Converge 2025: Faithfully Present, Courageously Good |Dr. Lynn E Swaner

1 March 2024

Much has changed since Converge 2022, when over 900 Christian school leaders gathered in San Diego for encouragement and refreshment after a trying three years of disruption. Since then, and as we look to Converge 2025 in Orlando, some things have improved: COVID has largely faded into the background, and interest and enrollments in Christian schools are significantly up. At the same time, challenges remain or have become amplified in the education sector—like educator stress and burnout, teacher shortages, student mental health concerns, and divisive politics—all of which impact Christian schools. We still have much to work through as a community of Christian educators. 

With this in mind, the Converge 2025 Steering Committee (composed of the 11 host organizations’ leaders), along with a planning team of over 30 Christian school practitioners from around the globe, crafted the theme for Converge 2025: Faithfully Present, Courageously Good. This blog post is the first in a series that invites leaders, thinkers, and practitioners to unpack this theme and consider its implications for our time together at Converge 2025. 

Faithfully Present

The cultural tides that buffet our societies—from divisiveness to extremism, from consumerism to exploitation, from a demeaning of human dignity to a devaluing of life itself—can be overwhelming. And yet, God’s people have lived against the cultural grain many times in history. We need look no further than seventy-year exile of the Israelites in Babylon. In the face of the idolatrous and iniquitous Babylonian culture, what were the faithful called to do? In Jeremiah 29:7, God instructed them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” The stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego show young leaders who lived by this principle. They served the good of the Babylonian kingdom with excellence, all while refusing to compromise their faithfulness to God. 

In To Change the World, James Davidson Hunter (2010), founder of the University of Virginia’s Institution for Advanced Studies in Culture, argues that today’s Christians should live much the same way—first by being faithful to God, and second by practicing “faithful presence” within the larger culture. Hunter explains that by doing so, whether “within the community of believers or among those outside the church, we imitate our creator and redeemer: we pursue each other, identify with each other, and direct our lives toward the flourishing of each other through sacrificial love” (244). This theology of cultural engagement provides an alternative to withdrawing from the culture (creating Christian “bubbles”), pursuing relevance to the culture (to the point of being indistinguishable from it), or becoming defensive against the culture (often through political aggression or violence). 

While individual Christians can practice faithful presence, institutions—like Christian schools—can do the same. As Hunter explains, “The Christian tradition has a long history of doing precisely this work in everything from patronage of the arts and the establishment of schools and universities to the creation of hospitals and institutions that are for the poor and the needy. These were all institutions that practiced faithful presence” (270-71). 

As we look to Converge 2025 and how we can grow in being faithfully present, we can consider questions like:

  • What does it look like for a Christian school to be faithfully present in its community and culture? For its leaders and teachers? For its students?
  • What sensibilities and skills do our students need to be winsome ambassadors and culture shapers? 
  • How do we teach and guide students to be faithfully present in their communities and culture—not just after they graduate, but right now?

Courageously Good

We are living in anxious times. According to a January 2024 study, teens are facing significant mental health challenges along with disillusionment with politics, education, and their future—and adults aren’t faring much better. Working and learning in schools today requires a profound dose of courage. Christian educators can take heart from God’s words in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Courage has an explicit telos: it gives us the ability to do something difficult, challenging, or downright terrifying. The end result of courage is action. 

In the case of Joshua, the Israelites needed courage to go into battle with a physical enemy. For Christians, however, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). For this reason, “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). These scripture passages go on to tell us we should prepare ourselves with prayer, truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, and the gospel of peace. But this preparation—like courage—culminates in action. What does that action look like? In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul provides a list: sharing with others, practicing hospitality, blessing those who oppose us, living in harmony with others, associating with those of low status, doing right in the eyes of everyone, and as much as depends upon us, living at peace with everyone (v. 13-20). Paul sums up these actions in verse 21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Practicing “good” in these ways is counterculture, especially in today’s deeply divided world. It also isn’t easy, which is why the Apostle Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” As educational leaders, we especially need to resist the impulse to turn inward, versus outward. In Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change, Tod Bolsinger of Fuller Seminary writes, “One of the genuine crises of Christian leadership today is how inward focused it is. A movement founded on the salvation and transformation of the world often becomes consumed with helping a congregation, an organization, or educational institution survive, stay together, or deal with rampant anxiety (often all at the same time)” (16). Instead, Bolsinger asserts, “genuine leadership must be focused on a vision that is beyond the profit, success, or even survival of the institution. It must be focused on the needs of real people in the real world” (15, emphasis in original). As leaders, we need to guide our institutions into courageously serving as forces for good within our communities and culture, with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) as our foundation for all we do.  

As we look to Converge 2025 and how we can grow in being courageously good, we can consider questions like:

  • How can Christian schools and leaders resist the anxious urge to turn inward, and instead courageously practice good in their communities and cultures (e.g., extending hospitality, pursuing peace, caring for all people)?
  • What are the most pressing needs in our communities and cultures, for which Christian schools can serve as a redemptive source of goodness—living out both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?
  • What does “doing good” look like for Christian educators and students in today’s unique context—for example, in a digital age driven by engagement algorithms and increasingly facilitated by artificial intelligence?

Journeying Together

James Davidson Hunter explains that when it comes to cultural change, “the key actor in history is not individual genius but rather the network… And the more “dense” the network—that is, the more active and interactive the network—the more influential it could be” (2010, p. 38, emphasis in original). The goal of Converge 2025 is to bring together dense networks of Christian leaders and schools to learn from and with one another.

We invite you to join with colleagues from around the world as we journey toward Converge 2025. While it may seem a long way off, the busyness of life and leading will surely make the year pass quickly. In addition to making plans to attend, share Converge news and blogs with your team and colleagues. By working together, we can be more faithful and courageous in shaping our communities and cultures for the good.  

Dr. Lynn E. Swaner, Chairperson, Converge 2025; Cardus President, US

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