Bible College

     With so many people in this world, so many paths, and so many choices it can lead people down many different roads in life. Of course one of the biggest decisions someone makes is: Should I go to college? If so, when and where? This question still rings true to those who have been called to preach and serve in the church full time. With hundreds of seminaries and Bible Colleges to choose from it can be a little overwhelming. However, I am not here to discuss the different choices of college, but to hone in a specific class of college: Bible College/Seminaries. Not just to hone in on them but to ask the question: Is Bible College Necessary?

     Before I start to dig into this matter, I first want to mention that I’ve had mixed feelings about such institutions for a long time. On one hand, I’ve met my greatest friends, my closest friend, and my wife at Bible College. I’ve met incredible people as well and I was involved in many great ministries. However, I also see so many glaring problems in the idea of it that the “plank in the eye” has grown out of control.

     In our culture, colleges and institutes are so integrated into our education growing up few ever ask “Why?” Now, I believe college is important especially for those seeking specific highly qualified professions. As far as this cultural norm is concerned though, it has found a way to seep into our New Testament Churches. Now this must beg the question: Is it right? This is a hard question to answer. There is no such place of education ever mentioned in the Bible especially for that of the church. But just because something isn’t mentioned in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There are many things not mentioned in the Bible, yet there is nothing wrong with them. So first I’d like to mention good things at Bible Colleges.

Bible College: What Many Get Right

     The ultimate idea of Bible college is to train, teach, and send forth laborers for Christ to fulfill the commission given to us by God. (Matt. 28:16-20) So classes are hosted where a  number of different Bible classes from Bible Doctrine, to Theology of Christian Education, to Greek/Hebrew, and missions classes are taught. They are trying to equip workers for Christ with knowledge through the studying of the holy scriptures

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

     This here is a great and noble task. Especially with new converts surrendering to go to ministry and to be able to go and be educated in a class environment is good.

     Also, they involve you in the church’s ministries (more on this later) This here, is great. While at Fairhaven Baptist College, I helped in the children’s ministry and music ministry. While at Crown College of the Bible, I primarily helped in the deaf ministry and assisted in others as needed. This created an opportunity for students to get involved in ministries and gain some hands on experience. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Also, many of them preach and teach Christ following Acts 5:42.

Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

     Well, I’m obviously speaking about Bible College as a general whole. There are some that are better than others. Some worse. Some only Christian by name. But I ultimately want to focus on the general issues within the vast majority of legitimate Bible Colleges. 

Bible College: What it Gets Wrong

Infringing Upon Individual Soul Liberty:

     This is probably the largest and most frustrating part of Bible College to the masses. Most Bible schools have a large student handbook, guidelines, rules, or regulations that students must follow. Usually the list is long, detailed, and rigid in its design. These rules generally completely overstep the bounds of healthy rules, to infringing upon the right of a Christian to have individual soul liberty.

When I say “Individual Soul Liberty” what do I mean? It’s generally defined as such:

     Individual Soul Liberty: Is the responsibility and liberty of the believer or unbeliever to dictate, with their God given conscience or through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that which is right or wrong. This liberty however does not justify one’s actions against God. The believer must still act and follow the guidance of the Holy Scriptures and is still personally accountable to God.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

     When Bible Colleges demand that students wear ties, dress shirts, jackets, or skirts. Then they dictate where you can work, when to go to bed, what you can watch, what you play, where you can talk on the phone, where you can go, who you can date, who you can be friends with, and micromanage every part of your life, even to the point of giving you demerits (basically infractions) for any number of things. They are overstepping many God given boundaries and are doing their students a great disservice. They are treating adults as if they are children. Also, ironically, this contradicts a very important doctrine. Let me put it to you this way:

      No church or Christian institution has the right to take the liberty from you that Jesus Christ died to give you.

      Think about it for just a moment and you’ll see that it falls apart and caves in on itself. These places are supposed to be training, teaching, and helping our future ministers to reach the lost and dying world. These people are to be leading our families, our children, teenagers, and be our shepherds. These young people are our front lines against the world. So why is it then, that a place would put up a protective bubble to shield them from all things questionable? Why protect them so much from the world? If these are supposed to be our frontline leaders, then how will they ever be able to defend against an enemy they’ve never met? We can’t shelter these people. We have to let them go into the world and reach the lost. It is never beneficial to micromanage adults and treat them as children, for how can the children grow to be adults without that vital first hand experience? Remember, these students are to be our theologians, our Biblical counselors, our front-line of the gospel! Yet, many institutions want to treat them as children and not as grown adults. 

