You can read through John's short epistle, known to us as I John, in about ten minutes. The author answers the question, "How can we know that we really know Jesus, and that our faith is genuine?" He answers this question all the way through his letter, repeating the points that provide believers with the assurance they are seeking.
- Our love for God is demonstrated by the love that we have for one another. On several occasions, John flatly states that it is impossible to claim to have the truth, and have genuine love for God unless this is demonstrated through love for each other.
- Our faith is secured by our confession of our sin, and our belief that Jesus was the Messiah, God's son, sent to save us from our sin. John goes so far as to say that anyone who denies that Jesus was the Christ is Antichrist.
- Our faith in Christ and our love for God motivates our obedience to his commandments. We do not obey in order to earn his salvation, we obey because we are demonstrating the assurance of our salvation.
- The indwelling Holy Spirit speaks to us and confirms these truths. The written word is also confirmation.
I have spent more than 30 years in a career in Christian education, most of it in a Christian school environment like PCS. As we look ahead to a new year in 2016, and we look back at how things in our country, in our world, and in our churches, are developing, I think that the leadership which is coming from Christian schools that are providing their students with a solid foundation in Christian discipleship, as well as superior academic training, will be crucial to the future of the Christian church in the US, as much as it will be to the nation itself.
For more than two decades, now, our church researchers have been telling us that there is a growing gap in generational involvement in the churches in this country. Churches have been losing a large percentage of the children and youth who have been raised in them. Initially, the figure that was cited was that 70% of those raised in church were leaving it by the time they graduated from college. As time passed, into the 80's and 90's, that figure was raised to 80%. Churches and denominations spent a lot of time and resources on programs to stem the tide, that failed. The thinking was that perhaps, after time, when they'd had a chance to settle down, and start having families, they'd come back. They haven't. The median age of today's church is about 20 years older than that of society in general, and the American church is in a membership decline that is beginning to have an effect on the financial resources need for ministry, including international missions.
There is some indication that the process which leads to young people going through an intellectual and spiritual shift that causes their exit from the church begins in their early education. The seeds of a secular worldview are sown early in their educational experience, and during their formative years, their education is separate from their spiritual formation in most cases. So when they go off to college, where they will be exposed to worldviews and thinking that comes largely from a post-Christian, humanist perspective, they see their church involvement as inconsistent and irrelevant, and they drop out, usually before they get their college diploma.
Christian schools must stand in the gap. That is why we are intentional in our mission and purpose. That is why we do not separate the process of Christian discipleship and spiritual formation from the educational process. And that is why we strive for academic excellence as well. The best contribution we can make to our churches, and to our country, is to provide them with leaders who know how to think, and who understand how to think Biblically and spiritually minded thoughts. Looking around at what is happening in the world, and what is happening in the church, I believe Christian schools may be the hope of the future for both. I hope that the evidence shows that we are doing the job God has called us to do.
Happy New Year! May you be blessed by the Lord in 2016.