Whether intentional or not, your school is constantly making theological statements. If God comes alive during chapel and Bible, and is basically ignored in other subject matter, what theological message are we conveying? Are the theological statements that come from your school consistent and complementary, or are they working at cross-purposes?
The question is not whether a school makes statements about God and humanity; it is about the nature and accuracy of those statements. There is power in the combination of a well-articulated mission statement; a clear, common understanding of the biblical Big Story; and a framework for proactively integrating a biblical worldview throughout the entire curriculum and life of the school.
Working together, these three crucial elements form a potent and positive force. Here’s how.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” said Simon Sinek. In his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” Sinek explains how, for example, a Christian school can claim great test scores, the latest curriculum, the best technology, and the brightest teachers, and still inspire few parents to buy into the school’s mission. Why? The school has explained the what and the how of its existence, but not the why. Far better, he would say, to claim, “We are raising up agents of transformation whose purpose is to make this world a better place, more the way God intended it to be. We employ excellent teachers, great curriculum, and the latest technology to produce difference-makers for Christ.”
A school’s mission, however, needs to flow directly out of the community’s understanding of the biblical Big Story. A common understanding of the Big Story is crucial to determining the why of our work. Without a common understanding of the main thrust of scripture, a school will be sending conflicting theological statements to its students and the wider community.
Although I am oversimplifying for the purpose of brevity, I have found two main categories of expressions of the biblical Big Story within CSI member schools and their teachers. While each fits within the general Creation-Fall-Redemption framework, one emphasizes the restoring of creation itself, while the other emphasizes personal salvation.
- The “Creation” Narrative: God created a perfect world. Humanity corrupted that world by disobeying God, unleashing evil and sin into the creation. God sent Jesus to redeem all of creation, offering humanity the opportunity of a restored relationship with God. Someday Jesus will come back and restore creation to the way God intended it to be. Those who believe in Jesus will live with God forever, while those who reject him will be separated from God in hell.
- The “Jesus” Narrative: God created a perfect world. Humanity fell from grace by disobeying God, unleashing evil and sin into the world and separating humanity from God. God sent Jesus to offer humanity forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Someday Jesus will come back and judge the world. Those who believe in Jesus will live with God forever, while those who reject him will be separated from God in hell.
There are no doubt many variations of the above, and your particular view of the Big Story may not be well represented above. Fair enough. My goal is not to divide folks into one camp or the other. My purpose is to provide an opportunity for you to consider carefully your own understanding of the Big Story, and to offer an alternative understanding for your consideration. I want to help you to make a clear connection between your mission statement and your understanding of the Big Story, and to promote a consistent integration of a biblical worldview throughout your curriculum.
What follows is my synthesis of N.T. Wright’s version of the Big Story (taken from this video account: N.T. Wright,’s version of the Big Story).
God created a beautiful world, including humanity made in his image. God gave humans the vocation of being God’s agents working in and caring for his world. Humanity turned away from God, unleashing the power of idolatry. Even God’s chosen agents for creation care became corrupt. However, through the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection and his Holy Spirit, God has offered fallen humanity the opportunity for redemption. We can once again become his agents for restoring creation—including humanity’s relationship with God—to the way God intended it to be (shalom). We are saved for something, as well as from something. Jesus models for us God’s original intention for humans living out our vocation. Humans accepting redemption are called to begin the restoration of shalom, resuming their genuinely human vocation and looking forward to the day when Christ returns to completely restore all things.
The human vocation of restoring shalom to all aspects of the created order touches every subject matter and is applicable to learning at all grade levels. Your school’s common understanding of the Big Story will enable consistent, accurate theological statements supportive of your school’s mission. Remember, parents don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Let’s work for a well-articulated mission statement, supported by a clear, common understanding of the biblical Big Story, that is integrated proactively and consistently throughout the entire curriculum.
Do you want to talk about the Big Story? Please contact Bart at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist