“I didn’t know what I was missing!”

A parent shared this testimony.  I hope it encourages you in your decision about investing in Christian education and energizes you in your promoting Christian education.

Dear Mark, I received this email this morning from a neighbor of mine who recently moved. We tried for many years to get them to consider Maranatha for their 2 girls, but they always resisted (as did their girls). When they moved, the girls visited many schools, but felt most comfortable after visiting a Christian school in their new city. Here is what their mom says today:

 “The girls are thriving at Des Moines Christian.  I just can’t say enough good about it.  I seriously want everyone I know to attend Christian school – I didn’t know what I was missing!  I feel about our school the way you feel about Maranatha.  The culture, the family atmosphere, the higher standards, the Christian character building…all of it…just awesome.

Oh, and I should add the curriculum at school is top notch.  I’ve been so impressed with their high standards.  Our middle-schooler in particular, is studying and discussing things in her social studies that you would never see in public school….world events, Islamic jihad, Christian persecution, Israel, American civics and political bias, etc.

 I am also just in awe of what it means for them to have prayer in schools, Christian role-models and Christian education.  It is the center of all they do at school.  Just wow!”

Where Are We Headed?

Where are we headed?  God is the only one who truly knows.

Now that we have that cleared up, I want to share an update on the thoughts, plans and activities that are underway that we believe are in God’s will.  We have bathed these plans in prayer and will continue to do so as we move forward.  Additionally, please understand that we hold these plans in open hands.  As we are reminded in the Proverbs, “A person plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”

We shared at the Soaring Upward event last spring that our focus, our emphasis, is captured in the term Kingdom Education.  Our firm belief is that education that is God honoring and the most enabling of developing the full potential in a child is education that is focused on God.  That means math, science, English, art, computers, social studies, and co-curricular activities all must be taught from God’s point of view – a biblical worldview.  Our Mission and Vision statements bring color to this concept of Kingdom Education.  Reread them and contemplate what they mean for your family.

So what are we doing to implement Kingdom Education?  We are training teachers by providing books, seminars and programs that help them understand what this means and how to translate the concept into practical applications in their classrooms.  We are asking teachers to review and revise their curriculum to make sure that those plans are intentional and thoughtful.  Too often the debate is framed incorrectly.  It usually is framed as you can make disciples for Christ or you can have high academic standards.  That is the wrong point of view.  You can have both.  Check out Daniel or Paul in the Bible.  They had both.

So if you ask me what is the main thing at MCA, you just got your answer.

I will continue to share other guiding principles, desired states and progress in upcoming posts.

Wow! What an Event!

I want to publicly thank some people who made all the Celebrate 40th Year events happen.  Brandyn West and Kevin Bergerhofer were the two project leaders as well as two of the main heavy lifters that made this all happen.  Please make sure you let them know how much you appreciated their hard work.  There was a huge cast of support people like Fawn Fulk, Marci Dighton, Pam Whitehead, Matt Schoenfeld, STUCO parents, Dave Keener, Debbie Hamil, my wife Cindy, and many more.  Of course there were quite a few volunteers who helped with taking admissions and tending the inflatables.  It was a great display of community and service.

This was the big event in celebrating our 40th year, but there is more to come.  I ask that you continue to pray for the school as God directs and guides us to be His ministry for training and equipping young people to love and serve Him in a generation that is aggressively working against God’s commands and truths.

It’s Celebration Time!

We have been looking forward to this time for over a year.  Gathering the past and present on the South Campus for a time of remembering, rejoicing, fun and looking to the future.  As I sit in my office this morning preparing to visit with those at the Legacy Luncheon, I am reminded that the road to today has not always been easy.  However, through it all God has been faithful, and because He chose to work through some wonderful people, there is a rich heritage of impacting our world for Christ in the past 40 years of Maranatha’s existence.

The field is looking incredible with the big tent, blowups, lights, additional bleachers, banners, and other festive elements.  I hear the band practicing, the food is being set up for the Legacy Luncheon, and there is wonderful spirit of excitement that was well-lit at the bonfire last night.

Come out with us and celebrate all that God has done and is doing through His ministry of MCA.  Don’t forget your blankets, chairs and pick-up trucks.  We are expecting a lot of people, so we have arranged space for trucks to back over the curb and build the upper level of bleachers for the northeast corner of the stadium.  The next level will be chairs and the front row can be reserved for those on blankets.  Should be fun!

See you out there!

Diversity in Action

MCA wants to celebrate the diversity God has placed in His creation.  That diversity has many facets across the human race.  There is diversity in personalities, shapes, beliefs, colors, heritage, beliefs, and much more.  MCA’s position is that we love all people as commanded by God, but that does not lead to tolerance as defined by the world today.  Just because I respect you as a person and treat you with kindness does not mean that I have to support your beliefs or way of living if it is conflict with God’s truth.  Let’s look at an extreme to illustrate the point.  I should love you and treat you with kindness, but if you are a religious fanatic that believes in killing my family because they are Christians, I don’t have to “tolerate” your belief system.

So how do we live in a way that celebrates diversity in a godly way?  I think there are principles we can follow and intentional steps we can take at MCA.

