Called but not Alone
William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a British Parliamentarian and Christian reformer, called by God to lead a movement to abolish slavery. Wilberforce’s commitment to his calling changed English society forever.
Community was key to fulfilling his life’s mission. His personal relationships were critical to his capacity to endure the hardship he experienced and persevere to the end. He was surrounded by a group of colleagues known as the ‘Clapham Sect’ – brothers in Christ who were people of strong moral character, courage, wisdom, and passion and who lived the life of Christ in public as they did in private. John Wesley and John Newton encouraged him in the early period of his reforming endeavours. Author John Pollock said, “Wilberforce proved that a man can change his times but that he cannot do it alone.” (Guinness, 2001, p. 90-91)
What is needed is a company of like-minded people who share the vision and commit to work together. Parker Palmer in his book The Courage to Teach says that professions such as teaching which attract people for reasons of the heart are professions in which those people, and their work, often suffer from losing heart.
Teachers ask, “How can we take heart again so we can give heart to others?” and the passion why they undertook their work in the first place.
This leads us back to our Ancient story for the answer lies there. Community finds its origin in the Godhead – the indwelling community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who exist in unity and diversity. Humanity created in the image of God is to reflect this reality. The truth and power of the Gospel is made visible in the unity and loving lives of God’s people. The shalom culture of the school, the way we live and learn together, is to reflect the character of God.
A Christian staff, both teaching and support staff, relating and working together, are a visible expression of the image of Christ to their students and families. The beauty of a grace-filled community of staff is that they can experience unity because they are loved and redeemed by Christ, called to love one another and to live out God’s truth. As someone once rightly said, the quality of a school never rises above the quality of the staff common room.
In answer to the question ‘How can each teacher flourish?’, God planned that the formation of our character and fulfilment of our calling is a work of the Holy Spirit in the context of a loving Christ-centred community. In any school, where life can be difficult and pressured, there are dynamics that can quickly corrode staff and relationships. Soul-sapping patterns of relating to one another can easily sap our energy and discourage our hearts. But enabling and empowering our colleagues through our actions and transforming conversations can build them up to withstand the rigors of teaching.
Let us each examine our lives before the Lord in this area. Is there a conflict with a colleague that I need to address with them personally? Is there a person who I need to forgive? In what ways can I show kindness to my colleagues? What practices and habits can we do together to deepen our walk with the Lord and demonstrate His love for one another? To love one another is a precious gift we give to our students as they see a new way of being and doing in an otherwise fragmented and hyper-individualistic culture.
Let the words of the Apostle Paul shape our relationships and be the way we do life together in our school.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, to fill the whole universe.) So, Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. (Ephesians 4:1-12)
Grace and peace
- Guinness, O. (2001). Entrepreneurs of life – Faith & Venture of Purposeful Living. NavPress