ONE OF the primary emphases demanded of Adventist education is what might be summarized in the "city of refuge" concept—the salvation of the souls of the children and youth of the church for the church. Schools have not failed in this, for approximately 10 per cent of world baptisms come from the Seventh-day Adventist school system. Of these, the larger proportion are from the elementary schools.
But training in methods of soul-saving outreach is also a principal objective of our teachers. "True education is the preparation of the physical, mental, and moral powers for the performance of every duty; it is the training of body, mind, and soul for divine service. This is the education that will endure unto eternal life"—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 330. "The great object of education is to enable us to use the powers which God has given us in such a manner as will best represent the religion of the Bible and promote the glory of God" —Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 45. This is the commitment that has led Seventh-day Adventist educators to place high priority on the training of the youth to win souls by teaching them how to do it, and then going out with them and putting the instruction given into practice. During recent years hundreds, even thousands, have been won to the truth through these efforts.
Seventh-day Adventist schools endeavor to meet the grand objective of evangelism by striving to maintain a deeply spiritual atmosphere on their campuses and grounds; by placing the Bible and the Biblical world view at the center of all study, teaching, and activities; by maintaining a high quality of instruction, with emphasis on independent thinking; by developing physical powers through a program of study balanced with useful exercise; by providing the basis for Christian homes; and, above all, by developing a personal commitment of the capacities and strength of youth to the service of God.
Is It Worth the Cost?
This is a costly program! It consumes vast amounts of money and demands much sacrifice on the part of parents, students, and the church. For this reason it sometimes runs into strong opposition. Yet Ellen White instructs: "No other work committed to us is so important as the training of the youth, and every outlay demanded for its right accomplishment is means well spent." —Education, p. 218. Note what she is particularly referring to: "The objection most often urged against industrial training in the schools is the large out lay involved. But the object to be gained is worthy of its cost." —Ibid.
The secret of accomplishing this God-directed task does not lie in the construction of attractive though functional buildings, or in lawns, shrubs, and flowers that will impress students and visitors alike with their beauty. Neither will it be met by the collection of large faculties composed of erudite scholars with arrays of recognized degrees. Though these are all worthy and often necessary factors, basic to the reaching of the goal of soul winning is the individual—the educator—himself. Teachers are needed who, with like-minded companions, "catch the bright rays of the Sun of Righteousness and reflect these precious beams upon the children and youth whom they are educating" (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 268). "The cause of God needs teachers who have high moral qualities and can be trusted with the education of others, men who are sound in the faith and have tact and patience, who walk with God and abstain from the very appearance of evil, who stand so closely connected with God that they can be channels of light." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 583.
A singleness of purpose is demanded on the part of the teacher if this objective is to be met. There must be an intense interest in the individual students, a burning desire for doing all in his power for the salvation of their souls. "The true educator, keeping in view what his pupils may become, will recognize the value of the material upon which he is working. He will take a personal interest in each pupil and will seek to develop all his powers." Education, p. 232. "He [the teacher] will carry these children and youth upon his heart. How to secure for them the no blest standard of attainment will be his constant study and effort." —Ibid., p. 281.
Christ-centered education not only involves sermons preached from the pulpit of the school church or chapel, it also includes the formal teaching of the Bible by the most qualified instructors in the denomination. But even this is not all. It comprehends the constant use of prayer as an integral part of student Christian living. But that is not all. The uniqueness of Seventh-day Adventist education embraces more than this. Subjects taught may often be the same as those taught in secular institutions, but how the content is presented makes the difference.
Christ at the Center
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that these schools "must have the mold of God in every department [and, I might add, in every activity!]. Jesus and His love should be interwoven with all the education given, as the very best knowledge the students can have. ... Bring the Prince of life into every plan, every organization. You cannot have too much of Jesus or of Scripture history in your school." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 587. A true Seventh-day Adventist school, inasmuch as its teachers focus on the saving of souls, will include references to the Bible and to the Spirit of Prophecy in all its classes. And it need not apologize to anyone, whether a government inspector or a secular evaluation committee, for doing so.
Religious permeation need not be evidenced in an overt or blatant manner. It does not require that a teacher announce, "Since this is a Seventh-day Adventist school, let us pray." It does not necessarily involve a teacher's tap ping a student on the shoulder as the latter rushes to meet an appointment across the campus in order to talk to him about his soul, although there may be times when this will probably happen. It does not imply breaking into the middle of the algebra class to have a testimony service, though under special circumstances this might take place. On the other hand, the history teacher will not hesitate in dedicating time to a spiritual discussion if a favorable opportunity presents itself.
