n the early 1900s my grandparents had just built a two-story home in North Dakota when they determined to send their nine children to an Adventist school. So they sold that land, bought 160 acres near the church school, and used two huge steam-propelled engines to move their home.
This kind of commitment to Adventist education is something that seems to have gone the way of steam engines. Today, between home schools, preparatory schools, Christian schools, and public schools, parents have more options. As my own grandchildren enter their school-age years, the question comes to mind, “Is an Adventist education still worth the sacrifice?”
To answer that question, I turn to the first chapter of John: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”1 That, to me, is why we have Adventist education. We create schools where the Word becomes flesh every day, in every class, in every contact with every student through every employee.
Christian scholar Steven Garber studied students who integrated belief with behavior, and he suggests three traits that these adult Christians have in common.2
Convictions—a worldview sufficient for life’s questions and crises.
Who I am today is largely a result of what I learned growing up. In school I learned about the Founding Fathers, and I learned about my heavenly Father. I learned about atoms and molecules, and I learned about the One who weaves those together into awesome wonders. I learned how to subtract one from 100, and I learned how important one is to the Good Shepherd. And as I learned these things, I formed a worldview that has helped me answer the basic questions of life.
I want my grandchildren to be able to answer these questions also.
Author Vaclav Havel said, “The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.”3
A favorite expression today is “Whatever!” Adventist education posits an opinion about life and the source of truth. Our response to the questions of life is not “Whatever,” but answers that instill a culture of conviction.
Character—a mentor who incarnates that worldview.
My high school Bible teacher was a very spiritual person. Yet had I witnessed his spirituality from afar, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as affected by it as I was when he modeled it in his everyday life, inside and outside the classroom. As I got to know him through hiking and camping trips, I determined that I wanted to be like him.
Character is developed through relationships, and I want my grandchildren to have this same opportunity to witness and develop a godly character.
The Word becomes flesh when students connect with a mentor who lives the reality of a Christian life.
Too much student formation is left to the Internet and the local movie theater. Information detached from meaning is as dangerous as having cars detached from drivers. Information is given meaning as the student sees the integration of faith in the life of an integrated person.
Community—living out that worldview in company with mutually committed and stimulating people.
When I was a member of the Glendale Academy choir, I traveled with my classmates to churches throughout southern California, presenting the good news in song. Through this ministry I bonded with the other choir members, forming friendships with others who shared my deeply held values. It was partly through this experience that I heard God calling me to be a pastor.
I want my grandchildren to form friendships with peers who will support and encourage them as they discover God’s plans for their lives.
Richard Neuhaus, editor of First Things magazine, has said, “It is by identifying with some Christian community and making its story and values one’s own that character is naturally formed.”4
I want my grandchildren to learn to live loving lives by being with loving teachers who are committed to the truth and manifest grace in their relationships. I want my grandchildren to be in a Seventh-day Adventist Christian school.
1John 1:14, KJV.
2Steven Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior During the University Years (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996). Quoted in Christian Academy, p. 112.
3Vaclav Havel, in a letter found by Robert Royal; quoted by Martin Marty in Context (June 1, 1990), Christianity Today, vol. 34.
4Richard Neuhaus, “The Christian University: Eleven Theses,” First Things, January 1996, pp. 20-22, quoted in Christian Academy, p. 112.
Gordon Bietz is president of Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee.