I always seem to learn things the hard way. I have a proclivity for majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. I have a difficult time recognizing what is actually important, what is genuinely precious, or what ultimately matters in this poor fallen world. So, though I would like to claim that my vision for covenantal succession, my agenda for classical education, and my commitment to raising up the next generation of leaders has arisen out of some profound virtue, some deep insight, or some well-defined strategy, I can’t. I must confess that I have arrived at most of my discipleship convictions by default—the kind of default that is attributable solely to the grace and mercy of God.
It was not too terribly long ago that I was an untempered zealot. I wanted to right every wrong and undertake every righteous cause. I committed myself to stand against all manner of injustice. I was determined to champion beauty, goodness, and truth—the essential elements of Christian civilization—wherever they might be threatened. I plunged headlong into social activism, political involvement, and cultural renewal.
Unfortunately, I found that I was hardly prepared for such an undertaking. I was woefully ignorant of the very legacy I wished to defend. Unlike so many of the great leaders I looked up to, I was so poorly educated that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. When I compared my grasp of the issues, of the historical precedents that underlay those issues, and the theological principles that defined those issues with any of the great men and women of the past who laid the foundations of our freedom in the first place, I was appalled.
What made matters even worse, was that as I looked around I really did not very many others who were significantly better prepared for the difficult challenges our culture posed than I was. With no little consternation, I began to ask, “Where are the Martin Luthers for our day? Where are the John Calvins? Where are the Charles Spurgeons? Where are the likes of Thomas Chalmers, or John Knox, or Theodore Beza, or Martin Bucer, or Jan Comenius, or Gerhard Groote, or Abraham Kuyper? Where are the reformers, the champions, the heroes?”
I very nearly drew a blank. Hope grew dim.
It was only then that I began to comprehend that the most important thing I could do for the rest of my life was not undertake one more campaign, fight one more fight, or launch one more project—as worthwhile as all those things might be. It slowly dawned on me that in order to reap the benefits of stalwart leadership, a people must make substantive investments far in advance. Leadership must be prayed for, planned for, and prepared for—it doesn’t just happen. I know, I know, that is hardly earth shattering news. But I had finally come to the realization that in order to bring about reconciliation, restoration, and reformation in our culture we would have to commit ourselves to the multigenerational agenda of covenantal faithfulness—just as it had always been; just as it always would be.
The Scriptures speak eloquently of our responsibilities to effectively train up the next generation of leaders. The responsibilities therein rehearsed have been part of the confession of faith of God’s people from the earliest days—indeed they constitute a primary application of the first and great commandment (Deut. 6: 4-5; Matt. 22: 37-38). They constitute a central element in what it means for those who are saved to keep covenant with God: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently unto your children.” Alas, I was not arrested by the glorious opportunities presented by the next generation until I had effectively given up on my own.
I still want to right every wrong and undertake every righteous cause. I still try to commit myself to stand against all manner of injustice. I remain determined to champion beauty, goodness, and truth—the essential elements of Christian civilization—wherever they might be threatened. But today, I do so, with a whole host of similarly motivated co-laborers, as we teach young men and women the wonders of math and science, the delights of history and language, and the marvels of art and music—and all from the perspective and application of the Christian worldview as derived from God’s revelation so that they might joyously walk in God’s gracious covenant as faithful disciples of their Sovereign.
And as a result, hope grows brighter with every passing day. A new generation of leaders is ready to step across the threshold of the future. Just in the nick of time.