Walking by a shop during a recent trip to Asia, my wife and I encountered an incident that said much about authenticity. A young lady had just tried on jeans that had been custom-made for her. The salesperson asked her, “What brand do you want on these?” He then specified the labels he had for several well-known brands of jeans. These jeans, though actually an imitation, would have the look of authenticity.
Does the term authentic Christian teacher imply that there are Christian teachers who are not authentic? Most of us would agree that those serving in Christian schools are typically people who love Christ, love children, and enjoy teaching. But is that enough to qualify as authentic? Authentic means being real, the genuine article. With genuineness comes the expectation of delivering according to definition.
When referring to authentic Christian education, we have to apply the adjective authentic to both Christian teachers and Christian schools. Are the teachers genuinely Christian? In other words, is their level of faith such that their walk with Christ pervades their life? Yet authentic in this use goes beyond love for Jesus and a rich devotional life. Authentic Christian education requires teachers who clearly understand being simultaneously Christian and teacher. Their Christian character and Christian worldview permeate their teaching. They are more than just teachers who happen to be Christians. The difference in these is vast in terms of performance and results.
When applying the word authentic to Christian schools, we face a broader and more complex issue. What does it mean to be an authentic Christian school? After all, a school can conduct Christian activities and not be genuinely Christian. It can have devotions, chapels, spiritual emphasis weeks, and Christian textbooks and still not be an authentic Christian school.
Authentic Christian schools and teachers carry out their mission of preparing students to live all of life to the glory of God in the broadest sense of what that means. These schools and teachers reject the easy paths such as canned curriculums or unqualified and ineffective staff. They reach deeply into the minds and hearts of their students and seriously pursue the simultaneous development of the spirit and the intellect.