Don’t Go to Bible College

Let’s consider the foundational . . . Biblical . . . issue before we get into the practical. First and foremost, there is no Biblical support for Bible colleges and seminaries. There are 3 God-ordained institutions relevant to Christian life: the family, the local church, and civil government. Training (discipleship) for all believers (children and adults) is clearly to be done within the family and the church. We see evangelism and discipleship performed in the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts. We see the apostles (Paul, in particular) planting churches and strengthening them through visits and epistles. We see evidence of evangelists traveling and corresponding to enable communication among the independent local churches. We see absolutely no example of Bible colleges.

Why are Bible colleges and seminaries not only un-Biblical, but anti-Biblical? Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to produce more disciples, each one of us working to produce more educated followers who, in turn, produce even more educated followers. That is how the New Testament churches are designed — by God — to grow and spread. Where does the Bible college fit in? IT DOESN’T!!! Bible colleges produce pulpiteers. Pulpiteers lecture at their crowds — they don’t train disciples to produce more disciples. Furthermore, pulpiteers need salaries and auditoriums and, therefore, lots of money to support the system . . . which includes Bible colleges to train more pulpiteers. The system works to prevent discipleship! What an ungodly mess.

1st likely objection from institutional advocates: Some Bible colleges are not “independent,” but rather under the ministry of a local church and its pastors/elders. Perhaps there are not as many as you think. With some, the college is the “big dog.” Can the pastors, with and under the authority of the congregation, make substantial changes, including hiring and firing? Is the college incorporated separately?!?

In the case where the local church has authority, let’s examine some other issues. Is the curriculum designed and delivered as a ministry to the members of the local church? Or is there substantial money involved? Does the “college” or “institute” advertise nationally, thus attracting students away from service in their own local churches? Does the college use those students from out-of-state to build its own ministry, thus robbing the ministries of their home churches? Does it entice the best of them to stay after graduation?

Here’s a big issue . . . Does the college offer credits toward a degree? Is it not therefore emulating the world’s system? Do any Scriptures come to mind about copying/loving/having fellowship with the world’s system? Consider that many pastors love to be awarded an “honorary doctorate” so they can be called Dr. So&so, and have this worldly title emblazoned on their business cards, the church web site, the church bulletin, and the church tracts. Weren’t “pastor” or “brother” prestigious enough? By the way, I heartily endorse getting academic degrees in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, economics, accounting, etc. (I have several, including an earned, not honorary, doctorate.) Why are the churches copying this system? They didn’t get the idea from the Bible!

The family and the church have God-ordained responsibilities to train their children to know, love, and serve God. By the time a child in a Christian family is 18, he/she should have a solid understanding of the Bible, memorized hundreds or even thousands of Scriptures, have studied church history, engaged extensively in personal evangelism, and have a practical knowledge of the differences between a Biblical worldview and such heresies as evolution, Islam, Marxism, Roman Catholicism & other pseudo-Christian cults, pantheism, and post-modernism. From 18 onward, the Christian’s practice must be to continually grow in knowledge, wisdom, grace, and devotion to the cause of Christ. That’s the Biblical pattern: growth. There are no academic degrees cited in the NT epistles.

Practically speaking, what is the purpose of a Bible college that cannot be fulfilled by the family and the church? In the area of ministry, typical Bible college catalogs list courses on various Old Testament, New Testament, and ministry topics that should be old news to the Christian that’s been involved in the ministry of a sound church. It’s clear that many parents insist that their children attend at least a year or two at a Bible college. Why? Because the parents and the local church have done a poor job preparing the young person for adulthood. That’s sad. Fix the problem – don’t add another by supporting an institution modeled on the world’s system.

What about those colleges that offer majors in engineering, business, etc? I have years of experience in building and comparing collegiate curricula, but check it out yourself. The Christian college versions of these disciplines are almost always pitiful in comparison with the offerings of secular schools. You can check this out at a superficial level by comparing the senior level courses of Christian colleges with sophomore and junior level courses at secular schools. You’ll see a correlation.

A related topic we’ll call “inbreeding.” Multitudes of conservative (especially fundamental Baptist) pastors push their people to send the kids to a Christian college. Ministry degrees are the only ones that get attention in this sales pitch. The result is predictable – lots of unemployed or viciously underpaid Christian-school teachers (uncertified for state schools), unemployed men with degrees in pastoral or youth ministry, and a bevy of missionary graduates who face a 5-year deputation at best before getting to the mission field.

