Back to school, back to basics

By Matt Sapp

My calendar says that it’s August 5th—almost the exact middle of the summer—but we here in Cherokee County, GA are undergoing a seasonal change of sorts.

That’s right, it’s back to school time for parents and grandparents and students and teachers all over Georgia.  So no matter what the sun or the calendar says, summer is over. School is back in session.

Back to school season means getting back to basics.  Once upon a time, children learned the three “R”s of education: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic, right?   Now, our children tell us that the three R’s include, “reduce, reuse and recycle,” a quick reminder about how much education has changed over time.

But what are the basics for church and for life?

One of the ways to make sure we’re still focused on the basics is to go back and ask, “Are we still aiming to do the things we initially set out to do?”

At my church, Heritage Baptist Fellowship, the basics of faith include worship, discipleship and service.

We are committed to developing holy habits in worship.  This means making connections with holy things and the Spirit in an increasingly secular world.

We were created to live in fellowship with our creator. Worship fosters a connection with the holy that is essential to a well-lived life.

We are committed to the process of discipleship. For one, discipleship is not possible in isolation.   Healthy Christian relationships are key components of biblical discipleship.

Christian relationships rooted in the foundation of the local church are one of the best ways to make sure that we maintain mental, spiritual and emotional health and balance. Christian relationships also support our physical health, particularly when we face health challenges.

We are committed to Christian service and evangelistic mission. We are surrounded in this world by broken people. Many in our churches walk into worship on Sunday with shattered lives barely held together in their hands.

We have a tremendous opportunity and God-given responsibility as servants of Christ to bring wholeness to broken lives.  We cannot live whole, Christian lives unless our focus turns increasingly outward toward service to others.

So, while our children return to school, God calls us to a new season of turning back to the basics that make our faith in Christ worth while.

Students are encouraged to follow in Jesus’ footsteps: Grow in wisdom and stature!

Rockdale readers: My guess is that not many young people from the middle and high school crowd read the newspaper; so, I need to ask you a favor: Please pass this along to a young person nearest you.

It’s been nearly three weeks since Rockdale County students have returned to school.  In my estimation, this means that much of the “new student” orientation is over, an easy first-week schedule has passed, and students and teachers alike have gotten to know one another.

Some students already know whether a class will be fun or insane.  Others are still amazed how that new math teacher at Heritage High, Mr. Ryan, is still this excited about math nearly a month into the school year.  It’s a mystery for sure.

Don’t tell him that I never liked math, much less school. Yet, for all of my loathing of all things education, I’m glad I stayed in it until the very end.  I hope you do too!

Teachers and classes aside, dear reader, your education is your own responsibility.  When I was a youth pastor and a student told me how much they disliked this or that class or this or that teacher, my response was the same:  Do well in the class, and you’ll never have to take that class or teacher again.

More importantly, if you are a person of faith (and I hope you are!), then your education can have a deeper meaning.  It can be a path to greater growth as an individual and as a Christian.

When you go to church, you may hear your preacher say that every Christian is called to discipleship.  You may see your parents or mentors try to be decent and hard-working disciples of Christ as they make decisions, vote, pay their taxes, and be thoughtful and kind neighbors.  But you’re job is to be a student, so this life of discipleship must translate into being a good student in class.

No matter your age or lot in life, God calls you to be holy and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Lucky for us, Jesus provides us an example of a person devoted to education.  Twice in the gospel of Luke (2:40 and 2:52), the Bible says that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, in favor of God and with other people.”

Many of us think Jesus came upon this earth knowing all that he needed to know.  After all, Jesus was God’s very Son.  The biblical record, however, reveals something different about Jesus’ personhood.  Sure Jesus knew the Jewish Bible at 12 years of age better than many adult scholars in his day; but, like everyone else, he had to get an education.

Since his earthly dad was a carpenter, Jesus likely trained to be a carpenter too. This means that he had to learn math, basic literacy, and business practices.  More significantly, he had to learn the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

We also know that Jesus’ heart was always focused on doing the work of His heavenly Father.  It took him 30 years until he entered the ministry.  That’s a lot of education, studying, learning, and planning.

I fear that many young people think that things are easy to come by.  Get a job, then get a big-screen television.  Make good grades, go to college, and you’re set for life.  But that’s not how life is.  Like Jesus we have to work hard at what we want, and we need to focus on the things we are passionate about in order to do the things that will make us more effective disciples in the long run.

I realize that school just started, so it seems that it is a long way to go until year’s end.  Hang in there, dear reader, and know that your education is a part of God’s will for your life.

More importantly, it’s a part of growing in the Lord–of gaining “the favor of God and people”– and becoming the type of disciple that God longs for you to be.

A prayer just for you:  “Dear Lord, may our students do well in their classes, study hard, and earn the grades they deserve, even if it means wrestling with some difficult content.  In all things, be present with them and let each one experience your loving embrace regardless of the grades they get, for Your love is a gift freely given, freely enjoyed.  Amen.”