1 Corinthians 13:11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

      I had a friend of mine who was attending Crown in his first year. He then mentioned while knocking on doors he met a homosexual man. My friend started ranting on and on about how disgusting that lifestyle was and how he could hardly stand talking to him. He then continued saying that he didn’t ever want a homosexual to walk into his church in the future. This is the glaring issue. He was homeschooled, only went to church, home, and was around other fundamental Christians his entire life. Now, being an adult, he had no clue how to even live in the world that we live in. At Bible College he was still sheltered from it all, and what happened? First curve ball the world threw at him sent him reeling. These people are to lead our churches, yet he can’t even bare the thought of a homosexual walking into his church or even existing on the same planet for that matter.

      You might say “that’s an extreme case.” However, in Bible college, it’s not. Situations like these happen multiple times a day. People see something in the world that’s sinful and they flip out. Why is this? There could be many reasons for this, but one thing that is not helping is their institution of training, equipping, and preparing them isn't doing any of those things.

     I once had a father of a sixteen-year-old daughter tell me he wanted to send her to Crown because he likes a strict structured atmosphere for his daughter. This bothered me because a strict place to live shouldn’t be the goal of Bible College. It shouldn’t be the goal period. Every father is protective of his little girl. No father wants his daughter to go out, party, drink, and come home pregnant. But here’s the thing...once your child is an adult they have to be able to make decisions on their own. This should also count at Bible college. Yes, you want that rigid lifestyle for her, but does it really help her? Equip her for the future? No, it does not. In fact, I would argue that it harms her more than helps her. She's not equipped to face the world, only delayed to face it.

     This isn’t to say that Bible colleges shouldn’t have rules, and expect their students to behave in a way that honors God. However, the focus should be on Biblical commands, not on personal preferences, opinions, or superficial standards. These students need to learn how to live in the world and not be of the world but that will never happen if Bible College holds their hands. Blurring the lines between what God says and what an administration says.

      If you can’t trust people who have decided to follow God in ministry to make the right decisions, then why even have your institution in the first place? There has to be some amount of personal accountability or your work and effort will be fruitless. When sheltering your students, you’re ultimately prolonging the inevitable. They will meet the world. The only question is: “When?” Then the next question is: “How?” How will they react to it? Equip them to face it and minister to it. Not to run from it.

Concerned About Appearances Not the Hearts:

1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

     Another issue is Bible Colleges focus so much on appearances. This causes a lot of problems. There is no individuality. Plus, you make everyone look the part, but what about live the part?When I went to Bible college all I wanted to do was reach, teach, disciple, and learn. But, because I wore a thin tie, fitted suits, bright colors, and had a faux hawk, (don't laugh) I was instantly labeled as “rebellious” or “worldly.” Because I was “walking the line” of the student handbook. I, for one, had no intentions of that; I simply wore what I thought looked nice. However, I was "too trendy" so therefore I was "worldly."

     What's ironic is that our dorm's RA, someone the administration looked upon highly, was a totally different person when he wasn't around those he was trying to impress. He was the VP's personal intern, came from a wealthy family, and he made sure that everyone in the dorm knew that fact. This man, when in the dorm, was a whole other man. He threatened me personally with his fist in my face, told another dorm-mate that he wanted to kick him out of school, and called another a loser due to drugs being in that person's family. The list is endless, but there is one story that sticks out in my mind. 

      Once, I had a teenage girl call me from the youth group I had pastored over at 11pm. She called me because both her parents abandoned her. Her mom for drugs, and her dad for another woman and just left her at her grandparent’s house. She called me sobbing and crying about what happened and looking for some sort of comfort. I remember grabbing my Bible, opening it up, and asking her to do the same. As I started to counsel her, my RA stepped into the room and told me: 

“Will, get off your phone. You know you’re not supposed to be on the phone after 10:30pm.” 

     I covered the phone’s mic and told him a brief overview of the situation and that I’d be a while because I need to handle this. 

