Our Christian Schools – How to Maintain Them

Rev. John B. Hulst is Campus Minister and Instructor of Bible at Dordt College. His article was originally delivered as an address at a Reformed Fellowship meeting held in Sioux Center, Iowa, The topic is timely in view of the approach of the opening of school and the message is urgent.

I’m confident that all of you remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the efforts he put forth to gain freedom for the black man in America, Speaking one day in our nation’s capital, Dr. King announced that he had had a dream. Stretching out his arms he cried, “Mine eyes have seen the glory.” He then went on to describe a society of freedom and equality for all men—black and white, rich and poor, strong and weak. Not too long afterward, Dr. King was assassinated, but his dream was unrealized.

This isn’t Washington, D.C., and I’m not Dr. King. But I want to share with you the fact that I’ve had a dream. To be more precise, it was a nightmare. Fictitious? Perhaps, but it concerned a real place our city or village—and a definite time—the year 2000. In this nightmare I saw a building. It was our Christian School. The building was dilapidated and empty of books, children and teachers. The village still had stores, houses, churches, people and children. But the Christian School was unused and no one cared.

A dream? No, a nightmare.

Am I looking forward to the fulfillment of this nightmare? Of course not!

Could the predictions of this nightmare be fulfilled? Yes, they could. But, before anything so tragic happens, I want to talk to you about avoiding a nightmare or how to maintain our Christian Schools.

Perhaps some of you expect me to begin talking now about the injustice of being required to pay taxes for state education and, at the same time, being forced to reach still deeper into our pockets if we wish to provide our children with a Christian education. Or perhaps you expect me to say that if this injustice is not rectified, we will not be able to keep our schools open. Well, I’m not going to talk about that, because, while I do believe that the present situation contains injustices which must be rectified, I also believe with all my heart that our schools must continue in spite of and in the face of these injustices.

Furthermore, however, if our Christian Schools are going to remain open there are certain things which must be emphasized and re-emphasized.


Some people think that emphasizing the importance of Christian education means de-emphasizing the importance of the instituted church. Quite the opposite, of course, is true.

There are many places today throughout the United States and Canada where the Christian schools are suffering because of a lack of support. Very often this is due to the fact that the pulpits of the churches do not ring with the biblical message concerning our covenantal responsibilities and kingdom obligations. Just as often the officers of the church fail to press upon the hearts of the members of the church the weight of these covenantal, kingdom obligations as they relate to the Christian life in general and to Christian education in particular.

If we are going to avoid the nightmare I described earlier, we will find ourselves relying very much upon the ministry of the instituted church. The pulpits before which we sit each Sunday must proclaim the universal kingship of Jesus Christ, the existence of the sphere of education within Christ’s kingdom, and the recognition of His lordship over education. The officers of the church, whom we meet in the sanctuary and receive into our homes, must remind us continually of our citizenship in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and of our covenantal responsibility to train our children for like citizenship by means of Christ-centered education. And thus the instituted church, through its ministries, must continually remind us that the only school for our children is the Christian school.

Yes, preserving our Christian school for future generations demands that we emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of the ministries of the instituted church.


Other people suppose that emphasizing the importance of Christian education means de-emphasized the importance of the Christian home. This supposition is reflected in the fact that many people who send their children to the Christian school do, in reality, neglect the nurture of their children in the family and in the home.

But consider what happens when the home is neglected. (By neglect I do not mean neglect of the physical and material needs of the home. I am primarily concerned with a neglect of spiritual life and direction.) In homes where there is this neglect, there is also a loss of spiritual direction and purpose; a loss of covenantal conviction and commitment; a loss of kingdom vision and concern. The result? When the spiritual vigor of our homes is lost, concern for the covenantal training of children inevitably suffers. It is Quite true that spiritually indifferent parents may continue for a time to send their children to the Christian school. Often, however, they will do so merely because of the status involved. And eventually such parents or their children are going to view Christian education as a waste of money, time, and effort. They will remove their children from the Christian school, thus bringing the Christian community one step closer to the nightmare we all presently dread.

Christian education is not a solution to weak homes! Christian education grows out of and depends upon strong Christian homes. Strong, consistently Christian homes will seek Christian education. Examples of this fact are readily available. Sometime ago, for instance, a group of Christian parents met together in a southern city and expressed dissatisfaction with the education their children were receiving in the state school system. The education being presented in the school conflicted with the spirit and tone which these parents were trying to set in their homes. “We need education which is governed by the principles and spirit directing our homes,” they said. “We need a Christian school.” Today there is a Christian school in that city, and a number of our Dordt graduates are teaching in that school.

