PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP)–Carefully suggesting a less “legalistic” approach to education, Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham said Southern Baptists can make a difference at all levels of education, not just at the college and seminary level.
“The world is too much with us and so, while we are not trying to cocoon our children, we don’t want to put our children in a position to fail,” Graham said in a Nov. 11 interview with the Florida Baptist Witness. “And I think Christian schools put children in a position to succeed spiritually.” Graham is pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.
He first issued a call for planting new “Kingdom schools” during an address to the SBC Executive Committee Sept. 16 in Nashville, Tenn. He said his call for churches and associations to establish Christian schools is, in part, a response to the Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative approved by messengers to the 2002 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
“Kingdom schools are not a reaction to public schools,” Graham said in the interview. Instead, he emphasized that the choice of public education, Christian education or homeschooling should be a “matter of prayer” for each parent “as it fits the need and the place in life for that child.”
“There are many wonderful public school teachers and coaches,” said Graham, voicing support for what Southern Baptists can do to help equip them to be “salt and light.”
On the other hand, Graham said it is wrong to believe that creating Christian schools will remove believers from the public arena.
“You know we need to be careful with that argument because our kids, whether they are in Christian schools or in public schools, they see plenty of the world, ” Graham said. “I’m not in a position to mandate. I’m just suggesting that Southern Baptists look more seriously and more aggressively at establishing these schools.”
In looking at whether the creation of Christian schools might serve a need in the culture at a time when there is a shortage of teachers and classroom space, Graham said, “Absolutely.”
“That’s the whole purpose. To train a new generation of leaders to make a difference. … To develop a new generation of young dynamic leaders who understand their faith, who are able to communicate their faith and to live their faith in whatever their career or calling may be,” Graham said. And while Southern Baptists look toward Kingdom schools, they can also be thinking in terms of EKG.
“I’m praying that Empowering Kingdom Growth will be more than a motto,” Graham said. “That it will be a way of life for Southern Baptists. That we truly can begin thinking in terms of the Kingdom first. Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and embracing the heart of God.”
Although Southern Baptists have been seen as a “provincial southern denomination,” Graham said, “of course we are not.”
“We are all over the United States. We’re all over the world. And the focus on … the King and his Kingdom moves us from provincialism and denominationalism and southernism, and moves us into the heart of God.”