I was recently sitting in my pew thinking about my Sunday School class and how to unfold the story for the students. The guest pastor was leading the congregation through our communal confession portion of the service and I am listening with half an ear. He chooses to read Ephesians 4:25-32. I hear the familiar words, “put off falsehood” and “do not give the devil a foothold”. I am listening and yet I am not.
He could have stopped with verse 28 and I would have missed the point. But he continued to the end of the chapter. “Unwholesome talk” “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” “Forgiving each other” By the time he reached “as in Christ God forgave you” I was fully attentive. God’s Word had pierced my hard exterior and caught my heart.
That Sunday morning, Ephesians 4:29-32 spoke to my role as Executive Director of the OACS. I earn my living by speaking and writing and influencing others. I do not swing a hammer or run a drill press. I present while others pull wire. I represent the interests of my organisation while others design a cottage. This passage is clearly intended for people like me who unleash the power of words daily. God calls me, personally and in my workplace role, to be helpful and uplifting with my words. I am to be rid of bitterness, rage, malice and more. Read these passages again to catch the impact of those biblical injunctions!
I know from my many years in the Christian school business that school leadership and development in the name of Christian education is a difficult task. Similar to a pilgrim’s progress, school leaders, especially principals, board members and Christian school organizational leaders, constantly walk a fine ridge line between the slope of cynicism to the left and the slough of despair to the right. It does not take long for this negativity to be expressed. A frustrating board meeting again and the comments come out in parking lot chats. A new or different organizational vision and dissenters throw mud against the person as well as the ideas.
I confess I have wandered off the line in either direction many time and used words that were hurtful. Many of our difficulties in gaining visionary traction together are because of past words where people and their ideas have been slandered and belittled. We are often guilty of thinking our ways and our words are God’s gift to the movement to the exclusion of others.
The irony is that we really are God’s precious gifts for one another…but only after a good dose of humility and the seeking the interests of others. In many ways, we guilty school leaders need to heed the call given earlier in the thief in the passage. God calls those who steal to do something useful with their hands. Why? God’s words are clear: “That he may have something to share with those in need.”
Let us be a clear, clean gift of leadership in the Christian education movement. Let us create something positive to share. The OACS family of school leaders can become that kind of compassionate and caring community when we humbly provide bold leadership for all.
Jules de Jager