     “I said to get off your phone now. You’re directly disobeying me as your authority."

     He then reached for my phone. I turned away, still trying to talk to her while dealing with his harassment. I finally snapped at him and told him I’ll talk to him about it later. Once I got her calmed down, encouraged her, and got off the phone, I went and talked to my RA. Him and I went back and forth and he told me he was going to give me the maximum demerits he could for disobeying him. I responded with a simple yet direct statement:

 “Go ahead, and keep them coming. I’d rather get kicked out knowing that I was ministering than to stay knowing that I failed my calling.”

     Remember, this guy looked the part. Wore all the right clothes, said all the right things, but it was all artificial. Bible colleges are so concerned with making people look, act, and behave a certain way, that they totally miss the people’s hearts. Many of the highly thought of people at these schools actually have just learned how to play politics. This isn’t me saying this out of jealousy, but in an honest attempt to be candid. Schools would do themselves a favor if instead of focusing on how someone looks like they focus on what their heart is and where its intentions truly lie. This idea that “if you feel a certain way you’ll dress a certain way” is honestly ludicrous. As long as someone is dressing modest and not in a way that dishonors God...why make it a big deal? In fact, what you’re doing is creating a place where people can “slip under the radar” just by dressing and acting a certain way. It encourages two-faced behavior. This should not be the case.

     It’s also worth mentioning that due to the focus on appearances, it has rendered many students hurt and broken because they didn’t “fit the bill.” Some students were put down because their dress shirts were too ratty, their ties were too beat up, their ties were too thin, and even for wearing a scarf (for the men.) The place where we are supposed to be teaching, training, and discipling, is the same place where we’re going to badger students on their wardrobe? They are college students, some of them can hardly afford gas in their cars let alone to buy a wardrobe that’s more fitting to a preference or culture. 

This is what Bible colleges should desire and look for in their students:

Titus 2:7-8 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

     Not some set of superficial rules or standards. Those things are foolish and there is no way every human being that walks through the doors would be able to follow them. We talk about how God created us all different and He does that for a reason, yet why is it that these schools for God want to take that away? Maybe fear? Paranoia? An ideal they feel needs to be lived up to? It’s hard to say. I heard one preacher say the rules are there because there are so many different people from so many walks of life coming to a single place that they need to set down a blanket for the mass of people with certain regulations as to not cause confusion and keep things running smoothly. I can see the logic in that, but only to a degree. Problem is, by doing that you are still destroying the individuality that God gave us. You’re still protecting the sheltered. How can people ever learn to get along with and minister to the people of the sinful world if they can’t even learn how to get along and minister to brothers and sisters in Christ at Bible college? This makes no sense. When they come to Bible college, it’s time to take the training wheels off. It’s time to lace up your shoes and start learning and ministering for Christ.

Financially Focused and Greed

     Yes, that’s right. So many Christian colleges are all about money and greed. Granted, I understand that it must cost money to attend. You can’t live at a school and be taught for free. Someone has to pay for the facilities and for the faculty’s salary. I get this. Problem is though, many of these schools are making way too much profit and are trying to earn more every year.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

     They excuse it with: “you have to be willing to give to your church and after all the college is an extension of our church ministry.” Yes. This is what I heard said many times as I saw faculty pull in their Mercedes, while we live in dorms that are falling apart and have mushrooms growing in the corners of our bathrooms. (I wish I was kidding.) College students aren’t stupid, we know we have to pay our dues. But if this is a ministry of your church, why are you profiting so much from it? When people were selling sacrifices in the temple, Jesus overthrew them and spoke out against selling things in God’s house and using His name to make a profit. The parallel here seems too obvious. I hope you understand I’m not trying to be ill willed here, but I am trying to bring attention to these areas that these schools need to change some patterns.

     There were even times while at Crown, Pastor Sexton would finish writing a book and say “I want you to have this book I wrote. It'll be a blessing to you, it’s $20 for a copy and I want each and every one of you to go to the bookstore and purchase this book by Monday. We will be having a book check before chapel and anyone who doesn’t have this book will receive 10 demerits.” I remember I was shocked that the administration would do such a thing. It was in the middle of the semester, we already had purchased our books for our classes, most of us were working full time, involved in two ministries of the church, and now we were required to buy a book to help makeup for printing costs. Most of us hardly had money to make it through the week and the administration would require that we buy a book that wasn't remotely connected to any of our classes. This would happen a couple of times a year, where all of a sudden you have to buy a book you’ll never use, and if you don’t buy it, you’ll be punished. This is the pinnacle of a money centric ministry and extorting your student body.

