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.