TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED.
TOONBAGGIE BAPTIST CHURCH. TOONGABBIE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL. 5TH FEBRUARY 2013.
61 years ago this week, 110 boys, all in grey suits, short pants, ties and caps, started in year 7 (form 1) at the Box Hill Boys High School, Victoria. I was one of them. The school had 850 boys in 1951 and recently I joined with over 300 of them at a dinner in the Box Hill Town Hall.
Among the noisy ex-students the most frequent word uttered was “I” followed by “remember”. A few former teachers of that era were also present. In our classes they all used to wear university gowns. One of my teachers of English, now 97 years of age, who watched my television program each week for twenty-five years and writes to me: “Moyes, you said “You and I”. It should have been in the objective case. Obviously it was in the accusative hence you should have said “You and me”. You always had that weakness.” I reply “Yes Mr. Halliday”, the only 74 year-old student in Australia still responding to his English teacher.
World War 11 was close in 1951. Jack Guthrie, my Latin Master was addressed as “Wing Commander Guthrie”, and he wore his Air Force uniform and service ribbons every Thursday, when he took charge of 150 uniformed boys in Air Training Corp. It must have been hard for a man who was such a high-ranking officer as Wing Commander to settle back into “civy” life where his charges were very young teenagers.
My first Headmaster Mr. Moody had a gasping voice from being gassed in the trenches in France in 1916. He had landed at Galipoli in 1915. Our Anzac Day and Remembrance Day parades were very serious affairs.
Sport was real. My second Headmaster was W M (Bill) Woodful, the former Australian Test Cricket Captain, “bodyline” hero, and the man who had Don Bradman in his team. He had great pulling power and at our speech nights I remember: the Governor General. The Prime Minister, the Governor, and famous people like the explorer Sir Douglas Mawson as special guest speakers.
At the re-union dinner was our old sports master who represented Victoria in two sports and among our students were two medallists at 1956 Olympics. Every old boy on the tables about me was a University graduate. The general consensus was that our teachers were outstanding for their competence, dedication and strict but fair on their discipline. We sang the old school song with gusto and all agreed in our appreciation of a good public school education.
My association with Toongabbie Christian School and the Toongabbie Baptist Church goes back many years since I first visited. I have been to many parent nights, student presentations, teachers’ conferences and the like.
My Grandson Michael Schepis graduated, attended University, enjoys a senior work position, publishes a world-wide e-magazine with over 1 million subscribers, has built his own house. Yet was the bane of Mrs Helen Blanche who spent six years telling him to tuck his shirt in and straighten his tie. At school he found among his class mates his girlfriend, Georgina Spears who graduated here, then went to University and graduated, and now heads up an important design department for Ikea. She and Michael married, and are expecting their first child.
My grand-daughter, Rachel Schepis, graduated at year 12, spent 4 years at University studying Special Education, graduated and today teachers at St Gabriel’s school, in Castle Hill, an Independent Catholic Primary Special School catering for children with hearing impairment and other special needs such as intellectual disability and autism. While at Toongabbie Christian School, she met and fell in love with classmate Ethan West. He graduated at year 12, then graduated at the Police Academy at Goulburn and today serves in the Police Force. Rachael and Ethan live in Castle Hill.
Another grand-daughter, Emma Schepis graduated at year 12 from Toongabbie Christian School, went to University and studied nursing and is about to graduate as a registered nurse. She has a heart for Christian service since she went on the missions trip to Samoa with Mrs Sloane. So five members of my immediate family have good memories of Toongabbie Baptist Christian School.
This week, son David Moyes, who for the past ten years has been senior Pastor at Belconnen Baptist Church, has moved to the Gold Coast to become Senior Pastor of the large Reedy Creek Baptist Church which has established a primary and secondary college Hillcrest Christian College with over 1000 students. The Christian Church ministry and the Church’s mandate for Christian education is very important to us.
