So, What IS The Point of Bible College?

The following article in the February Evangelical Time by John D Brand is making it’s way across the blogging world. It is excellent and it asks some very poignant questions.

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There is, I believe, an identity crisis in theological training in the UK today. I became aware of it during my time on the home staff of an international mission agency and now see it from a different angle, as principal of a Bible college.
The question is: “What’s the point of a Bible College training?” I fear we are in danger of losing sight of the true answer these days.
Do Bible colleges exist to provide a Christian route to get an academic qualification or to equip believers for effective spiritual service? The evidence is that the former has taken precedence over the latter, which has caused a major problem.
For many young people now Bible College is just another, perhaps more sheltered, route to getting a recognised qualification, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with a good academic training and qualification, that agenda has had a massive impact on the ethos and nature of most Bible college training in UK. This fills me with alarm.

Bible neglected
Foe example, we are in danger of turning out good missiologists who know all about contextualisation and cross-cultural communication but are poor missionaries because they haven’t met with God on a deep level.
They haven’t been spiritually transformed through their study of God’s Word with an emphasis on personal, spiritual devotions and disciplines as a core ingredient in their college experience.
We are in danger of turning out gifted theologians and apologists, who know all about higher criticism and are competent in the original biblical languages but are ineffective pastors and evangelists because they are, largely speaking, biblically illiterate, having spent an inordinate amount of time studying books about the Bible but precious little time in the Bible.
And I know – I’ve met some of them. I read some of their application forms when I was in leadership in the mission agency. One of my friends graduated from Bible college fairly recently and estimated he had spent less than 10% of his time in the Bible and that prayer meetings and devotional times had been largely optional.
Another former student said she had been three or four weeks in lectures before they actually opened their Bibles!
As a Bible college Principal this is something that weighs heavily on my heart most of the time. I don’t want us to lose sight of what we are actually about, which is not preparing students for an exam but for Christian service and spiritual warfare.
We need well trained biblically literate men and women, whose lives give evidence of a vital, transforming relationship with the Lord. We need training for head, heart and hands.
I recently read L J Van Valen’s biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne Constrained by his love and was encouraged to see this statement, made by the author, about M’Cheyne’s attitude to his theological training: “The young student knew the true value of theological studies. These were nothing more than an aid in equipping him to be a servant of the Word of God.” Amen to that!

Seeking God
Van Valen goes on to quote from a letter sent by M’Cheyne to a fellow student: “Do get on with your studies. Remember you are now forming the character of your future ministry in great measure, if God spare you.
If you acquire slovenly or sleepy habits of study now, you will never get the better of it. Do everything in its own time. Do everything in earnest; if it is worth doing, then do it with all your might.
Above all, keep much in the presence of God. Never see the face of man till you have seen His face who is our life, our all.” I love that balance: get on with your studies because it is shaping your future ministry, do everything in earnest and, above all, keep much in the presence of God. Wonderful stuff!
At least I’m not alone in this concern. Here is R C Sproul in Feed My Sheep: “Some years ago, when I was on the faculty at a theological seminary, we reviewed the curriculum. We asked ourselves: what does a man have to know in order to be a godly pastor?
We decided that the main thing was the content of Holy Scripture. So many seminary courses are designed to answer academic questions of background, of authorship, and technical problems that we never get around to the English Bible. Our future ministers are coming out of seminaries not fully conversant with the content of the Bible.
So we began to develop a curriculum from ground zero. We said, let’s step out of the academic world for a minute and design the curriculum not to train professors in the areas of their specialities, but to serve the church and thereby to serve Christ.”
How I rejoiced to read that. That approach to the curriculum is precisely the one my predecessor and I took nearly four years ago (though with a wider remit than just for pastors).
The author is Principal of the Faith Mission Bible College, Edinburgh.

Have Leaders Forgotten How To Follow?

Much of Leonard Sweet’s early writings were influential with me. They resonated with where I was at that time with my walk with God. So when I heard that Len Sweet had a new book out on leadership I wanted to see what it was like. Sweet is if anything someone who looks at things from outside the box and challenges you to think. Here are some quotes from the book:

This is the great tragedy of the church in the last fifty years: We have changed Paul’s words, “Follow me as I follow Christ,”7 to “Follow me as I lead for Christ.” Over and over we hear, “What the church needs is more and better leaders,” or “Training leaders is job one.” Really? Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” We stopped and built worship warehouses. Jesus said, “Follow me.” We heard, “Be a leader.” Paul said, “Do the work of an evangelist.” We’ve done the work of a marketer. Somewhere back in the past half century, we diagnosed the church’s problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following. It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. In the past decade (or more), I bet you’ve attended your share of leadership conferences. Ever attend a followership conference?

