Who is your favorite character from the Bible? Let me guess—your favorite character is someone who faced a crisis or directive way beyond his or her resources or abilities, but (through faith in God) took a bold risk, and then had the high privilege of partnering with God in a dramatic way to save the people/defeat the enemy/advance the gospel/rescue the vulnerable/encourage the heartbroken...
Who is your second favorite Bible character? I’ll bet his or her story is similar. Notice a pattern here?
In that spirit, let me tell you about a few of my favorite public school educators...
*All of these stories are true, though some names have been changed.
Choosing Obedience Despite Uncertainty
Andrea was an elementary school teacher who attended one of CEAI’s LIFT America events, where she learned that she could legally lead an after-school Good News Club. However, by the time she got all the forms prepared and signed, there would only be about six weeks left in the school year.
She was conflicted. She clearly felt a directive from the Holy Spirit to start the club before the end of the year, but common sense and advice from others suggested that she wait until the following year.
Ultimately, Andrea decided to trust that her sense of leading came from the Lord, and she risked looking foolish, pressing ahead to launch the club right near the end of the school year. Applying what she learned at the LIFT event, she went to her school district and identified herself as a representative of Good News Clubs, as opposed to relying on her role as a teacher, and asked for permission to start the club at her school.
To her surprise, she had about 75 students attend weekly to hear the gospel! Among them, a student named Xander quickly rose to leadership, inviting many students to the club and sharing the gospel with them. As the school year came toward a close, Xander and his family visited Mexico, where they often went on short-term missions trips. Tragically, Xander was killed in a freak accident while in Mexico. His family, Andrea, and the school community were devastated.
However, in time, Andrea saw what the Lord had done. By leading her to start the Good News Club that year, He had provided an opportunity for Xander to witness to many other students before his death and had created a community to grieve Xander’s loss together in a way that testified loudly to his faith in Christ.
By listening to that inner sense of leading of the Holy Spirit, and responding in obedience even when it didn’t seem to make sense, Andrea partnered with God to bring the gospel to an entire school community.
Relying on the Power of God
Finn was serving in the role of assistant principal in a middle school. On a Friday after school, one of the counselors in his building asked to meet about a personal matter. In the privacy of Finn’s office, Bart began to pour out his heart about a prior failed marriage and a new faltering one. Through tears, he admitted his longing for the joy and peace he could see in Finn’s life.
After Finn shared about the peace he had found in Jesus, Bart responded, “That is what I need!”
Right then and there Finn led Bart to receive Christ and prayed that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. However, what should have been a touching, joyful moment shortly turned terrifying.
Bart abruptly stood up, warning Finn, “Do not trust me. I’m going to hurt you. Get out!”
Bart’s facial form shifted, his eyes rolled back in their sockets, and he began to growl in an animalistic voice foreign to him. He aggressively came towards Finn with his hands up like claws.
Finn believed in the reality of demonization, but like most of us, had never witnessed it before. He was utterly unprepared to respond and nearly paralyzed by fear. However, he remembered one thing he had learned—the name of Jesus has power over demons.
Mustering whatever courage he had, Finn shouted, “Stop, in the name of Jesus!”
Much to Finn’s surprise, Bart immediately froze and then behaved like a cornered, wounded animal. Somehow, Finn was able to get Bart to his church, and with the help of an elder, began to pray for him.
During their prayer time, Bart shared his story of being lonely as a boy and inviting a spirit to keep him company. In the following weeks, Finn helped Bart clean out his office of dark objects linked to his demonization, and Bart made progress through deliverance ministry at the church.
Because Finn took a risk and stepped into God’s story, he was able to see the dramatic power of God on display, changing his perspective for the rest of his career. He continued to trust God and serve as an ambassador for Christ in our public schools for many years, eventually as a superintendent.
Stepping Outside of His Comfort Zone
Mike was a biology teacher in a suburban high school. One day, after pulling into the school parking lot and turning off his worship music, instead of getting out of the car and heading to his classroom as usual, he felt led to stop and pray. He simply asked, “Lord, is there anything You want me to do today?”
He heard the Lord’s gentle whisper in reply, “Go find Ms. Hawthorne this morning and offer to pray for her as she starts her day.”
Mike had overheard colleagues say that Ms. Hawthorne, a brand new hire in the math department, was “about to go under” because she was having a difficult time managing four different preps.
Immediately fear rose up in Mike, and he began to rehearse the reasons he wouldn’t be able to obey the Lord. It would be too awkward because he hardly knew her. Surely, she would have students in her room before class. Or, she would be in the shared pod chatting with other math teachers, some of whom Mike knew would frown upon the idea of prayer at school.
But, the Holy Spirit would not relent, and Mike headed toward her classroom. Upon arrival, he was still hoping for a way out or for an excuse to come back at a “better time.” But instead, when he looked through her window, he found her sitting at her desk...alone.
Mike said a quick prayer for courage, took a deep breath, and walked in.
Ms. Hawthorne greeted him pleasantly and politely inquired about the purpose of his visit. In response, Mike pushed through the awkwardness and simply shared the story of his prayer that morning while getting out of his car. Then he asked if he could pray for her.
Ms. Hawthorne didn’t say a word. Rather, she immediately bowed her head over a stack of ungraded papers and stuck out both hands across the desk toward Mike. Perceiving that as a “yes,” Mike took both of her hands in his, and offered a simple heart-felt prayer for an awareness of God’s presence and strength for His beloved daughter.
Mike looked up to see tears rolling down her cheeks. Ms. Hawthorne, this brand new teacher he hardly knew, then got up, walked around her desk, and gave him a huge hug while saying, “You don’t even know how much I needed that today.”
Mike returned to his classroom filled with joy. God used Mike to fill Ms. Hawthorn’s cup. And Mike’s cup was overflowing as well.
From our favorite Bible characters to these favorite Christian educators, this is the pattern God uses to extend His kingdom. He gives a challenging directive or introduces an impossible crisis. Then, He invites us to respond with risky faith. As we trust and obey, He moves, offering us the great privilege of partnering with Him and witnessing His power.
Isn’t this the kind of Jesus-following we all want to experience? And even though our circumstances, callings, and opportunities are unique to us, isn't He calling all of us to discern His leading and step out in faith? How is He inviting you to trust Him today at your school?
Did they break the law?As demonstrated in this article, we can walk out our faith in public schools without breaking the law.
By approaching the district in her role as a volunteer with Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Clubs rather than her position as a faculty member of her school, Andrea took advantage of a 2003 court ruling in Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District. In that case, CEAI member Barbara Wigg sued after being prevented from volunteering to lead a Good News Club after school. Her victory in that case means that public schools cannot limit the free exercise of religion by their staff when they are acting in a private capacity after school hours.
The actions of Finn and Mike were lawful because limitations on advancing religion in public schools only apply to our actions toward students. Christian public school educators are typically free to share with colleagues about their faith and join them for Bible study, prayer, etc., especially during appropriate “duty-free” times like lunch or before and after school.
For more helpful resources, visit Teachers of Vision's Resource Page.
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