Friday, November 18, 2011

What it is really all about

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.   -  2 Cor. 2:15

Following last night's fall athletic banquet, I was thinking about the role of athletics at a Classical Christian school.  To a large percentage of people, athletic experiences were (are) the pinnacle of their school career.  While we all know the right words to say when asked to rank the important parts of getting an education (academic preparation for college, social training for the "real" world, organization, obedience, spiritual development for Christian school kids, etc.), many of us would have to admit that sports are what really gets us excited.  I have found myself living vicariously through my own kids on several occasions, dreaming of the professional sports career that I never achieved, or thinking of the thousands of dollars they will save me with their impending college scholarship.  No doubt that we live in a world where sports can be our god, a delicate balance that many Christians struggle with.

But, when listening to the HCA coaches talking about their teams and seasons, I was reminded that school sports can be used for the greater purpose of the gospel when approached properly.  Everyone would agree that HCA is in a position to positively influence the community around us, but we rarely pinpoint athletics as being the way to do this, even though it is by far the most frequent way by which we encounter those from other places.  In other words, a Christian school athlete can be a missionary who takes about ten short-term missionary trips per season to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ to strangers who are watching him intently.  The reputation of HCA, Christian education, and Christian people in general is reinforced each time these athletes get on a bus to travel to another school. 

A couple weeks ago, our varsity soccer team played at Trinity Christian School in Durham in the 1-A state playoffs.  The game was very tight and competitive the entire time, and eventually went into overtime.  There was a point where our guys scored in the overtime, only to have the goal erased by a controversial offsides call.  We eventually lost a heart-breaker, and the season was suddenly over.  If there was ever a time to sulk, fuss, and complain, this was it.  However, our "missionaries" did just the opposite.  The next day, I received the following letter from a parent from the opposing team, describing the moment from the eyes of someone who doesn't even know any of our names.  I wanted to share this letter with you as a testimony for our team, but even more as a rallying cry for HCA to continue to promote Christ-likeness above all else.  May EVERYTHING we do bring glory to the Father.  Remember, the world is watching us.

Dear Tracy and Toby,

My son plays for Trinity's soccer team. We just played your soccer team this afternoon in the second round of the State playoffs. It was an even, hard-fought game, the type of game that you hate to see anyone lose. There was a disputed call or two, the sort of call that is really difficult if you're on the tough end of the call/game, which you were.

We didn't know much about your school or team, given that Hickory is a tad west of the Triangle and we play in different conferences. We know a lot more about your school and kids now.

 Your team played with such class and intensity. Their character and the chemistry of your team were evident from the onset. We play in some rough games, as I'm sure you do. I've surmised that the attitude on the field flows down from the top. For example: a recent match was full of trash talking and dirty play. After the game the boys told me that the other team's coach was leading the charge from their bench, both in attitude and language. It is no surprise things unfolded on the field as they did. 

So when a team plays this way it not only reflects on the players, but the coaches and ultimately the headmaster and parents. Actually it reflects Christ.

I would like to say that every Christian school plays this way, but this is not the case. So when encounters a team like this, for the first time, it makes quite a statement.

I speak for the parents around me: you are an impressive lot, both athletically as a soccer team and also, more importantly, in character. It was a tender scene watching your team huddle up together afterwards. I then watched as parents applauded their sons and strolled out on the field to console them. But honestly, by that time, both of these were exactly what I expected to see from your school. If you stop to think it, a response like this in a loss is clearly stunning. There are ample reasons to be mad, sad, and bitter, and I'm sure this loss was really hard after your championship last year, but despite the disappointment what flowed from the scene tonight seemed to be love, pride, and a sense of community. It is, I suspect, the miracle of the gospel at work through the coaches, families, school, and kids.

I hope we see you in various competitions in different sports around the state. We serve a beautiful Christ together. Thanks for helping us see some of Him at work in you all this afternoon.

Rick Hove
Trinity Parent

To whom much is given, much is required.  Thank you to everyone at HCA for keeping the standard high. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Our Greatest Need

pray without ceasing - I Thess. 5:17

What does a Christian school need to succeed?  Is it money?  More students?  Wise leadership?  Active parent volunteers?  Students with a solid Christian foundation when they arrive?  High rates of college acceptance?  Great victories on the athletic fields?  More public exposure?  Of course, all of these things would be wonderful for any school, and HCA (and Mr. Robinson) have fallen into these lines of thought on several occasions over the years.  It is so easy to do. 

And, make no mistake about it, there are great material needs at HCA.  Our teachers deserve more pay than they receive.  We need updated curriculum in many areas.  We need athletic fields of our own.  Mrs. Lambert and Mrs. Sturgess would love to own their very own kiln for the art classes.  A working kitchen would be great.  We will need more classrooms, athletic fields, and parking spaces as we grow into the future.  All of this relates to dollar signs. 

However, while more of any of these things would be great, we have to be careful that they do not become what drives us.  Jesus asks us the haunting question, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26).  We all intrinsically know that there are much more important and pressing things in this world, but we don't often act that way do we?  Again, I am as guilty as anyone.   

John D. Rockefeller is the richest man in the history of the world (at least in modern times).  When you take into account the value of the dollar in his day, he was about 10 times richer than Bill Gates is today.  His personal wealth was nearly 2% of the total gross domestic product of the entire United States of America!  He could have anything he wanted at any time he wanted it, but when someone once asked him "How much is enough?", he famously answered "Just a little bit more".  When "stuff" or acclaim are our goals, there really is no limit, is there?

There are certainly things of great value that we are to dwell on as we walk this path of life.  God clearly tells us that He has blessed us with with a spouse (Prov. 5:18), blessed with children (Psalm 127:3), blessed with friends (Prov. 17:17), blessed with food, clothing, and basic necessities (Matt. 5:25-34), and blessed with knowledge, which begins with a healthly fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7).  These are the things that we need to focus on, treasure in life, protect, and be thankful for. 

Parent prayer groups in front of the school
This morning, we were so blessed to be able to thank God for His lovingkindness toward each one of us.  Almost 100 parents met together as school began to lift up prayers of thanksgiving and to form a "hedge of protection" around our kids and their school.  HCA will always be a target of spiritual attack if we continue to strive to know God and to be obedient to His calling.  These attacks necessitate an effective defense.  Without it, we will lose the battle, and nothing else will matter. 

As Paul commands us in Ephesians,

"in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one...With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (6:16,18)

The "hedge of protection" surrounds the building
If you were here, thank you for your time sacrifice and for the specific prayers of protection for HCA.  It is our greatest need.  If you were unable to be here, please rest in the fact that your child was covered by a multitude of prayers this morning, and that we will try to have more of these types of gatherings in the future.  Until then, please be on your knees, pleading to God to continue to protect His school and our children, and for us to keep the right values and perspective as we move forward together. 

There will be a time to give to the school materially...don't worry.  But the prayers of the righteous can accomplish great things, meaning every day is the right day to pray for our kids and their teachers.  They are certainly worth the effort.