Sunday, August 18, 2013

We're Celebrating our 50th Anniversary!

It was 1963.  Pastor Joe Morris, of the Portersville Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, and his wife Betty, decided that it was time to realize their vision for making a Christian school part of the ministry of their church.  And so, in the basement of the church building, with seven children from families who God had provided as part of the vision, including three of their own, classes began at Portersville Christian School. 

Much of what I know about Portersville Christian School's early days came from the Morris' son, Dennis, who was one of those three students that first year.  It wasn't just a matter of having school in a church basement, with the pastor's wife as the teacher.  PCS was built on both the vision, and the physical labor, of its founding families.  Dennis recalled many days when he would finish his school day, and his homework, and join his Dad, brothers, and other students and parents laying bricks and helping with the construction of the school facility which now bears their family name.  There is now a banner on the wall noting that this school term is our fiftiety year.
Fifty years, in Christian school education in America, is a long, long time.  In 1963, the number of Christian schools in the United States was about a tenth of what it is now.  Christian schools with a fifty year legacy are rare.  The vision for having one, especially in a small, rural church, in a small rural community, was remarkably futuristic and farsighted.  Who could have imagined the number of lives that would be changed, the number of disciples of Jesus who would find their Christian maturity within these walls, and who would carry that with them for the rest of their lives into whatever vocational field and community that they entered.  There are hundreds of alumni who are serving their Lord in their Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.  They are part of the legacy of the founders and their vision for a Christian school in tiny little Portersville, Pennsylvania, a place through which many footprints have traveled, representing lives that were changed in this place.

There are many others whom God has led to share in that vision over the years.  They have sent their children to school here, sacrificed hours of time, given money above and beyond the tuition and fees, and contributed a lot of sweat equity and tears to keep this dream alive, and continue providing a distinctively Christian education to children in Western Pennsylvania.  Each succeeding generation benefits from the legacy, and adds to it.  This is a perfect example of a blessing that multiplies and keeps on giving, getting larger as it does. 

There are also reminders that we have an enemy.  A Christian school that works at helping its students become strong disciples of Christ, and leads them to take their faith into places where God can use it, and bless others with it, and make more disciples of Christ is not in the plans of God's enemy.  Being here is not just a nice option, it is a commitment.  The limits of size, space, and finances are not restrictions when families come here committed to the ministry of the school.  It grows best when people discern a need and then, instead of criticizing the school for not meeting it, or leaving because we don't have it, decide they are going to use their own resources of prayer, time, money and labor to meet it.  When attacks come, as they inevitably will, the best defense is when the school community comes together as a Christian community, rather than dividing over selfish interests. 

As we look to the future, there are many challenges.  It is a difficult day for Christian schools in America.  Economic circumstances have caused many schools to close.  Government intrusion is changing the curriculum of the public education system, which undermines the Christian churches and the gospel message, especially in the minds of the young people in the system.  Christian schools are being pressed to "keep up" and at the same time, constantly battle intrusion which threatens our ability to remain distinctively Christian and independent.  Churches many times lack both the resources, and the vision, to provide the kind of support for Christian schools that they need to survive, and thrive. 

But then, think back to how many obstacles there must have been in the way of the vision of Pastor Joe and Betty Morris, in 1963, on this hill above the lake just west of Portersville.  Who would have thought that, 50 years later, there would be literally hundreds of students and thousands of people who would share in their vision, and be part of their legacy?  That's because the key part of their vision was not what they could do themselves, but what they believed God could do.  And they were right. 

It is time to celebrate! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pass it On: The Extravagant Love of God

"Check out the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us--He calls us children of God! It's true; we are His beloved children.  And in the same way the world didn't recognize him, the world does not recognize us either."  I John 3:1, The Voice Translation

In case you didn't guess it, that's the theme verse for the 2013-14 school year at Portersville Christian School.  We're going to do something a little different with it this year, instead of just a theme verse, we will have a theme chapter, I John 3.  It isn't really easy to pick something for this purpose.  This is a concept or idea from scripture that we will visit time and time again during the year.  It needs to be something that is important, and relevant, to students and their lives as believers in Christ, and which teaches us principles that we need to apply to our lives, that we can apply immediately and effectively.  This gets into a lot of concepts that we need to make part of who we are as Christians, and who our community is as a Christian school. 

One of the most frequent, and important, questions that students ask about their faith as they grow relates to assurance of their relationship with Jesus, and their salvation.  In fact, not having doubts, not asking questions, and not wondering about where they stand with God may be a sign that they don't really care, or that it doesn't really matter to them.  The Apostle John answers the question, "How do I know for sure?" in this chapter. 

"This is how we know," says John.  "Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." 

When he says "brothers," he means the other children of God, whether they are male or female.  That's quite a statement, especially since we live in a time when we are not often called upon to give up our life for someone else.  It's not an unknown concept, especially to those who devote their lives to serving us by enforcing the law, or providing medical care, or serving our country in the military.  But it is not something that goes hand in hand with serving God and belonging to a church.  But the Christians to whom John wrote this little book faced that possibility every day, and they faced it because they were believers in Jesus.  John is reinforcing one of the two most important commandments that Jesus taught, to "love your neighbor as much as you love yourself."  And that is how you can be sure that you are right with God. 

So how does that look in a Christian school?  Perhaps a better question is how should it look in a Christian school? 

That's why this will be our theme chapter for the 2013-14 school year.  We are going to figure out, together, what Portersville Christian School should look like because we are children of God, and because we are following the example and teaching of our savior when it comes to our relationships with other children of God.  When someone can observe us from the outside, and see that there is a difference in us because of Christ, and because we are his children, we will be achieving our goal.