Feed My Starving Children
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Distributing Bibles at Refugee Christmas
No man has the right to be idle. Where is it, that in such a world as this, health and leisure and affluence may not find some ignorance to instruct, some wrong to redress, some want to supply, some misery to alleviate.
The Vision of Clapham School, to "propel students for a life of service to Christ," is at the heart of much of what we do at Clapham. Why is this our vision, and how does it practically play out in the classroom?
First, the call to serve as Christians comes from God's Word. Clapham's theme verse is Jeremiah 17:7-8 which says "Blessed in the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water....it does not cease to bear fruit." Ephesians 2:10 echoes this message as well, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." These vivid images point out that not only are we to bear the fruit of service God has called us to, but He Himself is the source of our service. He nourishes the tree; He prepared in advance the acts of service for us to "walk in" (note the ESV does not say "do"). They are from Him and for His glory.
Second, the pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty at a Christian classical school demands that we consider how to interpret our culture, respond to it, and engage it with a Christian worldview. At Clapham, our motto is Veritas pro Vita (Truth for Life). As students thoughtfully consider how God's truth leads to life, one potent way to demonstrate this to an unbelieving world is by service to the broader community.
Third, service is the essential antidote to "idolizing the mind." The admission requirements, tuition levels, and academic standards are very high at Clapham. This can easily translate to pride of achievement or status in the hearts of the students (and us!). But, if we want to be a God honoring school that together with parents helps train students who glorify Christ in their lives, then we need to submit to a life of humble service to Him and others.
The name Clapham comes from the Clapham Saints, a group of late 18th and early 19th century English Christians who prayerfully considered how to use their gifts, wealth and talents to make a difference in Britain and around the world. They led the cause to abolish slavery, reform prisons, educate women, and establish some of the first foreign missionary societies, to name a few. This is our hope and prayer for the students at Clapham School, that they would develop a sincere love for God's truth and His Word; that they would be articulate in the way in which they engage others with truth; and that they would develop a heart for service that will allow them to represent Christ in a humble and winsome way.
So, how does that translate to the classroom at Clapham?
- Emphasis on Habits of Virtue in the Classroom: We seek to encourage habits of respect, kindness and service in our students' hearts. Teachers at Clapham seek to create a sense of "other centeredness" in order that students might desire to respectfully and courteously consider others better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3).
- All School Service Projects: Clapham School does 3-4 all-school service projects each year. We annually host a luncheon for the refugee families participating in ESL classes at College Church, serve dinner to the homeless in the area, as well as visit the Wheaton Convalescent Center to share recitations of Scripture, hymns and poetry. These all-school projects are a great way to expose the students to different ways to serve, as well as show them how important service is to their parents.
- Classroom Service: Each classroom has a Service Mom to help support the teacher in finding creative ways to inject a theme of service into the classroom. These may be small service projects the class does on its own, or it might be leading targeted prayers for specific needs in our community.
- Parental Involvement: One of the most visible ways for parents to show their children that they value service is for the children to see them serving! We want to create ways for the students to share in their classes how their families serve outside of school, perhaps at their church. Or, parents may even serve during the week at Clapham in some way.
- Life of Service: Together with several other friends, three Clapham students formed a group called “The Gift Givers Club.” They have held garage sales and other fundraisers to send over $1200 to an orphanage in India and an inner city ministry in Chicago. This kind of heart for service organically grows in students who have mentors and role models to encourage them along the way.
Appointed to Serve
A distinct emphasis on service is among the many critical themes and issues that Paul deals with in the Pastoral Epistles. This would be easily missed were it not for the potency of language with which he speaks of service. Paul's initial thanksgiving is occasioned by the honor of being appointed to Christ's service (I Timothy 1:12-13). It is an appointment which does not come lightly, but rather demands testing and proof of character and competence (3:10). Furthermore, those who "serve well" will "gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus" (3:13). In fact, to be "the Lord's servant" (II Timothy 2:24) is a position of such extreme privilege that it almost becomes a sacred office in Paul's thinking. It is in this respect that Paul calls himself a /doulos theou/, "servant of God," in the Epistle addressed to Titus (1:1). Servants and slaves were familiar to the ancient world, denoting submission of will and obedience, as well as expendability and property. But when Paul uses this phrase, he has something quite different in mind.
When the Old Testament was translated into Greek (LXX and other versions), the phrase /doulos theou/ was used for a key people: privileged spokesmen of God. It was said of Moses that he was the "servant of the Lord" (Joshua 1:1). Indeed, God called him "my servant" (1:2), and Moses was a man "whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34:11). Certain prophets, like Samuel, were regarded as God's servants (I Samuel 3:8-14). But most significantly, Isaiah uses this title to speak of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Servant of the Lord (Is. 53:11). It is particularly this last observation which helps us understand why Paul so highly esteems the task, indeed the office, of service. Christian service is Christ-like. The reason Paul so often speaks about service is because Jesus so often spoke of it, and used it as an image of faithfulness and devotion to God and His kingdom.
The disciples struggled time and time again to learn this from their Master, though it was continually on his lips and in his actions. During the final stages of Christ's ministry, he acutely exposed this need in his followers. They were to become like children (Matt. 18) for to "such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (19:14). Unlike the Gentile lords, they were to be "little ones" because "whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (20:27-28). For this was the pattern of Christ's own life. He came "not to be served, but to serve" (20:28).
In keeping with the teaching of Jesus, and the profound burden of Paul's own apostolic heart, we must regard service, Christian service, supremely valuable. The temptation of personal publicity and self inflation, elevating our knowledge and understanding, is as real for us as for the first disciples. It is a danger in our church, and yes, it is a danger for our school. With all diligence and prayer, we must engage, encourage, teach, model, exhort to and live in radical Christian service. By the grace of God, it is through service that our children will become giants, not monsters. The difference is subtle, but significant. Both have knowledge and power, skill and understanding, but use these for very different purposes. Let us be Christians who are giants of the faith, servants of God.