Skip to main content
Classical Christian Movement

Only Obedience is Real

By January 1, 2009January 31st, 2023No Comments

← Back to Resources

When I was a youth pastor, I had what many would call a demanding and teaching-based ministry, so all this talk of spiritual formation reminds me of similar discussions I used to have with parents. They wanted the youth group to be less like school. Now, as the leader of a school, the parents want the school to be more like youth group. This leads me to think that “spiritual formation” is not
a concern specific to Christian schools, but a trend within American Christianity.

While a youth pastor, I found myself dreaming of a time when I would not have to defend demanding discipleship or serious training of the mind, so when I took the opportunity to lead a classical Christian high school, I thought the time had arrived. Surely, I thought, these will be people who “get it.” As we all know, however, this is not necessarily the case. It seems that many of our parents still traffic in a form of latent Gnosticism: there is “real” life and there is “spiritual” life, and education is not a part of the latter.

So I find myself having to dust off the arguments and advice I used with parents in the church when they had concerns that their students weren’t “growing spiritually.”

1.It seems the city of Corinth had plenty of “spiritual” people in the church, but Paul thought it necessary to educate them: “Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant.” (1 Cor. 12:1) Paul even had to “make known”to them that saying “Jesus is accursed” wasn’t a Spirit-led endeavor. It seems that spiritual formation in the New Testament involved a great deal of instruction.

2. If instruction is spiritual formation, then some might counter that it only concerns “church” stuff and thus, the instruction that is happening in most classes at school isn’t really helping spiritual formation. I counter that Jesus claims to be “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) If this is indeed so, that Jesus is the truth, then what we do with the truth, we do with Jesus. Learning to recognize truth, to admire truth, to defend truth, and to follow truth thus seems a highly spiritual endeavor.

3. Many might concede these two, but when all is done, the retort may follow, “Yes, but I don’t see that it’s real to the students.” By “it” they mean Christianity and by “real” they mean…well, what do they mean? Whatever it is they mean, there is a dominant view out there that seems to argue that “making it real” happens through spiritual formation.

Which brings us back to where we started. When it comes right down to it, perhaps we should admit that Jesus never talked about spiritual formation. He did, however, talk much about obedience. In fact, he said that the measure of how real this stuff is to a person is his or her obedience: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) It seems obedience trumps spirituality, or, perhaps, obedience is spirituality. If that is true, here’s the rub: obedience is an act of the will and cannot be conjured or cajoled, whether in school or a youth group. We cannot “spiritually form” students because we cannot force obedience. What we can do, however, is to educate properly so students are better equipped to obey. Knowing the world accurately conceivably helps them to act obediently and correctly within it. And maybe then we can break down the American Christian Gnosticism that motivates the concern in the first place.

There is no “spiritual” life alongside “real” life. Spiritual life is real life lived in obedience to Jesus Christ.


Summer Conference 2024 - National Harbor, Maryland

Join us for a gathering of classical Christian educators from around the world as we consider what it means to build school communities and welcome the outside through biblical hospitality.

As a member, you receive access to all of the most recent summer conference content, including 80+ workshops, plenary speakers, etc., plus access to the full library of past content.

Conference Sessions

Ensure increased visibility for your school by having it listed on the Find a School Map, connecting you with potential students and families seeking a classical Christian learning environment.

Map Feature

Unlock a wealth of exclusive resources, such as research studies and articles, providing valuable insights and knowledge for your school's continuous improvement.


Enable your school to easily post job openings and attract qualified candidates with the Career Center, simplifying the hiring process.

Career Center

Enjoy exclusive discounts on all SCL events and services, empowering you to access valuable resources and opportunities for your school's growth at a more affordable cost.

Exclusive Discounts

Get access to exclusive cohorts and workshops!

Cohorts and Workshops

SCL conducts school-wide surveys to provide relevant information to the classical Christian community as well as access to in-depth research with partner organizations like the Barna Group.


A connected community of classical Christian thought leaders, including heads of school, board members, marketing and admissions directors, development and fundraising directors, academic deans, grammar and upper school heads, and teachers from all grade levels are here to support and encourage one another.


Member-exclusive Coaching Call sessions. 15-20 online sessions each year from key-thought leaders on topics ranging from legal and operational issues to pedagogical and philosophical discussions. Think of it as a mini-conference each month!

Coaching Calls

Gain new insight, knowledge, and skills around best practices in a short, intensive format with workshops or a year-long mentorship experience with cohorts. Designed for administrators, teachers, parents, leaders, and department heads – anyone seeking to learn and grow in their role.

Conference & Workshops

Our network of seasoned professionals is available to navigate your questions and brainstorm solutions with you. Let us know how you want to direct your time and we will pair you with the senior leader that best suits your school’s unique needs.