Strong, consistently Christian homes will demand Christian education. What are the principles which govern a Christian home? Are they not the principles of the Word of God which declare that, always and everywhere, God is our God and we are His people for Christ’s sake? Are they not the principles of Scripture which declare that, always and everywhere, we and our children must gratefully trust in and obey Him? Of course they are. But, don’t you see? These principles, which govern a truly Christian home, are the very principles which demand and undergird our Christian schools. The very principles which, when observed, make a home Christian are the same principles which demand Christian education.

Further, strong and consistently Christian homes will support Christian education. A Christian home will pray for the Christian school, give to the Christian school, promote the Christian school, and place its children in the Christian school.

Finally, strong and consistently Christian homes will never let the Christian school down. I know this dates me, but I can remember a bit of the economic depression of the 1930’s. It was in that situation that I heard my father say to my mother, “We’ll sit on crates around this table before we take our children out of the Christian school.” But I can also remember something that happened about three decades later. I was visiting a family who lived in a beautiful home with a two-stall garage. In one stall there was a large, new automobile, and in the other a monstrous boat with motor, skis and everything that goes with such an “outfit.” I heard the owners of that house, car, and boat say, “We’ll send our children to the Christian school when and if we can afford it.” Do you sense what I mean and don’t mean when I say that a consistently Christian home will never let the Christian school down?

And is it clear? Avoiding a nightmare demands that we emphasize the importance of the Christian home.


Increasingly today we hear young people say they cannot detect the difference between the education they arc receiving in the Christian school and the education being offered in the state schools, other than that the Christian schools have prayers, Bible reading, and various moral lessons attached to the academic fare of the day. We also see parents attached to the academic fare of the day. We also see parents taking their children out of Christian schools and sending them to public schools because, in their words, “They can’t tell the difference.”

We may wish, with a measure of justification, to argue against this attitude and reasoning. But the time has also come to recognize and acknowledge that Christian education is more than Christian teachers instructing Christian children in a Christian atmosphere out of a perspective which, intentionally or unintentionally, is secular. We must also recognize that it is time for Christian educators, individually and especially collectively, to increasingly study, struggle, wrestle, and fight to clearly and understandably articulate God’s Word for and in education.

Avoiding a nightmare demands that we emphasize the importance of truly Christian, Word-formed and Word-informed education.


Did it ever strike you that there are many Christian churches in our land and comparatively few Christian schools? Why is that? Is it because American Protestant Christians are not concerned about their children, are stingy with their money, or lack appreciation for good education? Not at all! Rather, this situation is due to the fact that American Protestantism has generally divided life into the “religious” and the “non-religious,” the “sacred” and the “secular.” Further, it has identified that which is “religious” and “sacred” with the church, but the rest of life is characterized as “non-religious” and “secular.”

What then is the situation which results? Over here is the church. Here is where our Christianity comes to expression. Here is where we do “religious” things such as worship, train our children in the faith, get married, celebrate wedding anniversaries, and cook for church dinners. And finally it is here, in the sacred realm, that someone takes care of our funeral. But over here, on the other side, is the rest of life. Here is our home, school, work, business, political activity, and the other social relationships we experience. These areas are all “non-religious” and “secular.” These areas of life have no room for the Christian faith, for that which is “sacred” and “religious.”

And thus American Protestantism is being choked by a sickening, unbiblical dualism. That is why there are comparatively few Christian schools in America. And that is why American Protestantism is perishing with but a few spurts of revivalism and neo-Pentecostal tongue-speaking here and there.

Lest we become complacent, however, we must acknowledge that this dualistic spirit is creeping into our Reformed communities as well. This spirit evidences itself in the form of heresies. It expresses itself in the heresy of liberalism, which is secularizing the church. Or it expresses itself in the heresy of fundamentalism which is secularizing life. But in whatever form (both are bad), this dualism, if not checked, spells the death of our Christian schools. Unless and until we return to the biblical, Reformed, Calvinistic concept of the universal kingship of Jesus Christ and the total claims of the covenantal, Christian world-and-life-view, the day is coming when our Christian schools are going to close much faster than they originally opened. Not only is it so that Christian education is designed to prepare covenant youth for living life in its totality before the face of God. It is also true that Christian education needs the atmosphere and motivation of this total kingdom concept if it is to continue, flourish, and grow.

God forbid a realization of the nightmare which I described in the beginning of this address. God grant us the vision to see that, if we would maintain our schools, we must re-emphasize the importance of the ministries of the instituted church, the Christian home, consistently Christian education, and life lived in its fullness before the One of whom, through whom, and unto whom are all things.