What About Christians in the Public Schools?

My friend Steve Mcfarland has written a provocative and impassioned plea from a Christian in the public schools. Steve is asking his fellow Christians to not abandon one part of the culture- the public schools where millions of Christians work, millions of Christian kids attend, and millions of lost, hurting students need our help.

A plea like Steve’s isn’t heard much because it has to overcome the growing calls for Christians to abandon the public schools and homeschool. I want him to be heard.

Christ and the Public Schools by Steve Mcfarland

Let me get to the point quickly: If Christians left the public school sector – it would fall apart at the seams. Opinion you ask? No! That’s a fact! In my twelve years in an inner city, multi-racial public school I have witnessed personally the desperate need public education has for moral, biblical principles. Thank God that Christians still believe enough in this battleground to not run away to Christian schools exclusively. Abandoning the countless children who are desperate for a principled, right and wrong life that homes across the country have failed to provide would be an abomination to scriptural mandates with damaging consequences.

I love the school where I work. I love the students. Some of the kids I work with have shown more courage in a given day than my life will ever require of me. I have been in their homes and have talked with adults who are supposed to be taking care of them. Many struggle in school to a degree many would find unbelievable. Many come to school hungry and sleepy from long – frightening nights. Many reluctantly leave from school every afternoon and go back home – if you can call it that. Their lives are unstable, unhappy, scary places with adults who have lied to them and left them to fend for themselves. And they will come back here tomorrow and start over again.

Should Christians take the contemporary approach of isolating themselves from all evil influences of our society – I fear public schools will be first place Christ is abandoned. Modern evangelism seems satisfied to travel to the far ends of the earth to hand out Jesus Videos while forsaking the public school around the corner. It seems modern Christianity has lost sight of the mission field that is the public schools and have forsaken the social change they could effect by not only not abandoning public schools but by embracing it with love and biblical standards. The social consciousness of faith founders like John Calvin who worked to begin police and fire departments has been absolutely lost on the new generation of big church fanatics who continue to pat themselves for a job well done. Fill the auditorium and God must be overjoyed. But, get your kids out of that public school as quick as you can.

I have a question. Where did all the parents who are bashing away at public education go to school? I can’t remember a single child I grew up knowing who was home schooled. Everyone went to either public or parochial schools and most seem to turn out more than alright. I have been equally amused hearing so-called education experts bash public schools and promote continual change and reform. It seems they did fine with public education – enough so they are now in positions of leadership. Either they’re education was not as bad as they would have us believe or they need to step down from their positions and start over.

We have a lot of problems here in the school where I work. We have teachers who don’t care and should be doing something else entirely with their lives. There are also far too many children who are not successful academically. These are things that need to be fixed and we are working on it. I would argue that public educators are the most scrutinized workers in the United States. Public schools and their teachers are so pressured to raise student test scores – many are opting out early. It is a tough business.

We do not have the things I hear Christians up in arms over. We have never handed out condoms, promoted abortion or the gay lifestyle. To group my school with all public schools is unfair – even slanderous. The Christians who work in this system will not allow that to happen. Again, I thank God that Christ is still influencing decisions in the public schools. I pray that never ends.

So Christ is still here. Prayer has never left this place and as long as Christians don’t abandon it – never will. The Christian teachers in my building go home at night praying for these kids they love so much. Many pay for clothing and other needs such as Christmas gifts out of their own meager paychecks. These public school students are prayed for by Christian students at church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Christian students are praying over their lunches and others are watching and wondering why. I have seen Christian students display more boldness for Christ in this school than I have seen anywhere – ever. I pray their parents don’t send them somewhere else.

I only wish we had more active Christian parents who would be involved in our school decisions, PTO, school board meetings, sports programs, and classrooms. I would like to call Christian families to embrace their public schools in a way that would bring real change in our world.

I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who argued that without public education we could not have a democracy. Public education will be around as long as our country allows a government by the people, for the people. It scares me to hear Christian friends of mine talk about the danger of public education and promote home schooling as if it is a biblical mandate. Christian friend I ask that you not pull your child out of our school. Come in and help us change things – change lives and change the world.

10 thoughts on “What About Christians in the Public Schools?

  1. Steve:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that the modern American church has sold out for the large auditoriums and increased offerings. This is a shame and part of the reason we (the church) have lost our credibility in the culture. There needs to be a great change in how the church operates and a better focus on where the tithes and offerings are directed. Much could be said about this and perhaps a good SB should write up a resolution on this point.

    I’ll further agree that our modern mission “vision” is lacking severely in many areas. We send Bible’s all over the world, but we won’t go down to the local abortion clinic and offer a mom in a crisis situation a true choice. I would not argue with you at all on these points and many other faults in our modern church.

