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William Bradford on Starting a Christian Classical School

I’ve been reading Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford. As I read more about this remarkable group of men and women who desired to follow their convictions and who attempted, despite overwhelming difficulties and seeming impossibilities, to build true Christian community and to advance the kingdom of Christ, I was struck by how much their experience echoed my own experiences starting up a Christian classical school.

1. They did it for their children.

Safe in Holland, the Pilgrims were no longer under the threat of religious persecution. They could worship freely. The problem was that their children were growing up under the influence of the Dutch culture and the “licentiousness of the [Dutch] youth.” The Pilgrims felt compelled to leave in order to raise their children in a distinctly Christian culture.

2. They understood the need for a unified vision and godly leaders.

The Pilgrims spent years discussing all possible alternatives and praying. Once they agreed on the need to leave, they hammered out goals and principles to become of one mind about the vision.

They were also blessed with godly leaders of great character and commitment. Sadly, after the death of Elder Brewster, they failed to find a suitable replacement for many years. Reminiscent of many attempts to find a suitable headmaster for a startup school, the Pilgrims struggled to find someone who completely shared their vision.

3. They understood that sometimes delays and setbacks are blessings.

God brought trials which whittled down their numbers, but later the Pilgrims thanked God for having removed everyone who was not fully committed to the vision. With all the life-threatening difficulties the Pilgrims faced, they didn’t need the added burden of complainers in their midst.

4. They found out that it’s even more difficult than they imagined to get things started. They were plagued by financial concerns for years and spent a lot of energy just trying to remain financially viable.

5. They also discovered that while initial difficulties will come from without, after a little success difficulties will come from within.

Initial success attracted newcomers and with them new problems: gossip, slander, complaining, dissension, divisiveness. There were even attempts to overthrow the original leaders by newcomers who were convinced they could do a better job.

And when the divisive group failed to get what they wanted, a large angry group of people left in a huff and then spread slander about the Pilgrims. This behavior will sadly look very familiar to lots of people involved in launching a Christian classical school.

The Pilgrims overcame those trials by refusing to listen to gossip or slander, by thinking the best of everyone, by confronting those in sin, and by fully relying on God’s goodness every single day.

They were only trying to change the world, to swim against the tide of their own culture and to live truly Christian lives and to raise godly children. You know, the same thing Christian classical schools are trying to do.

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