     Also, having such high tuition, raising it regularly, plus fees, and registrations causes a whole other problem: student debt. Students who are going out to serve the Lord shouldn’t have to be worried about thousands and thousands of dollars of debt before working in ministry, which is known for its low pay. The reality is, to be trained to serve God you do not need to spend such money.

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Forcing Students Into Church Ministries

     Please don’t mistake me here. Whenever possible, we should be involved in ministries. However, only willing students and those who can (with work schedules etc.) should be involved.

2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

     There were so many students who didn’t want to be involved in these things. Some because they had poor attitudes, but others because they didn’t have the time between working and being a student. Yet, they’d get in trouble and possibly kicked out if they weren’t involved in these ministries. How does that make sense? Students are there to be students, not an extra labor force. Plus, what good does it do to force students into ministries? Personally, I only want the willing to be in my ministry. I don’t want people there out of duty or out of a requirement. I want people serving God because they want to be there. It’s through willing and able people that ministries will grow successful after all. Some aren’t willing and therefore will be a hinderance, and some are not able (due to schedules etc.) so they shouldn’t be required.

Bible colleges need to re-shift their focus and turn to the Biblical approach.

Biblical Method of Training For Ministry

     You’ll notice in the Bible that none of these issues above (and so many others) didn’t exist in the ministry of the 12 Disciples, the ministry of Paul, or the New Testament as a whole really. If any of these issues came up, they were swiftly taken care of! So what’s the Biblical approach to training people for ministry?

Mark 3:14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach...

     The answer? One on one discipleship training. Paul taught Timothy and Titus personally and got them engaged in the ministry. Not sitting them in a class room asking them to fill our homework assignments. He got them involved! He didn’t blanket them with superficial standards or rules, take money, or hurt them in any way. He simply trained them. The disciples followed Jesus for about 3 years. Just following Him and listening to his teaching. This would seem to be a much more Biblical approach to training ministers. The problem is, today the church has allowed the idea of “college” to seep into the church.

     I find this an interesting irony, in fundamental churches they are so concerned about keeping any connection of the world out of their churches, yet college, is a worldly institution. It’s a worldly method of education. Doesn’t make it wrong, but churches are more concerned about a four year degree than the calling from God.

     A friend of mine applied at a church to be a pastor and was told they wouldn’t hire him on because he didn’t have his bachelor’s degree. (The position only payed 25K a year) This is absurd. You’re telling me, that God called this man to preach. Holy sovereign God anointed this man to preach His gospel and lead His churches and you’re more concerned about a four year degree and a piece of paper, given by man, that says he’s qualified over a calling from God that says he’s qualified? Where’s the reasoning in that? There is none.

     Churches, stop caring about a meaningless degree and start caring about the calling on that man’s life. Paul, Timothy, Titus, Peter, James, John etc., didn’t need a four year degree...neither does anyone else. What they need is a serious calling from God and a heart to serve Him. Without the heart, your degree is meaningless, but with the heart, your degree is still meaningless. Because God works through the hearts of man, not through a piece of paper and hours in a class room. I’d rather spend four years following an experienced pastor than four years at a Bible College.

     It’s unfortunate too that most these schools don’t even teach deep Bible! Instead, most of them teach basics, an overview, and pretty much teach you how to be that denomination. At both Fairhaven and Crown, it felt like it was more of “We’re independent fundamental baptists and these classes show why.” instead of actually digging into scriptures.

A close friend of mine who has been in full-time ministry said,

“Honestly, I learned very little at Bible College, it wasn’t until I went to a church and was their intern and they discipled me, engaged me, and trained me that I started to feel equipped for ministry”

     Why is that? Because discipleship is the true road to ministry. What we need are more qualified preachers to train up the men who say “I’m called to preach” instead of sending them off to a school to sit in a class for four years and learning about ministry instead of doing ministry. Jesus personally trained His disciples for three years. Why do we think we should train someone for four years in a class instead of years on the field actually doing it?