1. I HAVE BEEEN COMMITTED TO CHRISTIAN EDUCATION.
Churches are called not only to help people come to know Christ, but to grow in maturity in Him. So every church should have a Christian education program. I have always been interested in the Church’s education program and expanded its ministry in over fifty years of being a pastor. In each place we have had our Sunday Schools with hundreds of children, hundreds of people in weekly Bible study through hundreds of home groups. Every week I have taught adults on the life and ministry of Jesus. At Wesley Mission we pioneered the City School of the Bible and added courses for tele-counsellors and elders, university students and the disabled. At Wesley I expanded the School for Seniors to 1500 students in our in 120 classes with another 1000 students on our Central Coast Campus.
In 1988 we established Wesley Institute For Ministry and the Arts. Today Wesley Institute teaches at Bachelors and Masters Degree levels, Diploma and Graduate Diploma levels. A number of staff from Toongabbie Christian School have completed their education graduate qualifications at Wesley Institute. Students can gain degrees in theology, music, drama, dance, the visual arts, classical music, theatre, television and film, expressive therapies, and pastoral care. There re inter-campus agreements with Universities in Australia, America, Korea and Malaysia. Wesley Institute today has a fine large property in Drummoyne, a faculty of ninety two committed Christians, and eight hundred students.
While I was pastor I also established the Wesley Institute of Language and Commerce, which has another 500 students.
Twenty five years ago I started going every year or so to Tennessee USA, to teach a class of Ministry students completing their Master’s degree. Emmanuel Christian Seminary added me to their staff as Adjunct Professor of Christian Ministries. Back here I remain a Member of the Australian College of Education. Christian education is important to me.
2. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IS A GROWING PHENOMENUM.
One of the first public buildings built in Australia was the female orphan school in Parramatta. It was built in 1813, perhaps, the first three-story brick building in the Southern Hemisphere. It still stands as an example of our commitment to education.
In recent years the number of secondary students in State run public schools has declined by 250,000, representing approximately 300 high schools closing. In the same period, some 250,000 new enrolments have been made in church run private schools, representing approximately 300 additional church high schools.
Despite the availability of free education at government schools, having to pay at private schools up to $50,000 just for tuition fees for six years secondary schooling, and larger student/staff ratios at private secondary schools, 43% of full-time secondary school students chose to study at private schools.
The Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”. Based on the latest enrolment figures for the Australian Capital Territory, where the number of students enrolled in non-government secondary schools, for the first time, exceeds government school enrolments, it’s clear that education is experiencing a tipping point.
Why are parents voting with their feet and why are Catholic and independent schools so popular? Research, both nationally and internationally, concludes that Catholic and independent schools, even after adjusting for a school’s socio-economic profile, are able to achieve stronger results than government schools in areas like academic standards, completion rates and entry to tertiary studies. Students do well because of high levels of “parental and community involvement” with “higher standards of discipline and greater emphasis on academic performance”.
As a result the number of non-Catholic private schools has almost doubled in 20 years to just less than 1000. The major reason advanced by parents for this swing towards private and mostly church-run education, is a desire for their children to be taught in a moral and ethical environment. It has become accepted that people without ethics or morals, or an understanding of the meaning and purpose in life, despite their learning in specialised fields, have failed their education. There is a growing awareness of the need for a fresh emphasis upon ethics. I am not talking about a county in England!
Fundamentally, Christian Education is about encouraging a Christian commitment and a Christian outlook on life; a way of thinking and being in the world that disciplines and directs all our thoughts and words and actions. Christian Education is not a matter of learning new techniques, computers, facts and abilities. It is a matter of how we live.
Christian Education equips for the whole of life. Education concerns the ends of life, the meaning and purpose behind all we do. If we die without unlocking the door to own our reason for existence, we die impoverished and unfulfilled. The ends of life and the meaning behind all we do is fundamentally a religious understanding.
Some may think that is a high expenditure of trust and commitment, but as Professor Eric Bos, the President of Harvard University said, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Nowhere is that more true that in the realm of your spiritual understanding. The cost of spiritual ignorance is high, but the benefits are eternal.