Sweet, Leonard (2012-01-03). I AM A FOLLOWER: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus (p. 21). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

The cry for leadership is deafening amid our social disintegration, our moral disorientation. We have come to believe that we have a leadership crisis while all along we have been in a drought of discipleship. The Jesus paradox is that only Christians lead by following.

Sweet, Leonard (2012-01-03). I AM A FOLLOWER: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus (p. 21). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Court Rules in Favor of Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The judge reviewing the case between the Diocese of Virginia and the six churches seeking to leave has ruled in favor of the Diocese of Virginia. In short – the six churches (or at least the people) must vacate the property if they wish to leave the Episcopal Diocese.

Another loss. Apart from South Carolina, all Churches who have sought to leave an Episcopal Diocese have been ruled against in the courts and thus have lost their property. This has caused consternation amongst those who believe the Episcopal Church has gone into heresy. Now, I too think the Episcopal Church (i.e. it’s leadership) has left biblical Christianity. But sadly, those seeking to remain biblical and Anglican have become obsessed with property.

One comment on a blog says: For whatever reason, in his inscrutable providence, God Almighty has sovereignly allowed this major setback to happen.

A major set back? Really? Maybe in God’s Sovereignty he is allowing the churches to lose so that they may be set from the the bondage and restrictions (and at times idolatry) that buildings bring. Jesus’ disciples leaving temple, and commenting on how remarkable and stunning the temples was, receive from Jesus the response that “not one brick / stone will be left on another.” The Samaritan woman at the well is told by Jesus that it will not matter where you worship – as long as it is in spirit and truth.

Move, rejoice in the Lord. Worship and do the work of Christ, leaving the Episcopal Church in the hands and judgment of God.

Is Tithing Pre-Gospel?

Yes according to Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed. Quoting from Rodney Reeves book Spirituality According To Paul: Imitating The Apostle of Christ McKnight says Reeves would say the apostle Paul believed (and practiced) neither the tithe nor charity. Why? Because of one simple word: grace. Grace revolutionizes us from those who tithe and give charity to people who pass the grace.

IVP very kindly sent me a review copy of Reeves book. It has now gone to the top of my reading pile!!

Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case For Biblical Truth by Douglas Groothuis

There are a plethora of books on apologetics – just type Christian Apologetics into Amazon and you get over 8000 results! It can be hard to make a distinction between many of the works, both in content and style. Not so with Douglas Groothuis’ contribution. At over 670 pages Groothuis does not attempt to pack too much into this volume – only 26 chapters – but what what he does focus on makes this a wonderfully concise book on Christian Apologetics. Laid out in three parts, you are taken through the biblical basis of apologetics and christian worldview; the distortions which have been made again the Christian worldview and why truth matters. Part two takes you through the defenses of Christian theism while part three tackles the objections of Christian theism. This is an easy book to read in terms of following Groothuis’ thesis and discussions. It is also a thoroughly biblical and, most importantly, Christ centered book. Probably the smallest chapter in the book, the conclusion, reveals Groothuis’ real heart – Take To The Streets – Apologetics is not about head knowledge, but about evangelism and sharing the gospel. This is what makes Groothuis’ book not just a worthy addition to the topic of Christian Apologetics, but one which should be used widely.

Highly recommended.

Lukewarm People….

…. do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live – they have life figured and mapped out . They don’t depend on God on a daily basis – their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.

Francis Chan – Crazy Love

Gen 12:4: Now Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran.

Abram is 75 years old when God calls him. Moses is 80 years old when God calls him. Both lived many years after, but still, alot of life had gone before God said, “Now, I am going to use you.” We live in an age whereby if you are successful by 2nd grade, your never going to be. Children can even fail kindergarten! How ridiculous. It’s never too late for the Lord to do an amazing work in and through us. As believers we must never think God has passed us by because of our age. Nor should we be impatient for God to ‘use’ us – maybe the timing is not right – maybe we need a few more experiences before we are ready. Our life is in God’s hands and he will use us when His timing is right and when we are ready. How would we feel if God said “your entire life purpose will be fulfilled by one action / meeting / sermon / at the age of 81 years old. That is why I created you and placed you here.” Would we rejoice knowing that our entire life was a preparation for one incident that God had determined in his eternal plan? Or would we think “what a waste”?

I do not want to enter into the world of ‘achievement’. I do not want to enter into the thinking that “I am getting on in years and what have I achieved?” I want to be content that God’s purpose for my life is in HIS hands and so whether he will use me for 50 years, or 50 mins; whether from the age of 24 or 84. I want to rejoice and praise Him and most of all to be ready to move and leave as soon as He calls, regardless of age, or destination; whether it is dangerous, or hard.

Father, thank you that you do not discriminate because of age but that in your perfect timing you can use us for your purposes. I pray that I would NEVER think that life has passed me by but that I would always be ready to hear your call and most importantly, to act on it. I pray this in the name of our Lord Jesus CHrist. AMEN!!