Bible College: Re-Shifting the Focus

     Instead of being concerned about superficial rules and standards and getting caught in politics and thinking about educating, or in many cases indoctrinating, these schools would do themselves massive favors if they re-shifted their focus on mentoring, discipling, and assisting students. This school you claim is your ministry, yet I’ve seen so many people walk out hurt, frustrated, and without a dollar to their name. Those that leave your school should be flourishing and teeming with excitement feeling well equipped and prepared for the road ahead.

     So start discipling! Instead of mind numbing classes all the time, get them out there as part of their class. Have mentors who disciple them and lead them. Instead of classes always covering some of the most basic parts of the Bible, have progressive assignments where you give them resources for their future churches, equip them properly. Let them show their individuality and let it be challenged. Let them grow as well! Stop micro managing and start leading. People will follow if you disciple them. Problem is most Bible Colleges don’t.

     As much as I was told to respect Pastor Sexton, I know he doesn’t even know who I am. He was 'my pastor,' I served in his church, interpreted, played special music, and many other things, but the pastor there didn’t even know who I was. Only a hand full of faculty knew my name, and only two knew me personally. I truly believe this is one of the many reasons why so many of the graduates go nowhere or fall off the deep end. Because Bible College truly lacks the personal discipleship God designed the church and its leaders to have.

     I see the value in Bible College and so do so many other people. Problem is it’s falling flat on itself because it’s not preparing people properly for ministry. Teach your students how to dig into the Bible, interpret it, learn it. The deep part of the Bible, prophecy, Greek, the differences in theologies, methods and strategies to reach the lost. How to build your church ministries (Sunday school, Spanish, Deaf etc.) equip your students. Don’t get hung up on everything else. Bible colleges today could be so much more than what they are. What they need to do though is drop the appearance gimmick, stop trying to create robots, and instead cultivate passionate hearts. This happens when you give someone the freedom God gave them, let them choose the direction of their life, then bring in the disciple to train them.

     Training them isn’t just giving them random assignments either. It’s not making them write a paper or sit in a classroom. It’s guiding them and having them follow you. See how/why/when things are done. Our church leaders must be built up on a foundation that means something! Not completing a list of requirements then sent on their way to lead a church. Have spiritual mentors in their lives.

     I’m tired of seeing Bible college lifted up and praised as if it's the greatest achievement a Christian can achieve. It has its value and could be a massive instrument for God, but because of all the issues at hand it often leaves students frustrated, bitter, and some even completely quit ministry all together. If these Christian schools were truly following the work of the Lord; we wouldn’t see this. Some schools might be fine, but some schools really need to re-evaluate themselves and see how they can improve their structure. Stop sheltering your students. Stop lecturing them. Stop micromanaging them. Start discipling them and encouraging them. I promise you, you will see a difference in your student’s lives, and also, the quality of the churches in which they serve. Because they have a backing of godly relationships supporting them, not a backing of random belligerent classes and broad-brushing of rules.

     I hope you understand that I find college extremely valuable. I think Bible colleges are a huge asset. This is why I’ve said what I said. I hate seeing a tool that could be used so much for God, falling short. All this could be fixed if pride was set aside in the leadership, and they humbled themselves to lead their students on a personal level. Because through personal one-on-one discipleship and training we could actually see our churches and ministers make a huge leap for Christ!

Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

     The following link will serve as a great example of the rigid rule structure at many conservative Bible Colleges. A more performance based Christianity is clearly evident here. These are just the dating rules at Crown College, let alone the whole 43 page handbook. 

Crown College Dating Rules

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to be blatantly transparent here...after attending FBC, my servants hear dissipated and I found myself feeling bitterness over ridiculous things. I work full time, take classes full time, and you expect me to go to bed at 11 and wake up at 6:30? My mental state was a mess. I never had time for a social life and it were me down mentally. I had to work to pay the Bill's and make sure I studied and did my homework to make the bills I was paying worth it. And then the dorm jobs and white glove and demerits and detentions and ministries and services... I was forced to be SO involved that I nearly want to cry each sunday having to do bus ministry now that I'm back at my home church and married.
    All that complaining aside, I know much of this is a personal issue and I'm working through it and asking God to help me love my ministry instead of dread it, but boy is it hard sometimes.