There is a demand in Australia for leadership – leadership that has grown in its education, knowledge and wisdom, and which holds to ethical, moral and spiritual values. Therefore it is absolutely essential for every student to face the claims of Jesus Christ upon his or her life and respond. We are not teaching technique, skills, religion alone – we are teaching how Jesus Christ makes you a brand new person. We seek to help you be filled with His gifts and graces to become the person He wants you to be.
Some people disparage a Christian Education. They, who never read the Bible, disparage it as a source of great insights for living. My wife and I share every night in reading the Bible and recently reading the book of Genesis, I realised that most of the things I ever needed to know about life, I could learn from Noah.
For example I have learned: 1. Don’t miss the boat. 2. Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat. 3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. 4. Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something really big. 5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with what has to be done. 6. Build your future on high ground. 7. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs. 8. Two heads are better than one. 9. Speed isn’t always an advantage; after all, the snails were on the ark with the cheetahs! 10. When you’re stressed, float a while. 11. Remember you can do it. The ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals. 12. Remember that the termites inside are a larger threat than the flood outside. 13. Don’t leave the church, for like the ark, the stench inside is better than the storm outside. 14. No matter the storm, when God is with you, there’s a rainbow waiting…and so on.
The Bible is the primary source for Christians in learning the major lessons of life. Not the only textbook, but the primary one. To know the Bible is to know the richest resource in knowing how to live.
Our generation has become expert in making money, in displaying greed, in developing technological answers while the real problems are relational! Experts provide us with a wealth of information. They load the table with countless pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The real task of education is to help people put them together. Our life is like a game of Monopoly as we buy and borrow, avoid jail, advance asking ever more from the rest, putting money and property as the end game. Hence T.S. Eliot asks: ‘Where is the life we have lost in the living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’
3. HENCE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IS ESSENTIAL.
The last and greatest command of Jesus was: Mat 28:18-20. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Our love for Christ carries with it obligations. The first is obedience to His teaching. That is why Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey my commandments”. (John 14:15). It is not optional. There are some who want to love Him but not obey Him. Others want to do the works of Jesus, but not to love Him. They are busy with good deeds but they do not have words of faith. Some have words of faith, but do not follow them with deeds of kindness. The Christian has both words and deeds. We are incomplete if we have deedless words or wordless deeds. We need always the deed and the Word.
I asked my grandson Michael and his wife what it was about Toongabbie Christian School that in retrospect that impressed them most. They told me it was the pastoral care of Christian staff, particularly of Mr Lawrence who would ask about their interests and pray for them. They say they hope their coming child will attend this school.
Establishing a Christian school is not the only responsibility of Toongabbie Baptist Church. Nor is Toongabbie Christian School the only Christian school this church should support. The church must support Christian education in scripture classes in local public schools, support Christian teachers, run its own Christian education and Bible study programs, groups, Sunday School and vacation school programs.
This church must also fulfil all of the responsibilities of a church committed to the Gospel, evangelism, pastoral care, missions, theological training, social welfare, and so on.
The Apostle Peter told Christians to grow in their knowledge and character “Divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins”. 2 Peter 1:3-9
When we know God through Christ, the believer escapes the corruption of sin, and Christ renews and restores the image of God within. Once reborn, Peter calls for a progressive, active Christianity that sees our knowledge grow and our character change. Peter’s chain of eight virtues starts with faith and ends in love. As Ignatius said: “Faith is the beginning and love is the end”. If we possess the eight virtues he has just listed, they will not be “ineffective and unproductive”.
Christian Education is about the development of a Christian character. It is not about the pursuit of happiness, although we rejoice with those who find happiness. It is not about the development of the well-rounded individual who will contribute positively to society, although we expect that our students to become well-balanced and worthy citizens. It is not directly about the fostering of gifts and talents, although we delight in seeing our students grow in the exercise of all their talents. It is not about achieving excellence, although we see that as a natural by-product of Christian education. It is not about success and self-fulfilment, although both of those things may be evident for many.
In the Scriptures God has commanded two institutions to educate: the home and the church. As an extension of either or both of these institutions, the Christian school has a Biblical mandate to educate and the Christian Church has a mandate to support both.