  • Learn: if we are going to respect and properly respond to others who are different from us, we must learn about them.  Just as we seek to understand a potential spouse or friend, we need to investigate what motivates them, what has shaped their lives, and what is important to them.  At MCA, we can do that by studying people groups in our classrooms and at chapels.
  • Celebrate: God loves diversity and so should we.  Let’s do that by identifying the elements of other cultures and even of different personalities that honor God encourage those people from those cultures and those with the different personalities.  At MCA, we can do that by encouraging our families and staff to be involved in cross-culture activities that are honoring to God.
  • Engage: MCA should integrate as much of God’s diversity found in the human race as possible.  We should be intentional about welcoming and including a wide range of ethnicities, economic statuses, and cultural practices.  We are doing this in our hiring practices, our invitations to speak at chapels, and in our recruitment of new families.  We can do more.  We are currently examining how we can more intentionally engage different ethnicities and gender in leadership activities and decisions such as participation in school board committees and service.

These steps are just the beginning.  I welcome conversations about how to live out this belief better.  If this is a passion of yours, I would welcome your participation in helping MCA improve in this area.  I challenge you to examine your life, and determine where you can be more Christ-like in this area.

Christian Worldview on Diversity

Simplicity is something God uses to address mankind’s issues.  Take for example the complicated, intensely personal, damaging issue of bullying.  God’s solution is short and sweet, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  This truth is first stated in Leviticus 19:18 and repeated by Jesus in Matthew 19:19.  How many of our world’s complex interpersonal issues would be resolved if we could fulfill this commandment fully?  My belief is that all of them would be solved.

Let’s focus in on the topic often labeled as diversity or multiculturalism.  From MCA’s work on Truth Statements the authors made some interesting, thought-provoking statements:

“Multiculturalism is a movement in our culture that focuses on difference rather than similarities.  Rather than unifying us, multiculturalism tends to fragment us as a society pulling us further away from each other. Tolerance used to be accepting someone’s opinion that you disagreed with; now all opinions have equal truth and value.  Today, instead of taking a stand for truth and for what is right by God’s standard, we allow or agree with all opinions set before us.  Political Correctness is a form of cultural and religious censorship.”

Working from the biblical worldview that everyone on this earth is part of one race as descendants of Noah and ultimately of Adam, then this discussion isn’t about being of different races.  It is about differences in superficial differences such as skin color, shape of the eyes, and such.  More importantly it is about cultures, beliefs, traditions, history, and characteristics that are fundamentally vital to a group of people which may be different than another group’s.

Maranatha Christian’s Truth Statement regarding this issue is short, “Christians should respect and accept all people”.  This truth is based on the second greatest commandment (per Jesus’ ranking) which is “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  So this issue is simple to solve.  I did not say easy.  Simple.

My question to the MCA Family is how do we live out this commandment in a way that models for the world how we will live in heaven for eternity.  God demonstrates every day that He loves diversity.  You see it in the form of clouds, the colors of plant life and the shape and size of animals. I mean have you seen what lives at the bottom of the ocean?  Now there is some real diversity! Heaven is going to be a place of rich diversity.  We should be practicing here how to live and thrive in the presence of diversity.  My next post will continue the dialog about how do we do the difficult work of thriving in a setting with diverse individuals.

Higher Education Shuns “Winsome Christian Faith”

God calls us to ground our life in the truths of His Word.  Organizations that claim Him as their Father must do the same thing.  Maranatha Christian was founded with a strong Statement of Faith which continues today.  Each year the Board members, administration, faculty and staff must re-affirm their beliefs in these bedrock truths found in God’s Word. 

I have felt a special burden to make sure that MCA remains steadfast in its beliefs.  I led the faculty in a study at our retreat that focused on our Statements of Faith.  I am walking through those Statements with the Leadership to make sure we affirm a commitment and common understanding of these Statements.  Not everyone wants us to stand firm on these truths.

As Tish Harrison Warren found out, our world is not comfortable with any Christian organization with absolute truths as their creedal statements.  Those statements are in direct conflict with their dogma of tolerance.  The leaders of public university have moved to the offensive to root out any organization that clings to creedal statements with positions of absolute truth.

Tish’s story as related in Christianity Today (September 2014, pp. 54-58), is a somber warning to all of us.  She starts her article with this statement, “I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.”  She meant that she did things that most people would enjoy.  She was non-confrontational about her beliefs, and she made special efforts to support common good causes such as “racial reconciliation and social and environmental justice.” 

She helped lead a group called Graduate Christian Fellowship that was approved by her university (Vanderbilt), but suddenly the group risked that approval unless they removed the requirement that all the leaders of the group had to “affirm our doctrinal and purpose statement”.  The catalyst for this change is that another Christian group had “expelled several students for violating their behavior policy.  One student said he was ousted because he is gay.” 

Tish and 100’s of others peacefully met with the decision makers to challenge the position being taken by Vanderbilt.  They met stonewall after stonewall that ended with “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.”  That meant that if you have a creedal statement that somehow excluded some people from being in your group, the university could not support you.  The leadership equated these statements to racial discrimination statements.  

This story does not have a happy ending of reconciliation about how the very principle of tolerance that Vanderbilt was espousing was being set aside by their practice of not tolerating Christian organizations and their beliefs.  However this story ends with Tish and her peers responding in a godly manner.  They respected the universities decision, but also honored their Lord.  They complied with the universities policies which made it much more difficult to operate on the campus, but they did not stop loving the lost, sharing he Gospel, welcoming all to a relationship to Jesus, and doing good in service to Him and mankind.

This is the world in which we live.  This is what we must prepare our children to confront.  The tenor of this article was not of anger but of sadness mixed with hope.  Sadness that our world, specifically those in leadership, do not see the darkness that is blinding them.  And hope that God is still in control working through the creative, committed young people who will serve Him and honor Him in the face of adversity.