The Unchurched Student — A guest article by teacher Andrew Strickland


There is a line from Charles Porterfield Krauth’s The Conservative Reformation and It’s Theology that jumped out at me so strongly[1] that, while slightly out of context, sparked the idea for this article:

“At once as a cause and a result of this greatness in the highest form of learned, may be regarded the fact that the Lutheran Church is an Educating Church from the humblest sphere of the children of the poor to the highest range of the scholar’s erudition.”[2]

What is the worth of Lutheran schools and the teachers who serve in them?[3] “Michael”[4] came to the school with much history. He had been removed from a different school the year before and finished that year at home. This was not the first time he had been removed from a school. He came to the Lutheran school with no actual knowledge of Jesus let alone the church, but had plenty of misconceptions that he would use to challenge the teachers and the other students. Early on he questioned everything that was taught in the school especially when it came to Christian instruction. This was a problem since Christian instruction was a deeply embedded part of every day. He resented being in such a small school and missed the social aspect of the much larger public school. He was heavily influenced by the music he listened to, the things he watched on television, and what he was taught at the public school regarding religion in general.

In that situation it can be tempting to back off on Christian teaching. It is difficult enough, but worthwhile, with non Lutheran students. It is much tougher with students who have no Christian background.  How easy would it be to take a step back and tone things down a little? Why not excuse him from the more direct Lutheran Christianity, Confirmation classes, or even excuse him from chapel? What message would that send to the other students and their parents regarding the faith based aspect of the school?

illogical To put it simply; backing off was not an option because a Lutheran school teacher knows that the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and teaching it is an integral part of what a Lutheran teacher does.(John 3:6) The teacher can teach it, but cannot bring faith to the listener. The effectiveness of the teaching is the work of the Holy Spirit and not of the teacher.  (1 Peter 1:23)  It is far too easy to tone things down for the sake of the difficult student or students, but that option should not even be considered. Martin Luther wrote: “For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing, Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone, it’s gone and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay.”[5] The students are only in the classroom a short time and they are gone so fast. Lutheran schools may not always be here either; many are closing across the country.  I have been involved in two Lutheran school closures; once as a student and once as a teacher. The year we closed the school in which I was teaching four other schools closed as well.  Being part of a closure of a Lutheran school brought to mind vividly just how precious a gift of God entrusted by parents the students of Lutheran schools are.  (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) It reminded me that students like “Michael” are only with us a short time.

“Michael” was in school for the whole year. We had good days and bad days together. I wondered if he was going to make it. I wondered if I was going to make it. As the year progressed encouraging signs began to appear. He learned how to use a Bible and he learned how to worship in chapel. He daily heard the Word of God in the classroom and in chapel. His challenges to Christian instruction became less barbed and eventually transformed into sincere questions.  Daily, in the classroom he was being confronted with Law and Gospel.(2 Timothy 2:15) During that year he began to understand that he was a person living in two kingdoms. He was beginning to understand his place in kingdom of the left and to serve the Lord in the kingdom of the right. (Ephesians 4:11-16) He graduated 8th grade that year. He picked Ephesians 2:8-10 for his graduation verse because it summed up what he had learned that year.  After graduation, I never heard from him again. I do not know what became of him, but I do know what he was taught in the classroom was faithful knowledge of the redemptive work of Christ. That alone is the worth and value of Lutheran schools and the teachers who serve in them.

Noah and Sophia Oct - Dec 2011 664(1) Andrew Strickland[6] was Baptized in the Lutheran church, but was raised and Chrismated in the Antiochian Orthodox church. Having attended Lutheran schools most of his life it came as no surprise that he left the Orthodox church for the LC-MS. He is the 7th and 8th grade teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School Prior Lake, Minnesota and is completing his 13th year of teaching middle school. He has been married to Amanda for almost 13 years. They have two children; a kindergarten aged son who he gets to take to and from school daily and a beautiful daughter who is 18 months old. In his spare time he loves to fish, play epic board games, grow vegetables, and stay up late reading blogs.

[1] To be honest with you that is not the only one that has ever jumped out at me from that book.

[2] Charles Porterfield Krauth,  The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007originally published by the United Lutheran Publication House 1913), 151

[3] The worth of Lutheran schools was proved to me yet again last night. The 5th-8th graders participated in the oratorical contest sponsored by the local Optimist Club and the school district. As they told the story of “Why My Voice is Important” they also shared their knowledge of Christ . They were not asked to do that, but they spoke in front of a crowded auditorium at the local high school and shared their faith.

[4] “Michael” is a real person, but some aspects beyond his name have been altered.

[5] Martin Luther, “To the Christian Nobility” Luther’s Works AE 44(Fortress Press), p. 350 I first heard this a number of years ago at a mission seminar at my church and came across it again while reading this article:

[6] When first visiting BJS Andrew was not as steadfast as he thought he was. Since that time he has become much more steadfast.

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