This is an old story with a bit of humor. A mother and her friend are attending a local parade because her son is a trumpet player in the school band. As the band passes, the mother exclaims, “Look, everyone is out of step except my son!”
When I first heard the story years ago, I laughed. Today, I laugh less. The story reminds me that families today think less about community and more about individual interests and informs me of the reality of modern thinking when it comes to organizations.
While Christian Schools International truly believes that Christian schools are better together, the reality is that some schools become caught up in the individualism of the culture. Loyalty and commitments to institutions and organizations are valued less in society. Schools grieve the loss of long-standing families who decide the school is no longer meeting personal and individual needs. What has happened to the commitment of the family to the community, to the greater good, to advancing the kingdom of God together?
The phenomenon is experienced by Christian institutions at all levels. Not long ago church membership was valued; today membership in a local church or denomination seems to have little importance. Not long ago a strong and mutually supportive bond existed between church and school; in many communities today the bond is only talked about in hushed tones for fear of being viewed as a church that is not seeker friendly. Not long ago many Christian schools gave little thought to the retention of families because the Christian school was part of the fabric and heritage of Christian families; today families are inclined to view the school in the same way that they view big box stores, drawn to the best “deal” and the latest product enhancement.
I am a Detroit Tiger fan. In the first game of the 2012 World Series, the Tigers sent their star pitcher to the mound to face the San Francisco Giants. The media and local fans were ready to mark a win in the Tigers column before the game even began. But strange things happen in a game: a baseball hits a third base bag, someone makes a game-saving catch, or a batter hits a 95 mph fastball perfectly. Baseball is a team game. Imagine the absurdity of the pitcher taking the mound and the other eight fielders staying in the dugout. No individual is better alone; every individual is better when he or she is a member of a team that is united, pulling together and for each other.
God’s Word describes it this way in 1 Corinthians 12: 12: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” Paul’s analogy was apropos. People with all sorts of physical ailments came to Corinth for healing. The tradition was to leave a small icon to the part that was healed along the street as a gift to the gods. Every imaginable body part was displayed along the street. Paul said the body of believers is not about individual parts, but about the whole community.
The people of Corinth lived in a culture that was inundated with evil, with me-centeredness, and with emperor worship. They faced persecution when they did not conform. In many communities those believers only survived both physically and economically by remaining in fellowship and community.
Several years ago a relative talked about moving to Hollywood, becoming a part of the film industry, and making a difference for Christ in that world. My wife and I encouraged her to do so. We said that the entertainment industry belonged to God, too, and it could be redeemed for him when his faithful followers are in the world but not of it. We also offered this advice: “When you get to Hollywood, find a faith community and become a part of it. You cannot survive without community.”
I am not here to preach the demise of the church or school: quite the opposite. But I am here to say to Christian leaders, you must trumpet the high value of community in your school, in your church, and even in our relationship together as organizations. The pitcher cannot finds success without the team. The body cannot function well without all of its parts. And the Christian institution cannot be as faithful and effective in service to the King without understanding that in Christ we are all better together.