I was watching a Curriculum Trak workshop facilitated by Dan Beerens several years ago and he asked the attendees a question that still resonates with me today. “What is the difference between Christian education and secular education?” As he continued to speak, Beerens emphasized that there must be a distinct difference between the two. As I pondered this question, I thought about the fact that secular education has its own visions, beliefs, and values outlined for educating the nation’s children. Daily, fiery conflicts and debates about curricula are fought between political factions and legislators, diverse communities and parents, and public and private school educators.
Curriculum battles rage over eliminating specific cultural and historical content, banning classical literary textbooks, and disregarding any controversial topic that appears too unpleasant to think or “feel bad” about. Even God’s institution of marriage between a male and female is considered “hateful language” if other views on gender and marital relationships are not also recognized in the curriculum.
Dan Beerens’ question caused me to further reflect on my own practices as a former public and Christian School educator. I realized that when I left public education and became a Christian School principal, the only differences I could readily observe were the inclusion of Bible classes, Morning Devotion, and the weekly assemblies led by an exhorter. All other grade level subjects and courses, extracurricular activities, field trips, Student Service Learning, and Capstone Projects mainly mirrored those in public schools.
Then as I continued to serve in my capacity as principal, instructional leader, and sometimes instructor, I began to see what made Christian education and secular education different. The answer was clearly seen in the hearts of educators who had a love for God and His Son Jesus Christ, and their willingness to freely manifest that love to the students entrusted to them. Instruction was delivered, students were engaged, administrators provided godly oversight, and parents were involved, demonstrating a collective understanding of the guiding principles of the Word of God.
Today’s educational climate requires Christian education to be more than biblical integration into the curriculum or teaching each subject with a biblical worldview. During His time, Jesus endured the treacherous political systems, the betrayal of a friend, the running away of the disciples, and the extreme sinfulness of man. He knew our salvation and reconciliation to God were dependent on His death on the Cross.
In Hebrews 12 we read that past Christians or that “great cloud of witnesses”, overcame greater odds to prove to us that we can overcome the tumultuous and uncertain times of today.
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
In my ongoing educational pursuits, I realize that it is far more valuable to teach our students how to have a deep personal relationship with God our Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the precious Holy Spirit, instead of focusing on the distractions of the world’s system. As Christian educators teaching in secular or Christian environments today, we must be spiritually equipped to confront educational issues and concerns. Only then will we be able to manifest real love to the students in our care and enable them to have not only academic success, but spiritual success that is found only in the love of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Dan Beerens, I want to thank you for the question, “What is the difference between Christian education and secular education?” It is my prayer that God’s love in our Christian schools will make the distinction clear.