POINT LOOKOUT – Christian Lingner had been homeschooled from the time he was of school age—something he considers a great blessing, as it gave him time to foster his interests, experience nature, spend with his family, and develop a love for learning. As the third of seven kids in a single-income family, private schooling wasn’t a feasible option.
When he was sixteen, a unique opportunity arose: the chance to finish his last two years of high school in a private Christian school—at zero cost to his parents. School of the Ozarks, an extension of College of the Ozarks, had just launched, offering a free classical education out of their endowment fund. Lingner was an early beneficiary, and the experience changed his life.
At School of the Ozarks, Lingner had many wonderful teachers, but one of the most formative was Kyle Rapinchuk, who also serves as a Campus Missionary at with Ozarks BSU at College of the Ozarks. Lingner took biblical theology, apologetics, and literature with Rapinchuk, reading books and having conversations that profoundly shaped his understanding of his faith.
“In a large part, it was his classes that took me from being a Christian by default to being a self-aware Christian who knew what I was signing up for,” Lingner says.
The apologetics course addresses “all those big deep dark questions”, but Lingner says he “came out on the other side recognizing why these things require faith and having a greater willingness to do that.”
After high school, Lingner went to College of the Ozarks, where he stayed connected to Rapinchuk and got involved in the BSU. Once a week, Rapinchuk ate at the cafeteria with Lingner and other School of the Ozarks graduates as a way to invest in them and maintain those relationships. “He went above and beyond to stay in touch with me,” says Lingner.
Being involved in the BSU provided consistency not only in his relationship with Rapinchuk but in his faith. “The thing that I always appreciated about BSU was that you knew that at least once a week you were going to get together with other people, someone was going to teach God’s Word, and you were going to worship together,” Lingner says. With BSU on Monday nights with a full week ahead, the gathering became a way of pushing back against the trap of falling into a Sunday-to-Sunday pattern where faith is relegated to one day of the week rather than impacting everything.
Lingner moved on from College of the Ozarks to graduate school in Boston. His time there proved challenging, but as always, Rapinchuk was there for him, even from a 1,500-mile distance. “One of the first people I called during that time to get perspective was Kyle,” he says. Rapinchuk was able to dig deeper into what Lingner was experiencing and why it was causing pain. Lots of things were difficult that year in grad school, “but I think he always understood they were a byproduct of deeper things going on – he could know that because he knew me,” Lingner says.
That faithful, intentional, knowing discipleship has not only shaped Lingner’s faith in profound ways but also his vocational direction. He had fallen in love with the classical model of education those last years of high school and knew he wanted a future in the classical education world, but he didn’t foresee becoming a middle school teacher. But after hearing the vision of Great Hearts Northern Oaks, a public charter school offering a free classical education in San Antonio, TX, he knew exactly that was where he was supposed to be. As the recipient of a free classical education, he quickly latched on to the school’s vision of making a classical education available to students who come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. “It’s not just limited to one socioeconomic class of students; it’s really open to all. That’s a beautiful thing,” he says.
Because Great Hearts is a public school, Lingner can’t speak explicitly about his faith. But, given that the classical model of education emphasizes the forming of a heart over the acquisition of knowledge, he’s confident he can still spark wonder in his students and shape young hearts toward a thirst for God, just as Rapinchuk did for him. “There’s definitely a lot you can do to come alongside kids and show them Christ’s love,” he says.
Lingner is only a few weeks into his first teaching job, but he sees how the stages of his journey, from the opportunity to go to School of the Ozarks and his involvement in the BSU to his difficult year in grad school and Rapinchuk’s constant presence in his life, prepared him for this role. “It’s not glamorous,” he says. “There’s no real hubris to be had here. It’s just kids, right there, who need investing in.”
If he has a message he wants to pass on to others, it’s that making an impact on someone’s life can be as simple as being present and attentive with people, particularly those who are a stage behind you in life. “It’s rare in this culture,” he says, “to have a person a generation ahead of you who really knows you…It comes down to wherever you are, just being there. Being attentive consistently to the people in front of you.”
That’s what Rapinchuk did for him; that’s what he hopes to do for the kids he teaches, and that’s what he exhorts every church member to do for someone else.
For those who aren’t familiar with the classical model of education, Lingner encapsulates it by saying, “A classical education seeks to instill wonder and form virtue in its students through an integrated curriculum centering on a thorough reading of the Great Books of the Western tradition. Rather than ‘teaching to the test,’ with a focus on conferring functional knowledge, students are challenged to develop habits of logical thinking and a deep love of learning.”