on Sunday mornings.

Of course this list is not exhaustive, but it is orienting. I am grateful for each of you and your contributions to our community. May God enable us to sharpen one another in like-minded labor.