An organization promoting Christian schooling among Southern Baptists has a new program to help pastors and church leaders organize a viable alternative to public schools.
“Christian Schooling 101,” a workshop that moves beyond the “whys” to the nuts and bolts of how to start a Christian school, made its debut in January at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla. One feature, according to the Florida Baptist Witness, was a tour of the sprawling campus of The First Academy, a Christian school housed at the church led for 28 years by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jim Henry, who retired from the pastorate in March.
The long-term goal, according to Ed Gamble of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, is for Southern Baptist churches to offer the public a new alternative education system of church-based Christian schools.
“We believe Southern Baptists could basically own a vast, new ‘public’ school system,” Gamble explained to Agape Press, “public in the sense that it is open to the public and yet owned by us so that we get to call the shots about what’s taught and who does the teaching.”
Gamble, a proponent of homeschooling and Christian education, believes such a system is long overdue. He says churches are failing to pass the baton of faith to the next generation.
“Whether you read the newspaper, a Barna study, or statistics about our denomination, the facts reflect a gross decline in America’s moral condition,” Gamble wrote in a brochure promoting the Christian Schooling 101 seminar.
“We are losing the battle for our children!” Gamble warns. “Less than 10 percent of youth have a Christian worldview, indicating that they have not learned the TRUTH. Most of today’s parents received 16,000-plus hours of worldly indoctrination during 12-plus years of Scripture-less schooling, and now seven out of 10 born-again parents failed to mention leading their child to Christ among critical outcomes of their parenting. Can such a generation of parents effectively
disciple their children either at home or at church?”
Gamble calls it “a national tragedy.”
“Clearly we need a different plan for passing the baton of faith to the next and future generations.”
Gamble’s proposal: “What if we took ownership of the education of our children and started a second and different kind of ‘public school’ system, one that is owned by our churches, not the government? What if we viewed schools as missions the way Lottie Moon did in China? What if our great denomination decided to penetrate every neighborhood and town, giving every child the opportunity for a Kingdom education?”
Within a generation, Gamble believes, “we could turn the tide of spiritual decline in this nation” and provide “the foundation for national revival.”
A Southern Baptist Convention resolutions committee in June declined to report a proposed resolution calling on the denomination to devise an “exit strategy” from public schools. The media widely reported it as a rejection of the “Exodus mandate” to pull children out of public schools in favor of homeschooling or placing them in private in private Christian schools.
A motion by one of the resolution’s co-sponsors asking LifeWay Christian Resources to investigate “the growing body of research” on dangers to Christians posed by culture, meanwhile, sailed through almost unnoticed.
The motion, by SBC Executive Committee Roger Moran, doesn’t mention public schools, but points to research showing that children from evangelical families overwhelmingly leave church when they enter adulthood. It says the vast majority of evangelicals don’t hold a “biblical worldview” and cites “growing carnality” in churches. It asks LifeWay to investigate specifically how such issues affect Southern Baptists, and report findings and recommendations next June.
“If LifeWay studies these things, and they come back and confirm these things are accurate, then Southern Baptists are going to rise to the call to address these issues,” Moran predicted at a “Kingdom Education” summit held in conjunction with this year’s SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
LifeWay’s new president said he welcomes the study.
“I appreciate the motion and the spirit in which it was communicated,” LifeWay President and Chief Executive Officer Thom Rainer told the Missouri Baptist Convention newspaper The Pathway. “All of the issues in the motion are key concerns of LifeWay.”
Rainer said he hoped some, if not all, of the matters would be addressed through a new entity, LifeWay Research.
Rainer, inaugurated as LifeWay’s ninth president in February, tapped Brad Waggoner, dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to lead the new initiative effective July 1. The new department reports directly to the president.
Rainer said his goal is for LifeWay Research to become the premiere Christian research organization in the world.
“We will have a finger on the pulse of culture and the unchurched world,” he said in February. “Our intention as Christians is not to mirror culture or concede to culture but to impact culture with the truth of Scripture.”
“LifeWay Research will explore culture and the unchurched world with this impact in mind.”
While only about 600 Southern Baptist churches currently run Christian schools, Gamble insists education must be integral to any such strategy. He touts “Kingdom Education” as “the first great church movement of the 21st century.”
“Whoever owns the schools,” Gamble said, “owns the hearts and minds of the children. Why shouldn’t our churches and homes own this vital training ground?”
Future sessions of Gamble’s two-day seminar teaching how and why to start a Christian school in a community are scheduled Sept. 18-19 in Dallas, Oct. 23-24 in Houston and next Feb. 12-13 in Orlando, Fla. The workshops, which cost $289 to attend, are jointly sponsored with the Florida Baptist Convention and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.