Pick a word, any buzz word. Now tell me what your school is doing to be more 21st century?

How about, technology, could it be STEM, maybe differentiated? For someone who has been in Lutheran education for more than forty years, I have seen many buzz words flash on my various screens. Call them trends, fads, or innovations. They define what we do.

I have served in what many would consider diverse school families. I have never liked the word diverse. I am borderline offended at the accusation that my school is diverse. My goal is to serve in a school that is focused, centered, unified. I desire to serve in a Lutheran school built on a foundation of Lutheran doctrine.

C.F.W. Walther teaches us that the most effective servant understands the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. Daily I want the faculty on which I serve to know that they are called. We are called, not just for IRS purposes, but because we value the twin doctrines of Vocation and the Priesthood of All Believers—“what does this mean?’

With this solid foundation to build on, we are best when our school family reflects the community in which we are planted. Being diverse is okay. Having different people from different backgrounds, and with different experiences, is a plus. Being inclusive is good. We are called to reach out, “hide it under a bushel? No!” 

But being surrounded by a variety of people is not enough.

Luther often spoke of the essential nature of music in our lives. I’m not much of a music maker but I do love music. My high school baseball coach at Detroit Lutheran West, Roger Auman, planted the seeds of music appreciation in my soul. In his class I was taught to listen for themes in the music. I was introduced to the richness of the classical form. I learned about harmony.

Harmony is a core value at Rockford Lutheran. It is a word that I would like to see rocketed to the top of the buzz word hit list. In the 21st century. I believe that harmony is the value that has the power to transform the world around us. Harmony is what diversity wants to be when it grows up.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12, St. Paul teaches this truth, and his words ring in my ears: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

Diversity leads us to believe that my experience as more valuable than your experience. I want to believe that my interest in athletics is more important than your interest in the arts. Certainly my middle class lifestyle is preferable to the student who qualifies for free and reduced lunch. When both of my parents have graduated college, what can I gain from a classmate who is a first generation high school grad? In fact, doesn’t the person with a flawed foundation diminish my opportunity to rise?

Harmony says you and I need each other, perhaps more in a Lutheran high school than in other places. How can you have a truly great school and not have a science guy? If our mission is the Great Commission, how can we even aspire to such a calling if we can’t put ourselves in the place of another? For students to grow and to stretch don’t you need an inspiring performance arts influence? Having a diverse faculty with different interests and skills is good. Having a wrestling coach who shares kids with the band is better. We are one in the Spirit. We believe in objective truth. We bear witness to the power of God’s Word, but surely there is room in our school for right handed and left handed students.

Many of our schools have programs that attract international students. It is great for the bottom line to have these students with us. The real riches in our intentional programs, however, are when we teach the Gospel to all nations.

Servant leaders, called by God, can’t be satisfied with diversity. We need to bring harmony to the many different people who are planted in our shared space. St. Paul traveled the known world delivering the message of God’s grace. We are called to open our doors and invite students and parents, from our neighbors and beyond, to come in and hear the wonderful promise that is the foundation of a life with meaning.

Bass and Tenor, black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight. Just think of how joyous the songs of praise will be in your hallways when you encourage and embrace the harmony of all God’s people singing.

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Don Gillingham is the Executive Director at Rockford Lutheran High School in Rockford, Illinois. He can be reached at dgillingham@rockfordlutheran.org.