    However, the SB are looking into filling the void that would be left by the current resolution, if it even passed which is a long shot. The Ethics Daily article relates the following, “The Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools envisions a nationwide system of at least 5,000 Baptist schools by 2025. That is despite the fact that there are today only about 650 schools among 43,000 Southern Baptist churches.”
    (The rest of the article is a good read. http://ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=4153)

    So it seems they are not looking to just “curse the darkness”, but are looking to bring more light to the culture as well. Let’s pray that is the case. It is wrong to be less than the Bible calls us to be, regardless if that is speaking the truth and declaring what God’s word says about a subject, or if it is serving the poor and the needy. We are called to do all the Bible commands us to do and anytime we fail in part, we fail to rightly represent our Lord.


    Where do I start? You sure are good at attacking the writer rather then the subject written. Government run schools are un-biblical. That is not a trump card that is my view. I have researched it and studied it and that is the conclusion I have drawn. The challenge was made, if you don’t believe that it is true, to show me anywhere in the scripture where God has delegated the authority of training the children to the state. If my view is “un-biblical” then show me.

    No one made the statement that “the *only* way to train children is at home”. I said the scripture speaks clearly to the fathers directing and being accountable for the education of the children. If a group of fathers get together and want to pay a tutor to come in and teach their children science, fine. If the church wants to offer to assist the father’s by providing a group of teachers and sharing the cost, then that is fine. However, that is different than handing the children over to the state to decide what they are taught, when they are taught, and for how long they are taught… and BTW, with other people’s money.

    No one said anything about withdrawing from the culture. You didn’t read the post if that is what you got out of it. I said clearly that we have a mandate to be in the culture. The issue is under who’s authority are we going to serve, the state or the church? Why don’t government social programs work? Because, God has called the church to be salt and light, not the civil government. We are called to minister to the needs of the orphans and the widows not the state.

    As to my church: My previous church has an inner city after school program who works with the public school system to provide many things to the children after school while the parents are getting home from work. Among the services they provide is academic tutors, a reading library, a computer lab, food, and more importantly Bible training. However, the founders of this work all home school their children, just as a point of interest. I have taken my children down to the center to help serve and minister to those children and we had a great time reaching out to the kids and learning about the many cultures that were represented.

    My current church is just starting up and we barely have our statement of faith completed. However, I assure you, that just from the people in the church we are already more materially committed to the community around us than most churches are with their entire budget. However, this is really a straw man, because at the end of the day, if my argument is biblical then it is right regardless if I’m faithful to it or not. That is really the key here. It is not about Paul or Jim, it’s about what the scripture teaches and trying to the best of our ability to be faithful to it.

    I’m at a loss on the warfare comment. So you think there is biblical precedence for sending children to war? Or are you saying that you don’t believe that engaging the culture is what the bible means when it talks about spiritual warfare?

    Let me attempt to restate this and maybe I will cover both areas. Children are given to us and we are responsible for protecting and training them. They are going to grow up and go out into the world to live among the nations just as we have. Our job is to make sure they are prepared. Are we in agreement so far? I don’t happen to think that it is wise to send them into an area where the world (or evil which is in the world) is left un-restrained to attack them. (Just as an aside, I don’t believe the “world” is evil in itself, God created it. But man fell and there is evil.)

    As such, to fulfill my duties as a father, I go with the children when we go and minister in the world. I see the things they are exposed to and I can help them understand what is going on and how to handle the situation spiritually. In short, I believe we live as a family, we learn as a family, and we minister as a family. As my children get older they do more of the ministry and less watching. Currently at eight and under, they don’t engage too much, but on occasion the 6 and 8 year olds will engage some people. It is great to watch and they don’t always do a great job, but they are learning. Actually thinking about that, did you know that it was actually a little 6 year old HS girl that presented the gospel to Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade when she repented of her hand in the abortion business and received the forgiveness of Christ? I know everyone’s children are different and I’m not trying to generalize, but had the little girl been in PS she would not have been at the abortion clinic that day. Not typical I’ll grant, but an interesting situation none the less.

    To the issue of sin, it is a condition of the heart that can be manifest in behavior. The enemy is not the PS, it is the one who came to kill steal and destroy. As to falling as a victim to his plans, I’m doing everything in the authority God has granted me to train them as to these traps. Protect them, yes, absolutely; but train them to able to go out into the world where God has called them.

    I’ll let the urination comments made on the BH go for now, but I guess it does reveal the spirit behind your post.


  2. I’m a homeschooling father. And I’d say several things:

    Some people use the phrase “unbiblical worldview” as code. The meaning of the code is “this idea is wrong, but rather than prove that empirically, I’m going to appeal to authority, and then I’m going to make a moral judgement on the idea holder’s implied rejection of that authority.” “Unbiblical” is a kind of trump card that some Christians like to play in discussions. It makes them feel like winners. Unfortunately, feeling like a winner doesn’t count.

    It’s amazing how bibliolatrists can take the bible’s clear teaching on the father’s responsibility to ensure that his children are properly trained and extrapolate from that the *only* way to train children is at home, or that a withdraw from government schools is *mandated* by scripture.

    It’s hard to accept that Christians have no responsibility to the culture at large. I don’t see “Withdraw ye from all the world and homeschool your children so they don’t fall into sin” as a scriptural commandment.

