The year 2020 is well-captured in the words of the Apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8). A myriad of trials reframed the status quo, including new obstacles like COVID-19, the recurring challenge of the American presidential cycle, and the enduring difficulty of racial strife, “…but we are not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). The global pandemic forged innovation in daily life and work, the presidential election provided an opportunity to assess contemporary issues with a Christian worldview, and ongoing racial challenges required new resolve, motivation, and methods to make progress.
Many of us desire to foster cultures of unity and God-honoring diversity in our schools. We cherish the biblical vision of “every nation, tribe, people, and language” prophesied in Revelation 7, and pray that God would be kind enough for us to realize more of that vision in our schools. Despite our commitment to actualizing this kingdom vision, we often find ourselves helpless to move forward with any real success.
Oversimplification of the Problem of Racial Division
My contention is that perhaps, in our efforts to catalyze change, we have oversimplified the problem of racial division and we’ve sprinted toward solutions without comprehending its complexity and depth. With every good intention, it is common for schools to host a single professional development session often executed by a non-educator to broach the issue, or host reactionary forums to racialized incidents. As a result, we only seek to remedy small portions of the problem which breeds frustration and a sense of defeat. As an educator, it is imperative to look beyond cursory interaction with ethnic tensions and explore a biblically oriented, data-driven, and aptly resourced pursuit of biblical unity at your school.
Today’s challenge of racial division is an opportunity for God’s people to demonstrate to a watching world where true hope emerges—in the Savior whose death and resurrection “tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). While the world only has external pressure to motivate people to change, Christians have the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit as a source of strength to allow us to “…count others as better than ourselves” and “look after the interest of others” (Philippians 2:3-4)—perfectly exemplified by the Lord Jesus. In short, our efforts toward unity are not politically or socially driven, but rather are given to us by God because of the sanctifying work experienced in the process of working toward unity. In essence, pursuing God-honoring unity makes us more like Jesus.
Lack of Data-Driven Analysis
The complexity of racial brokenness is deeply embedded into our personal assumptions and school programs. The task of investigating these dynamics is an ongoing challenge for Christian leaders. For decades, educators have formed well-crafted assessments to diagnose the challenges that impact schools as a whole, classroom instruction, and the student experience. However, corresponding tools to quantify areas of growth for cultural intelligence and fostering a culture of unity with precision and accuracy have not been employed on a regular basis. As a result, attempts to facilitate unity across lines of ethnic and cultural difference has too-often lacked strategic data-driven analysis to determine where a school is, and biblical solutions to determine how to reach Christ-exalting goals.
A data-driven approach to understanding deficiencies is important. Racial challenges require biblically grounded solutions that promote theologically driven methods equipping God’s people to pursue Christian unity. Christian schools must seek to answer the biblical call to facilitate a school environment where all of God’s children can flourish, as well as address the missional goal of creating a Kingdom community to equip God’s children to be ambassadors for Christ in a culturally diverse world. This new era in the quest for biblical unity requires a renewed approach and Christian educators, equipped with appropriate resources and bathed in prayer, will be up for the task.
- Join Dr. Strickland at ACSI’s Flourishing Schools Institute (FSi), where he will be speaking on the topic of building a unified school culture in the area of diversity. The FSi will launch in Dallas, Texas, on June 18-28, 2021.
- Visit the new website for UnifiED: A Center for Hope and Unity, which aims to “equip Christian educators to think cross-culturally about their school’s mission” and offers journals, webinars, podcasts, and many other resources in this effort.
[Editor’s Note: For an announcement regarding a partnership between UnifiED and ACSI, click here.]
About the Author
Walter R. Strickland II (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the executive director of UnifiED: A Center for Hope and Unity and also serves as associate vice president for Kingdom Diversity Initiatives and assistant professor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @w_strickland.