Employment Opportunity: Pastor Seeks Alchemist (well sort of) By Mark Kennedy, ACSI Canada
Those of us whose minds are well stocked with enigmatic-historical trivia may recall the job description of an alchemist in the Middle Ages. Back then alchemists were charged with the task of finding a simple way to change base metals, like lead, into gold – a quixotic quest if ever there was one. And of course it was doomed to failure. As far as I know there is not a single record of success in that ‘vocation’ and maybe that’s why we don’t run into many aspiring alchemists these days.
Last spring a pastor spoke to me about a serious concern in his church, one that I think is common across North America. He was troubled by his church teens and their negative attitudes towards spiritual things and he hoped ACSI could provide a seminar to fix the problem. No, these young people didn’t attend Christian schools. Their Christian training came from an hour or two a week of church service and youth group.
I wished I could have directed him to a Christian version of an alchemist – a sage who could pass on a simple formula to transform those leaden attitudes into gold. But I had tell him, when it comes to developing mature Christian lives and attitudes, a few hours weekly of Christian input simply ‘doesn’t cut it’.
How can a few hours of church compete with the influence of more than 30 hours weekly of secular education combined with a similar amount of exposure to anti-Christian messages in popular media? An hour or two of Christian training would be enough if the Christian life was a part time thing, separated from what some folks call “the real world”. Then it would be good enough just to act happy and virtuous while at church, or at least while other Christians are watching. But real Christian maturity hasn’t much to do with acting. It’s about being and it doesn’t come automatically at the moment of salvation.
The forming of Christian character takes consistent training intellectually and experientially under the guidance of mature believers. Consistency is the key. Paul warns about the dangers of frustrating children by giving them conflicting messages – like the ones they get at church as opposed to the ones that come from secular schooling, “Father do not exasperate your children; instead” (of exasperating them) “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”Ephesians 6:4 That parental responsibility extends beyond the home.
Then there’s the influence of other students – especially important for teens. Teen values and attitudes are significantly influenced by the company they keep, “Don’t be misled,” Paul said, “bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:33; Christian elementary and high schools focus on forming distinctly Christian character while providing top quality academics. And, for the most part, Christian school students are the kind of ‘good company that reinforces good character’.
As I explained to the pastor, there’s no ‘one seminar alchemy’ for producing golden teen attitudes. But the simile of gold does come into it. You see, to most people gold ore appears to be pretty unpromising –mainly just hunks of grey rock. It takes a lot of focused, dedicated refining to get rid of the dross and bring out the valuable stuff. But in the end all the work and expense is worth it. So is Christian schooling.