This is not a letter to any one person in particular but to a diverse group of friends and acquaintances who I have taught and gotten to know while teaching at Great Lakes Christian High School.
Dear Occasional Church Attending, Non Believing, Nominal Christian Former Student,
As you know, my first career was teaching Math and Science at Great Lakes Christian High School for 11 years and during that time I taught more than 500 different young people. I saw more than 300 of you graduate from Great Lakes and have kept in contact with many of you. As a teacher at a private Christian school it was my responsibility to achieve with you the expectations of the Ontario Curriculum and I am proud of every student I have ever taught. Some of you have excelled to the highest levels of post-secondary education (at least three of you have earned (or are earning) doctorates in your field of study, and countless dozens have earned Master’s degrees (at least two of which read this blog regularly 🙂 ) Whatever your post-secondary path, I have learned something from every one you. You have helped me choose names for my children, you have helped me choose which movies not to let them watch. Some of you have babysat my children while I went to see these same movies. I came to see some of you as extended parts of my family. But as a teacher at a Christian school I also had a responsibility to give you a ‘reason for the faith that I hold’ (1 Pet. 3: 15) and I confess that I am afraid that I have failed some of you, not all of you, but some.
Facebook has been an amazing tool for maintaining casual friendships (What Malcom Gladwell calls ‘soft social capital‘) but it is also a sobering tool in the vocation I now find myself in. It still amuses me, in a tragic way, what people will do to conceal a lifestyle choice that they will proudly proclaim on their Facebook profile. I remember vividly meeting a former student in town. I was walking uptown, she was walking downtown. She was smoking but didn’t want to be seen smoking by me. As I approached her cigarette hand disappeared up her coat sleeve. When we were passing we greeted each other, and then after I was gone the cigarette was back out and on we both went. I now find it sad that this same girl, now a young woman, has a profile picture of her with another woman’s husband (also a former student) with whom she is obviously sharing a serious relationship. If I gave you the impression that I serve as some moral authority in your life; that your appearance before me is the measure of your goodness before God, I beg that you forgive me. My impression of you as a ‘good person’ will be worthless when you stand before Jesus at the end of time.
Another former student was talking with me recently, vaguely misleading me to think that he does not drink alcohol. I don’t care if you drink beer! At the same time as this, his Facebook friends post pictures of him in licensed drinking establishments that have brass poles from stage to ceiling. Why do you care what I think you are doing if you are willing to dishonour God’s daughters like that? Who do you think you’re fooling anyway?
Michael Spencer, “the Internet Monk” wrote a column on his blog recently titled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” In it he observes soberly that despite churches spending millions of dollars on youth programs, survey’s show that young adults who grew up going to Christian schools have the same moral opinions as those who have never attended church. I hope that is not true across the board but I am sure it is true of some.
Have I tried to train you to attend a church instead of training you to becoming part of one?
There are three things I want to repent of / confess / grieve with you:
1. I failed in presenting the cause of Christ to you. I cannot accept the whole blame, for you are a person who will have to give your own account before God. You are responsible for the decisions you made in your own life but I apologize that I was not able to demonstrate the reason for my faith in Christ.
- I am not a Christian because I am better than some people; I am a pitiable fool if I pretend that this is so.
- I am not a Christian because Jesus makes my life better. I am a Christian because HE IS BETTER.
Jesus Christ is God’s grace and redemption and human form. He is the proof that God is love. He is a judge, and he finds my life wanting: I may be living a good enough life for my standards but I am not living up to God’s standard. In spite of my rebellion against Him, Jesus is the satisfaction for God’s wrath against sin. Jesus is the way of removing the stain of sin from my life. Jesus is the model for how to live. He is the object of my daily praise. Jesus is everything to me!
As God as my witness I wish I could gather every student I have ever taught who is not a vital part of a group of believers and beg them to consider again the possibility of authentic Christianity. Forget whatever denominational name is over the door. Who gives a care whether there is a piano, organ, guitarbasedrumskeyboard….. in the hall. I couldn’t care less what programs you are a part of or not a part of. Being a follower of Christ makes a horrible hobby but it is the only cause you can totally give yourself to and be fulfilled in it. Only Jesus Christ can sustain that kind of pressure. Your career won’t save your soul.
2. I may have given you the impression that being right about Biblical interpretation, worship practices, and congregational organization was the most important thing there is to being a follower of Christ. Please forgive me for that is not true. We are called to be part of what I call now, “a resurrection community of faith”. Jesus does not make bad things good, He makes dead things alive. You need to make yourself part of a group of people who are becoming everyday, more like Jesus; turning from death to life.
Once you are within this community of people who are becoming more like Jesus, you want to know what you should be doing? Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 25: 31 – 46 where the ones who have been feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, pushing back the darkness and planting a flag for the Kingdom of God are called blessed by the Father. God’s reward is for them. If you aren’t about those kinds of things you are wasting your time!
I have been sorrowfully convicted that I thought doing things the right way is what pleases God! It is not. Giving Him glory through the things I do through the Spirit is where the greatest joy can be found.
3. You may have gotten the impression that you are part of the church by just being there. You are not a car if you sit in your garage, and you are not a Christian by sitting in a church. You must profess an obedient faith to Jesus Christ in order to become a follow of Jesus. If you don’t believe that Jesus is the only way you can be accepted by God as a son or daughter you will never spend an eternity with Him. Hell will be full of people who went to church. I am begging you to consider baptism into a community of faith and active service to God. Neither you or I can be good enough without Jesus.
If you would like to talk about this any time I would love to hear from you. (905) 563-6311.
2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Occasional Church Attending, Non Believing, Nominal Christian Former Student”
Good blog. Lots of excellent points that I have come to realize myself over the past 10 years or so. 🙂 Hopefully you can take some solace in those of us who have not fallen away and have come to develop a faith that is truly our own an not hinged on those around us. A faith that empowers us once we truly understand that God is always with us.
Wow. Reality check. THIS is the message we need to be sharing. I need to be shouting it from the roof tops, and remembering to live it everyday. I was priviledged to learn from you back then, and am still priviledged today. Thank you.