Christ-centered teaching impresses students when it is presented in a way that relates to natural living. It is religion shining everywhere in a natural, not a forced,- way that leaves a mark on students, who in this way assimilate Christlikeness by a process of osmosis.
A Teacher I Couldn't Fire
Some time ago, when I was asked to assume the responsibility for one of our schools, I was told by the board that there was one teacher who for the sake of the image of the school should be transferred elsewhere. I found that what they said about him was true. He was a very fine Christian, but at the same time he was almost a caricature of the absent-minded professor. He would come to class with a white sock on one foot and a red one on the other. He often forgot to shave, and his students could not miss the blanket fuzz caught in his whiskers. When his suspenders gave way he used pieces of string to keep his trousers in the appropriate position. When he forgot to eat breakfast he stuffed soda crackers into his pockets and ate them as he taught, sprinkling crumbs on shirt and floor. When asked by students why he had tied an extra knot in his necktie he answered, "My wife asked me to bring a loaf of bread for dinner. The knot is so I won't forget."
Although it is absolutely true that "it is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed" (The Great Controversy, p. 555), and that as the teacher is, so will the students be, our professor was so far-out that students enjoyed laughing at him, were proud of him, but certainly would not imitate him.
He was a walking encyclopedia not only about his forte, science, but also about other subjects—music, mathematics, you name it, he knew it. He was a researcher. His splotched skin gave testimony to an experiment that had misfired.
He was not the best devotional speaker in that part of the world either, as I discovered when I assigned him regular vesper-service turns. His first subject was a scientific explanation of the relationship of the poplar, hazel, and chestnut rods to the birth of ring-straked, spotted, brown, and speckled goats and sheep. His next devotional was a philippic against meat eating.
Both were interesting and, in their place, valuable, but I somehow felt that they were not apropos to a Friday night devotional. So when he came to my office and offered to carry a heavier teaching load if I would excuse him from those church assignments, I accepted with alacrity.
He was impractical, as was demonstrated when during the summer non-vacation period I asked him to join two other teachers to work in the carpenter shop, repairing school equipment. After the first evening his two companions begged me to send him back to his laboratory. They had wasted the entire time keeping him from hurting himself on the machinery and from causing more damage to the equipment.
And yet, in spite of all this, added to the pressures from outside the school to transfer him to some other activity, I was happy to keep him on all the years I was there. Why? As a part of my pro gram I tried to visit my teachers from time to time as they taught, and so came the day that I sat through his class, observing from the back row of the science room. His appearance when he entered provoked the usual titters, in which I carefully refrained from joining, so as not to set the wrong example.
The subject for the day was flowers. To illustrate, he brought with him two red poppies. As he launched into his presentation, I, together with the students, completely forgot his laughable appearance, his peculiar mannerisms. There was active participation and interest on the part of the students as he gradually took one of those poppies apart and with the help of students drew a diagram of the parts of flowers on the blackboard, occasionally interspersing the Latin names of the flowers' cousins, uncles, and nieces. It was a masterpiece of good teaching. He calculated his time well too, for he concluded the subject presentation just about a minute before the bell sounded for ending the class. Then he picked up the perfect red poppy lying on the table, held it before the silent class, and while gazing at it, quietly said, "And to think, dear students—this flower was made by God for our pleasure. He planned it for us, and placed it where we could enjoy it." How could I dismiss a teacher whose attitude in a botany class typified what we are talking about when we speak of Christian Seventh-day Adventist education?
The result of educational evangelism is not always readily evident. It gradually takes place through the teacher's association with the youth, through the attitudes manifested in everyday life and work. Ellen White put it this way: "The true teacher can impart to his pupils few gifts so valuable as the gift of his own companionship. ... To strengthen the tie of sympathy between teacher and student there are few means that count so much as pleasant association together outside the school room." —Education, p. 212. "The youth need your labor. . . . Devote a portion of the time ... to personal labor for the youth who need your help. Teach them the claims of God are upon them; pray with them." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 589. If teachers "are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them the channel for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe." —Christ's Object Lessons, p. 328.
Ellen White speaks of the "unconscious influence" by which "thousands may be blessed" (Ibid., p. 340). "By an agency as unseen as the wind, Christ is constantly working upon the heart. Little by little, perhaps unconsciously to the receiver [and, might I add, to the doer], impressions are made that tend to draw the soul to Christ." —The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
An experience that I had some time ago illustrates this. A youth congress was being held in a district about twenty miles from the college campus. About twenty-five students had asked permission to attend the meeting on Sabbath afternoon. Since I had been asked to announce a song, or something equally earth shaking, I went too. Theodore Lucas, of the General Conference Missionary Volunteer Department, was the main speaker, and I sat next to him on the platform.
