Christianity, I’m sometimes told, has copped a beating at the hands of its own. Paedophile priests have caused such a breakdown in trust that people have apparent justification for a loss of confidence in the church. Without in any way wishing to minimise the significance and disgrace of such incidents, many people conveniently seize upon such infrequent instances to shore up a preconceived bias. Few people are equally disparaging of schools or refuse to send their kids because there are some abusive teachers. Whilst teachers may not hold the same moral high ground as the church, they are in a position of trust, where there are clear ethical expectations and boundaries.
Schools provide a great analogy to help address other misconceptions, too. To those who suggest kids should be allowed to choose church and whether or not they want to attend, I’d ask parents whether they think their child will gain a great education by deciding for themselves when they will go to school. (Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”, says Proverbs 22:6).
And what about the fact that schools need submission and discipline to get great results that prepare people for life in the present and the life beyond? When I oversaw a secondary school that consistently gained results in the top 10% of the whole state, these ingredients were not negotiable. Yet many people treat these commodities as optional extras when they might wonder why life is not going as they would like it to. None of this denies the role of love, encouragement, free will, or the sovereignty of God, but rights often drown out responsibilities in the song of life.
Of course, churches are not schools and adults are not schoolchildren. There are many differences, yet a number of worthwhile similarities in the analogy between church and school bear a little thinking about when some are all too quick to denigrate the importance and value of churches to life today.