Be intelligent. Apply yourself. Go to Patrick Henry, Grove City, Kings College, Cedarville, Hillsdale, or some other conservative liberal arts giant and study as hard as you can. Study the humanities. Study medicine. Study government. Learn argumentation skills. Get yourself in places of influence. Learn to write flawlessly, dress professionally, and speak persuasively. Change the world. We are relying to you. We need skilled young conservatives with good values to rise up and lead this nation. We need you to save the world. And we know if enough of you infiltrate, we can do it.
That was the message I heard loud and clear as a high school student–time and time again (though thankfully not from my family). I heard it at homeschool conferences, read it in homeschool magazines, saw it on social media as parents proudly labeled their suit-garbed children as “world changers.” And when senior year rolled around and kids nailed their AP tests and snagged great standardized test scores and scholarships, parents grew more and more confident.
Our kids are going to save the world.
Satan wants us to think that we can defeat him with worldly skill. But the Bible couldn’t be more crystal clear. Only truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, prayer, and the word of God can stand again the enemy–the king of this world. Ephesians 6:12-17 (NIV) reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
When Christian parents and leaders tell kids that their academic and professional skills qualify them as world-changers without discussing their spiritual maturity, we make a woeful mistake. As an avid speech instructor and debate coach, I have had the honor of training nearly 1000 homeschooled, teenage students over the past five years, many of whom were extremely talented. Time and time again I see them affirmed in their skills without any serious effort being devoted to assessing their spiritual maturity. And I have seen too many church-going, apologetics-studying, homeschooled speech and debate students graduate high school and walk away from the faith into atheism, sexual sin, addiction, and suicidal behavior–skilled as ever, but defeated and dying from the inside out.
I’m a huge fan of academic excellence; I believe pursuing excellence in study and skill is a crucial part of obeying God and being good stewards of His gifts. Yet I know from personal experience that the tactics of the evil one cannot be repelled with academic or competitive skill. Going into college, I had a full high school record of academic accomplishments and competitive success in a variety of fields. But I learned almost immediately that none of that would enable me to be victorious in the world around me. I remember making major ethical complaints in the offices of top school administrators and drawing literally all of my strength from the word of God in my mind and the Spirit of God in my soul. I remember sitting across from shaken peers after they had attempted suicide and being asked various versions of the question, “Why should I want to live?”, and pleading with God to give me words. I remember looking into the eyes of a demon-possessed woman—as she laughed manically and pushed against me with super-human strength—and yelling the name of Jesus. And He strengthened and used me, time and time again.
I haven’t saved the world, and I never will. Yet the small victories that have been won through my life have been due to one thing and one thing only: the power of Jesus Christ who lives in me. Any lasting impact I make on this world will come only through Him.
I have a speech student who I have coached off and on since he was 14. He is about to graduate high school now, and through his hard work he has developed solid communication abilities, but he never excelled. He never won a tournament or even qualified a speech to nationals. But I believe he is one of my most-likely students to change the world for good. He reads his Bible. He prays. He seeks to actively obey God in his life even when it’s unpopular. He serves his younger siblings with a sacrificial love that reveals spiritual maturity. In my book, he’s a world changer.
So do it. Be intelligent. Apply yourself. IF God is calling you, go to Patrick Henry, Grove City, Kings College, Cedarville, Hillsdale, or some other conservative liberal arts giant and study as hard as you can. But don’t believe Satan’s lie that you will change the world through academic or professional achievement. God may indeed be leading you to a high level of academic or professional achievement for His greatest glory, but only through His strengthening hand will you accomplish anything of worth on this planet. Humble yourself, lay down your ambitions at His feet, and pursue Him in obedience before you pursue anything else.
A note to parents and coaches:
1. Some of you are already doing an incredible job of prioritizing the spiritual maturity of your students over their academic and competitive success. Thank you!!! I do not want you to be afraid. Your children will likely do wonderful things to God’s glory and make you proud.
2. Some of you are assuming that because your students can put on a suit and talk the good talk of the faith, they are spiritually strong. It’s time to do more. Have deep worldview conversations with your students and help them look for answers to hard questions about the faith. Help them to prioritize spiritual disciplines (such as prayer and Bible study) over academics and competition. Live out the faith in your own life through ministry and holy living, and involve them in that process. Disciple them.
3. Please don’t put pressure on your kids to save the world. It’s incredibly stressful to teenagers when you put all your hopes on world transformation on them. Jesus saves the world; your kids just get to learn to obey and be warriors in His kingdom. That’s pretty cool—and much less stressful.
Rebecca Frazer is a National Speech (Persuasive 2012 NCFCA) and Debate (TP 2012 NCFCA) Champion. She participated in Speech and Debate for five years and has been coaching ever since.