Just before his time for speaking, an other youth leader gave a short talk. One of his statements had to do with the crowns of the redeemed. These would have stars, each star representing a soul saved by the wearer. He then added that nobody would enter heaven without having at least one star on his crown! Upon which I muttered sotto voce, "That does it. I don't think I'll make it." For in my work as the head of a school I didn't know of any one person that I felt I could claim as a star, forgetting two people won in a series of meetings conducted in Texas with a fellow church school teacher. I didn't realize that Ted Lucas had heard me.
When he got up to speak he started off with: "Just a couple of minutes ago Pastor Brown, sitting next to me, stated that he felt that he had no star for his crown. This raised a question in my mind." As he went on I became more and more nervous and so embarrassed that I wished I could find a crack to crawl into and hide from the audience. "There are several students from his school in attendance here this afternoon. I would like to ask a question: Is there any student present who can say that because of something that Brother Brown did or said he or she had changed his or her life, has accepted Jesus, and can say that he or she may be a star in his crown?"
I was mortified, for I was certain that there was no one. After an instant of silence a young man in the front row of the rear gallery stood up. He said, "I will be a star in Brother Brown's crown."
Pastor Lucas smiled. "How did this happen?"
John answered, "I went into Elder Brown's office one day. He talked, counseled, and prayed with me, and what he said and did changed my life."
John sat down, and Pastor Lucas continued with his sermon. But I sat there and gazed up at John. For the life of me, I couldn't think of when he had come into my office or of anything that I had done or said that might have changed his life. I still don't, but the fact remains that I exerted an unconscious influence, as so many of my fellow teachers and educators do. Out of curiosity, a few weeks ago I opened the 1976 Yearbook to see if there had been a follow-up result. There, to my pleasure, I found the name of John X, a pastor in one of the conferences in the area where I previously worked. Will I have a share in the stars that he has earned directly for himself since that time?
All of this points out the role of Seventh-day Adventist education, its specific part in the accomplishment of the task of evangelizing the world in this generation. It underlines the recompense of being a teacher, a trainer of youth. It makes it easy to understand the statement made by Meade McGuire, a late, great denominational leader, who said, "I would rather be an instrument in the hand of God to save a little boy than be president of a conference."
A Seed in My Heart
AS I hold a kernel of corn in my hand I note that on the tip there is a small dark spot called the germ, or embryo. In this part is the potential for a plant, with a root system that will penetrate into the soil three feet, a stalk that will grow about nine feet tall and produce good-sized ears of corn. It is obviously a miracle. As I observe it further I ask whether it is dead, alive, or in a state of suspended animation (dormant). If it is dead it has perhaps no real useful purpose. If it is alive, perhaps if I wait long enough it will grow in my hand or my pocket into a beautiful productive plant. However, if it is in a state of suspended animation it would seem appropriate to put it in the proper environment, which is well-prepared soil.
It takes a great amount of faith to put that seed in the ground, because there is considerable expense connected with it. For example, it costs a farmer about $180 an acre to prepare the soil and apply fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides. Certainly it would be folly to prepare a seed bed at such expense for dead seed. It also takes a lot of faith to believe the claims of the breeder, who says that the seed I hold has certain out standing characteristics such as 95 per cent germination; disease, insect, and drought resistance; adaptability to high population; and outstanding yield. I wish I could take that seed apart to know for certain whether these claims are true, but I cannot. If I do I will obviously destroy it.
There is an obvious spiritual parallel. In Luke 8:11 we are told that "the seed is the word of God." What potential it can perform for us! It can enhance our spiritual, moral, and intellectual development. Yet if by faith we implant the seed in the receptive soil of our heart, the sunshine of His love and the rain of the Holy Spirit bring growth, development, and the ultimate harvest.
As you behold the seed (the Word of God) is it dead, alive, or in a dormant stage? If it is dead it might as well be thrown away, or it might be left on the shelf or table to make a good impression on the minister when he visits. If it is alive perhaps it will do all the psalmist claims in Psalm 19:7-9, with no effort on our part. On the other hand, if it is in a state of suspended animation it would be appropriate to put it in the proper environment, which the Holy Spirit has prepared in our hearts and minds to receive it.