    There is no clear teaching from scripture that we are to “resist tyranny” in the form of government regulation and control of education but *not* resist the tyranny of ignorance and oppression that plague the underclass, particularly ethnic minority inner-city dwellers. Does Paul’s church have an outreach to those people? Does it include materially providing for single mothers so that they can educate their children at home?

    If “salt and light” is in the context of spiritual warfare, please provide chapter and verse to defend the idea that the children of believers are somehow exempt from the stronghold-building attacks of the spiritual forces of evil. I don’t see that in there at all.

    Somewhere in all that post lurk a bunch of falacies. “Sin is just bad behaviour” is in there, for sure; if only we keep our kids out of the vile PS, they won’t fall victim to the devil’s entrapments – yeah, right.


  3. I appreciate Paul TN’s comments of my position on Christians and public schools. I am especially interested in the idea of church sponsored schools in the inner city. I would jump on that bandwagon any day IF the intent is to reach out to the child who does not have home school as an option. Unfortunately I hear none of that among the home school proponents who bash away at the public schools that I know. There is no doubt in my mind that churches have enough resources for such a bold outreach – one that has real life changing potential. Instead, as I mentioned in my article – the church has seemed to abandon real mission work in exchange for larger worship centers and token congregational trips to the far ends of the earth. Sound angry – you bet. I have no problem with Christian parents pulling their child out of public school to homeschool them. It is their right. However, to remove Christian influence from public schools is what scares and confuses me. If believing families could do that and stay involved in their public schools and policies that would soften the blow. But that is not happening. The mentality has been get out as quick as you can and stay the heck away. That is an outrage. And although this is my opinion and may seem shallow – that just does not sound like Jesus. Contemporary Christianity in America has become a self-absorbed culture of protection against everything that is deemed threatening while embracing every consumer driven gimmick that comes along. Show me support for that in the New Testament and I’ll shut up.


  4. Steve’s article is interesting, but from a very un-biblical world view. He makes nice emotional arguments, and I’m sure they are from a sincere heart. However, I would make a few challenges to his line of thought.

    He asserts that because the previous generation “turned out all right” that government schools must be ok and be a biblical notion. I would seek to find one example where God has given the civil government the authority to train our children. The Bible speaks very clearly and definitively on the father’s role in training the children. However, the only example of a civil government educating the children that I can recall is Daniel’s generation, who were educated in the “halls of Babylon”, during a period of God’s judgement upon the nation of Isreal. It is tyranny (i.e. there is less freedom and liberty for the people) to allow the government to take unto itself more authority than the King of the universe has given.

    Secondly Steve, makes the case that the families in the inner cities are not teaching the kids and that the government schools are the only hope for them. I would say that this would invalidate the previous argument that the previous generation “turned out ok”. The mother’s and father’s in the inner cities are the product of the government welfare state and schools. I say this fully acknowledging that there are more issues than just the government school system.

    Lastly; we, the church of Jesus Christ, are called to be salt and light to the world. Paul likens this calling to spiritual warfare. Since when have children been enlisted in the army? I would wholeheartedly agree we are to be engaged in the culture and the church has a responsibility to those who come from broken and hopeless homes. However, it is not the job of the children. It is the job of the adults, and specifically the fathers.

    The question is not one of “should we be engaged”, it is a question of how, and under who’s authority? What is wrong with the church planting an inner city school that could minister both academic and spiritual education that will result in lasting fruit? We have several here in Nashville that do just that. I can assure you that if the government school system was to go away tomorrow the church would rise to the occasion and the people would be far better off than they are today. The question is who is called to serve the poor and needy, the government or the church?

    Why should we bind ourselves to a broken, un-biblical system who fruit is the broken families we are called to minister to? I am not encouraging the Christian teachers to abandon the government schools. They need to be there until the end and then they should continue in their life calling by teaching in a more biblically appropriate setting. When you can’t pray with a student, or teach them that there is a God who created the world that they are being educated about, or read from the Word of God what He says about that world, then what are you accomplishing? There is nothing to the hollow idea of “character training” that is offered in today’s classrooms if you can not identify who requires those traits.

    I fully concede that the issues in our nation are many and stem from a plethora of systematic failures. I am not attempting to blame all of societies woes on the government schools. I would first blame the church. It has been far too long since we have sought the wisdom of God and His word. We have offered the world our own watered down humanistic solutions to it’s problems and they have failed. As such the church has become good for nothing but to be trodden under foot (to complete that verse) and it is time we repented and begin to seek God’s wisdom found in His word. While the Southern Baptist have “missed it” in a lot of areas, this resolution is right on the mark. The question is will they and the rest of God’s church be willing to pick up the slack from the fall out? One thing is certain, we can not continue to think like the world and expect to have an impact of the culture. We must think Biblically, trust God, and be willing to act when needed.


  5. I agree with the article, but here in Canada (Alberta specifically) there is a movement to encourage christians (teens parents & teachers) to make their school a mission field. There are student led groups in almost all the high schools here.

    One thing that is almost worse than the “evils of public high school” is the opposite. Christian schools can often be the breeding ground for legalism and eltism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: