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Seeking the Welfare of the City

Seeking the Welfare of the City

Principal's Pen - April 2024

Last month, I represented the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) by leading an accreditation team to a classical Christian K-8th school in San Francisco. Like all accreditation teams, we were charged with evaluating the school in the areas of academic excellence, spiritual formation, and organizational effectiveness within the Christian Worldview. While our task focused on appraising the school's success in those particular spheres, it became evident that another sphere, a higher and transcendent one, permeated every inch of the school's philosophy and drove its educational mission. 

Our accreditation team first noticed it during a dinner meeting with the school's board of directors. When asked about the school's mission and expected student outcomes, one member simply said, "Our school exists for San Francisco." The next day, we heard a similar comment from a teacher, "Our school is a ministry for the city." In another meeting later that day, and during every stakeholder meeting after that, someone else said the same.   

While at the school, our team used a staff workroom to host meetings with the various groups and complete our written evaluation. The room was on the second floor of the school building and had panoramic windows offering views of the San Francisco skyline. As group after group joined us in that room and told us of the school's divine mission to the city, I found myself looking out those windows and reflecting on some passages in the Bible. The first was Jeremiah's words from God for the exiles in Babylon: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (29:7, ESV). Undoubtedly, the people who joined us in that room over three days understood and lived out the theological principle God gave to His people some 2600 years ago. They, too, were to benefit the city in which they lived. And they were doing it by preparing young people to do the same. 


Accreditation Team Work Room Overlooking San Francisco

Like ancient Babylon, San Francisco is an international center of trade and commerce filled with a diverse population of people from various ethnicities, cultures, and religions. People move there to get ahead in the world, to employ the dynamics of the city to their advantage. But in Jeremiah, God tells His people not to advantage themselves in Babylon, but first to set their hearts on the city itself and employ their talents, skills, and abilities to seek its "welfare." If they started with Babylon's welfare, they would do well themselves.

The Hebrew word for "welfare" in Jeremiah 29 is "shalom," which is commonly translated as "peace." But it means so much more than the absence of war or conflict. It has a meaning closer to "health, harmony, completeness, safety, and flourishing." That is what the people of God are to work and live for in whatever city they find themselves. But doing so requires selflessness and service, a giving of one's life for others. A "my life for yours" type of living. How do you teach that in school? How do you motivate young people to seek the welfare of a city filled with unbelievers who differ in their values and are sometimes antagonistic to them? 

Christian schools like Berean and the school in San Francisco filter everything we do through the Christian Worldview and the fundamental questions of life. Every day of school, winsome Christlike teachers educate students in the subjects they've mastered. But they do so as redeemed people grounded and formed in the Word of God and by the Spirit living in them. And while they are teaching Science, Math, and English, they tell their students of the One who created them and their infinite worth and value to Him. They tell them that the purpose of their lives is to make much of God by maximizing the gifts He's given to them. For that is how they can worship. Then, they teach them why the world is broken and, of course, what Jesus did to fix it. 

And therein lies the answer to how you teach and motivate young Christian students to answer the call to seek the city's welfare and those in it. Redeemed people, redeem people! Every Christian was once an unbeliever who utterly differed from Jesus in what they valued, living a life that was antagonistic toward Him. But He loved us anyway! And before we believed, He served us by coming to our city, our world, to lay down His life so that we might believe and trust in Him and be saved. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, NIV). We can work for the welfare of the city because Jesus worked for ours. And He has left us an example that we might follow in His steps (1 Pet 2:21).  

As the 2023-2024 school year draws to a close, we, too, are ready to celebrate launching another graduating class into the world to serve the cities God places them in. May our graduates employ all of their talents, skills, abilities, and everything they've absorbed of the Christian Worldview from our winsome teachers, churches, and families to seek the city's welfare. And may the Lord bless every Christian school that has a mission to do the same! 

Nicholas Harris

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