The Reformation is centered on the three Solas- Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone) and Sola Fide (faith alone). These three direct focus to Christ- His fulfilling of all Scripture and the faith He gives us through the Spirit. Together, the Solas focus our attention on that which is solely needed- Jesus.
Centering on the three Solas and their encompassment in Christ is paramount for our schools. In these Solas, we find identification of what makes us unique- not a style of teaching, not a choice versus public school, not just a special community. It’s Christ and Christ alone that makes each of us as Christians who we are and it is in Christ that we live out our lives.
In Standard 1, National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) emphasizes the need for careful review and utilization of mission statements and purpose. It encourages the conversation that facilitates unity and direction. It’s a process that is not an exercise for the sake of checking off a box for accreditation process. As it is positioned as the number one standard, it also acts as the central directive for a school’s programs.
But in this postmodern world, words and ideas are often individually defined. As these words and ideas are used, assumptions are made on their understanding and their execution. This is the case for us in Lutheran schools. Words mean something but need consistent understanding. For example, the NLSA self-study asks for proof of Lutheran identity within Standard 1, but what does this mean?
Because of governing practices, most ministries included a mission and vision statement. Most also include guiding principles or some similar term.
Do the three Solas lead the conversation on Lutheran identity? Might one consider taking the challenge of using the three Solas for identifying these principles?
Sola Scriptura– Lutherans confess that The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine” (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). So where does this lead us as a school?
Guiding principle #1– Everything at ABC Lutheran School must be subjected to the Word of God” (http://bookofconcord.org/confessionsandbible.php)
Curriculum? Discipline practices? Communication practices? Are these and other policies and procedures subjected to Scripture? Does our communication demonstrate love for one another? Does our communication demonstrate an understanding of the authority and role of parents described in the meaning of the Fourth Commandment?
For years, science books have been tools for contrary teaching of Scripture. But what can be done to deal with this?
Sola Gratia– Ephesians 2:8-10 is commonly memorized by most Christians but it’s a rallying verse for us as Lutherans. We humbly accept the undeserving love given to us through faith in Jesus- his death and resurrection. We know we don’t have any ability to come to him or to do what is good (Third Article) but we do celebrate how God uses his humble servants to be of witness to this grace. Where does this lead as a school?
Guiding principle #2– As recipients of God’s grace, ABC Lutheran school will boldly share Christ with its community.
Discipline practices often are steeped in the Law but how does the Gospel demonstrate its power…and how do we make sure that the two don’t blur into a murky mess? Do our practices share a Father’s firm love or do they lead more from a secular authoritative mode? Do our discipline practices mirror our model of confession and absolution language within Divine Service? What happens when we as a community acknowledge our own wretchedness and fall before our God in true humility and ask for his forgiveness? Does this express vulnerability or does it express confidence in the life that we have in Christ?
How does this guiding principle find its way into admission policies? Do PR and marketing efforts ooze love and compassion? What are the risks of open doors?
What does the program of the school- extracurriculars, worship, and service- declare to the community about God’s grace to us?
Sola Fide– Faith alone. “That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law,” said Luther. Faith liberates because in Christ, all is good with God. So how does faith impact a Lutheran school? How does Sola Fide direct a school to new guiding principles?
Guiding Principle #3– ABC Lutheran School impacts living one’s vocation.
Faith in Christ paints perspective. Is an eternal perspective, colored by the redeeming blood of Christ, an expected outlook for those hired as staff of the school? This perspective gives hope to a seemingly hopeless situation (e.g.- cancer, death) when the world sees devastation. This perspective sees hope and value in every child entrusted to his care. This perspective paints relationships with compassion. Knowing Luther’s teaching on vocation redirects one’s self-sustaining interests to activities that serve others- classmates, colleagues, community, church.