Encounter Jesus, Experience Excellence

August 30, 2016 | Dennis Plubell

I have been to many Adventist academies in recent years for school evaluation visits. The highlight of every visit is a group interview with randomly selected students. We want to know what they, as the "primary customer," like about their school and what they think could be improved. Here is what I’ve heard:

  • “I like my school because it’s like a family.”

  • “Our school is not big, so we know everyone and we look out for each other.”

  • “At our school you can be involved in lots of activities.”

  • “I know my teachers care about me. They help me outside of class time.”

Students recognize that Christian faith and Adventist values are core to the Adventist academy and visible in the campus culture. When you ask the students what they would like to see changed to improve the school, someone will invariably respond, “I wish there were more students so that we had a bigger school.” The incongruence of this response always makes me smile. 

But, it is not adolescents alone who are easily confused about quality and quantity. Most of us immersed in contemporary American culture make the same mistake. The media is quick to reinforce the idea that school quality is measured by the breadth of programs, depth of available resources and height of student test scores. 

Can Adventist schools, even small schools, be Christian and excellent too? The answer is yes! In fact, I would propose that only in an education where Jesus Christ, the Creator God, is central to the school’s daily lessons and weekly activities can true excellence be found. We must stop confusing size with success. When we seek the Source of excellence, whether in large or small schools, we will find high-quality scholarship. When we encounter Jesus, we experience excellence.

From Genesis onward, the biblical record proclaims with David, “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1, NKJV). If the school is “Christian,” there is no excuse for shoddy study. 

Daniel and his friends illustrate excellence. They came out of Israel from a school where the homogeneous student body spoke the same language, ate the same food, completed the same assignments, held the same beliefs, kept the same Sabbath and looked forward to the advent of the Savior. From this school they excelled beyond all others, and a foreign king recognized their excellence in learning. 

When our students in Seventh-day Adventist schools encounter Jesus, they will experience excellence. We can trust that when our students encounter Jesus, they too will be recognized for excellence in learning even in the foreign land of worldly ideas and the competitive marketplace of profit and loss. God will honor their Christian education in a way that will bring others to believe on His name and be saved. 

As Ellen White pointed out, “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (Education, p. 30).