The whole system is broken. I’ve seen such graduates, with degrees but no employable skills, working as janitors or bus drivers or whatever, having returned to be faithful members of the church that sent them off on this adventure. (Janitorial work and bus driving are perfectly acceptable ways to make a living. But that wasn’t the plan, was it?)

Furthermore, the most conservative churches are singularly lacking in members associated with the following professions: science, engineering, business (ownership), and government. Shouldn’t Christians be in such positions? Early in our nation’s history they were. Revivals under such Spirit-filled evangelists as Shubal Stearns, Peter Cartwright, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, and Billy Sunday produced multitudes of converts from the lowest to the highest levels of society. That’s why we have the freedoms that we enjoy. But the current system is at least partly responsible for the degradation in those freedoms. A less important, but practical point for dollar-obsessed pastors . . . because of “inbreeding” many fundamental churches are rather poor in resources. It doesn’t hurt the budget to have some members with good incomes!

Bible colleges also tend to attract to their faculty and administration the most intellectually talented of the Christians in this nation, thus robbing their home churches of their God-given gifts. Additionally, a paid faculty member at a Christian college must face the temptation to count his salaried work as his service for Christ. It’s the unusual case to see those in the ivory tower engaged in street evangelism or teaching a lowly children’s Sunday School class. (Thank God for the exceptions, few though they be.)

Colleges not under the direct authority of a local church leadership tend to go apostate. Consider the following short sample of colleges / universities that started out with the expressed purpose of bringing glory to God and propagating the Gospel, and where they are now:

Harvard . . . Yale . . . William & Mary . . . Brown . . . Dartmouth . . . Wake Forest . . .
Mississippi . . . Chicago . . . Vassar . . . George Washington . . . Baylor . . . and many, many others

Should parents send their talented youngster to a secular university to study engineering or law? Absolutely, but with great care. Most Americans can find a good university program in most disciplines within commuting distance from home. Failing that, do some homework and find a school that has a solid church which has a solid family for your youngster to board with. And keep in close touch. In all my years in fundamental churches I have never heard this proposed. (If your pastor does suggest this, and helps you work it out, you have been blessed indeed.)

Finally, what about the young men that are “called to preach”? As if any Christian has not been called to preach the Gospel? What this “calling” really means in the American church culture is that the young man goes off to Bible college, gets a job (if lucky) as an assistant pastor somewhere at slave wages and serves for enough years to pay his dues, before getting “called” to pastor an established church. Sounds like a profession to me. With “professionals” that have no clue how to minister to working families.

I have a good friend, perhaps one of the most godly Christians I have ever known, who is a retired pastor. A few years after he retired, he admitted that he was shocked to see how his perspective had changed since he moved from pulpit to pew. He continues to serve the Lord in any way that he can, but discovered that the pressures visited upon him and his wife by his church did not take into account their weekly burdens and activities. In short, the pastoral staff directed a church program that was out of touch with the “real people” in the church. Looking back, he realizes that his own ministry may therefore have been out of balance. What’s the solution? Pastoral / elder leadership should come from working men who share the same burdens as the people they minister to. “Full time” pastors should at least have worked a portion of a career so that they have perspective. Recall that the apostle Peter had a career in the fishing industry and that Paul continued to support himself by tentmaking at times in his ministry. In all my years in conservative churches, I can scarcely remember any teaching whatsoever regarding the duties / responsibilities / ambitions, etc. — from a Biblical perspective of course — that related to the dominant weekly activity of every adult male (and many of the women), namely, THE JOB THAT CONSUMES MOST OF EACH WEEK’S TIME AND ENERGY!

If you are called to “full-time service” then learn a job/career skill (at the university level, if desired), get a job to support yourself and a family, and start knocking doors. Why do you even want to inherit someone else’s ministry? Most established churches have only a tiny percentage who have a heart for the Lord’s work. Why not start from scratch and get converts who know no better than to serve the Lord with all their hearts?

If you’ve read this far, I expect I’ve offended you several times. Even so, please consider these arguments. I’m praying that someone might be saved much grief. The judgment seat of Christ looms large for every believer. Make your days count in preparation for this event. Don’t waste years of your life and get on a track simply because your culture has enticed you. Search the Scriptures! Obey God! You will have no excuses when you stand before the Lord.

– Dr. Dave

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