Every year about this time, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Spokane, Wash., puts up a big sign out front saying "Christian Pre-School Now Enrolling." And every year, the first time I see the sign after it goes up, I misread it as saying "Pre-Christian School Now Enrolling." And, every year, for just a moment, I think to myself "what a great idea."
It is commonplace to note that these days we live in a largely "post-Christian" world. That situation calls on us to provide what might be called "pre-Christian" education. In our society, many people have become blind and deaf to things spiritual and eternal. The very idea of truth is being lost. How can the Gospel be proclaimed to people who have been led to believe that there is no such thing as truth and that all opinions are equally valid?
If the Gospel is proclaimed, or understood to be merely a philosophy, a way of life or as one option among many--that proclamation will fail.
As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, the preaching of Christ crucified was foolishness to the gentiles. But, as Paul knew also, those who had at least a sense of the divine could hear and receive the Gospel, as seen in Acts 17:2-23. Before the message of eternal truth can be conveyed, the hearer must have an understanding of the eternal. Conveying that message is what I would call "pre-Christian" education. It is, in a sense, preparing the way for the Lord. For, without an understanding of things divine and eternal and true, a person really does not have ears to hear the Gospel.
Humans, of course, are without power to turn to God and to accept salvation through their own efforts or their own merit. Rather, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Lutherans, though, we recognize that the Spirit works through means, as written in the "Epitome of the Formula of Concord," Art. II, in the "Book of Concord." The proclamation of the Gospel is a means by which the Spirit effects salvation. As Christians, then, we are called on to proclaim the Gospel and to spread the word of God. In doing so, though, we must recognize that many people in today's society need "pre-Christian" education as well as Christian education if they are to hear and to receive the God news.