Q&A with John Murray

Q&A with John Murray


John serves as Head of Central Christian School in St. Louis, Missouri, a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School. He is also Founder and Director of Central Leadership Forum and serves as President of the Christian Schools Association of St. Louis. His award-winning articles on education, history, media and youth culture have appeared in numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and FoxNews.com. His new book is In Whose Image? Image-Bearers of God vs. the Image-Makers of Our Time. John and his wife, Barbara, are parents of four Gen Z children.

Q: Barna has been asking people about their sense of identity for a number of years now. A plurality in each adult generation identifies their family background as very important to their sense of self, but Gen Z is much less likely to do so—and more likely to rate personal achievement, hobbies, their gender or sexuality, and their friends as essential. What role do you see for educators and mentors in coaching youth in the process of identity formation? 01

As George Barna has shown, a person’s worldview is most often in place by the time they reach the age of 13. In light of this research, over the past six years I have developed the first part of a textbook for eighth-grade students around six questions to help them better understand themselves and others as God’s image-bearers. These questions speak to what Gen Z is identifying as important to their sense of self—and give Christian educators a segue to help teens explore what it means to be an image-bearer of God.

Who am I? To be made in the image of God means we are set apart from the rest of creation, “a little lower than the angels,” as King David wrote in Psalm 8. David praises God for His creation: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Grasping this biblical perspective helps students see their essential worth in a new light.

How does the media influence me? Given the amount of media teens are exposed to by the time they turn 18, Christian educators must also help students comprehend 1) how it influences them, 2) what their vulnerabilities are and 3) how to discern the worldviews behind the media. By equipping students to recognize the impact of media on brain development in particular, they can see firsthand how critical it is to guard their hearts and minds against harmful influences and resist being conformed to the pattern of this world (see Rom. 12).

What is my identity? Within the framework of viewing ourselves and others as image-bearers, Christian educators can help students examine different aspects of their identity—including race, gender, social status and body image (see Gal. 3:28)—through a healthy, biblical worldview. When students see their physical selves as God’s masterpieces (see Eph. 2:10), they see themselves as God sees them. Ultimately this allows them to pursue their place and purpose in society, having an others-centered orientation and developing a genuine concern for the poor and disenfranchised.

Where did I come from? Christian educators must play a key role in demonstrating how faith and science are not mutually exclusive. Acknowledging that God created the heavens and the earth, and us as His image-bearers, Christian educators can reinforce and encourage students’ faith through the areas of science that point to an intelligent, purposeful Creator. The hundreds of factors necessary for Earth to support life and the complexities of our bodies as God’s image-bearers greatly diminish the idea that we are accidental side effects of a massive explosion.

Where does my creativity come from?
Christian educators can also expose their students to the origin of communication and the arts—particularly as they reflect the image and creativity of God. By understanding how we bear God’s image through our ability to create and communicate, students can use their gifts and talents to glorify God. Interestingly, many of the artistic and innovative geniuses through history gave God the glory for their work—from literature to the fine arts, from the printing press to the telegraph to motion pictures—which encourages students to use their abilities to be culture-makers, not just consumers.

How should I view others? Self-worth crumbles when we view others or ourselves as less than we are in God’s eyes. To help students fathom the devastating effects of passiveaggressive, sexual and mean-spirited social media, and the significance of not viewing others as image-bearers, educators must give them a framework to be loving, kind, gentle, forgiving and others-centered—nurturing them to be much-needed culture-change agents in their generation.

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