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Becoming a Christlike Influencer in Your Community - Part 2

Part 2 of Becoming a Christlike Influencer in Your Community shares the impact school leaders can have in the forming of positive cultural habits and faith formation.

School culture begins with and grows out of relationships. Those relationships begin with an authentic knowledge that we are each image bearers of Christ and have deep value because we are his valued beloved. In a school setting, this means that each student has a deep desire to be known and unconditionally accepted. That is what Christ believed about each person with whom he came in contact. If we can set and live by biblical standards of living together in community at school, we have a tremendous opportunity to be godly examples. Within the appropriate boundaries, if we can practice our faith with grace, trust, honesty and authenticity, our school can then be a Christian community that lives out its mission without apology. Then, within our school we can address, rather than avoid, discussing cultural changes and influences. Instead of isolating and judging, we can be communally committed to understanding, informing, and engaging the culture for Christ. This is how we combat popular culture and become relevant and attractive to others.

Both church and family life are important in young adults’ spiritual formation, but the school plays an important role as well. CARDUS, a non-partisan, faith-based think tank, provides research that indicates that attendance at a Christian school provides a positive influence on a child’s spiritual formation and practice and positive civic engagement in their community after college. (CARDUS Report, 2018) Students in Christian schools, in order to be discerning in the influences upon them, have to learn to:

  1. Think biblically in a very intentional way as part of their educational experience.
  2. Respond to our culture as Jesus did to his and as he would in ours.
  3. Serve and love others, a result of the above two.

They are building relationships with adults and peers who are doing the same and learning to give grace to each other as we each grow in faith. As Christian school leaders, we often feel an intense pressure to be all and do all. We often get caught up in thinking about the small circle of influence that we have at school, but we must focus on laying a foundation for future generations. It is our students who will be the hands and feet of Jesus. The responsibility for discipling kids grows each year, and the definition of what it means to be a Christ follower gets blurred and often watered down by either the family, the school, or the church.

Our response today should be much the same. We should want what we do together as a school to be Word-saturated and gospel-centered. Just a quick glimpse at the early church should remind us that small groups, accountability, and teaching both children and adults allows Christians to build knowledge, grow in faith, and practice discernment. This is how we practice a faithful presence with each other so that a faithful presence in our jobs and our families and our communities is our nature and not an exception. Being in a Christian community such as this is a big step in what Vanhoozer calls, “keeping the main thing the main thing, that God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself. (p. 78) We are bombarded every day by all types of influences and influencers. By being firmly grounded in God’s Word, by taking the time to study and know it and learn it, we learn to help each other read culture and recognize truth. We can compromise with people, but we cannot compromise God’s Word.

Why We’re Easily Influenced

The power of social influencers is real, and it is strong. The ultra-connectedness that our culture has to all things technological is obvious, especially when you walk through an airport. In many cases, the impact is implicit, and people do not even realize that they are being pushed one way or another to either do, buy, or say something. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” There is much truth in that statement, and I believe that is because our hearts are not fully filled with Christ that we are easily influenced. Each of us, on our own, must realize what defines, what moves, and what drives us. If we cannot answer Christ to all three of those, we are at risk.

How to Become More Christlike

To become more and more Christlike, we must, as James K.A. Smith mentions in his book, You Are What You Love, create habits of our hearts. As Christians, we do that by:

  1. Imitating Christ and then practicing it intentionally.
  2. Educating ourselves and our hearts to be Christ-centered and other-centered instead of self-centered.
  3. Practicing a new way of thinking, not thinking our way into a new way of life or thinking. And we practice it together in school, church, and at home, which is the best way for us to be transformers of culture, counteracting the influence of our culture.

I believe that the Christian school can be a leader in the forming of positive cultural habits and faith formation. Quite frankly, kids are very happy to point out when a Christian doesn’t look or act like they should. By having a dialogue with each other, and trying to understand the cultural influences and the changes in culture, we can learn from each other, adults from teens, and vice versa. We need Christian thinkers and discerners, not cultural consumers who are swayed by the opinions of others. We need to remember that we are in fact aliens in this world and that our real home is the Kingdom of God.

Read Part 1 of this article.

Additional Resources

CARDUS. (2019, August 29). 2018 US Cardus Education Survey: Spiritual Strength, Faithful Formation.

Fottrell, Quentin. (2017, May 6). This is what American teenagers want to be when they grow up (they don’t want to work in offices). MarketWatch.

Jennifer Thompson is the chief operating officer for Christian Schools International. Reach her at .

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By being firmly grounded in God’s Word, by taking the time to study and know it and learn it, we learn to help each other read culture and recognize truth.

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