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My real name is Charlie Albright. I am the pinnacle of evil who God has flooded with His mercy. Declaring my sinful self righteous and holy in His sight! Lavishing His grace upon me by the blood Jesus shed on the cross! Carrying me through this life and giving me satiatfing joy! Anything good about me is only because of His grace!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How to Make Your Time at a Bible College Spiritually Beneficial

I was thinking of questions one day and this popped into my mind. If a person came up to me and asked how he could keep his passion of Christ alive while sitting through classes at a Bible College what would I say? We have all heard or come across those that found that their time at a seminary/bible college brought dryness to their souls. Sitting through classes for hours, reading the Bible for a class assignment, going to chapel services multiple times a week, having to read about the Bible and theology again and again has a way of zapping spiritual vigor right out of a person if they are not prepared to handle it. So how does one keep this from happening?

(Since I am attending a Bible College I am only going to use the term Bible College. But the same principles apply to Seminary as well. Also, this is coming from the perspective of a single guy speaking to incoming freshmen that are single. There are very important principles to keep in mind regarding one’s spouse which I will not deal with here)

Just like one has to understand the purpose and limitations of a tool one has to understand the purpose and limit of a Bible College to one’s spiritual life and future ministry position. One would not try to hammer in a nail with a screw driver. The tool is only meant to screw in screws. One would not pull out the circular saw to smooth out a flat surface of a board. One needs a sander to do that. If one does try to force a tool to accomplish something it is not deign to do he is only go to find the object he was working on broken and possibly wound himself in the process. If you want to build a cabinet you need other tools in your shop to get it done. You cannot rely on one to do everything in the building process. The same idea applies to Bible College, it has limitations but if used right will do the job that it was intended to do.

(Also note: Where as a Bible College/Seminary are good, they are not the best. The local church is the best place to train future ministers. But because local churches fail in this regard we have to live with the next best thing.)

Bible College is designed to provide the technical and theoretical knowledge needed to do ministry. For those that do not have this needed theological knowledge it is a place to attain it. One can get his view of theological issues crafted so that when they go to a local church he can preach with confidence. Languages of the original manuscripts are taught. It is also a place to hear other view points and discuss different methodologies and ministry practices. And it is a great place because the Bible is presented constantly. It is in every class and weaved into the fabric of study. Books are of a biblical nature if not directly about studying the bible itself. And if the professorship is good one will be assigned great books that will have an impacted on one’s view of God and what He commands.

There are, however, other things that need to be in your life if you want your time at Bible College profitable. Now Derek James Brown has given a great list about how to waste one’s theological education. His list is excellent and a must read. As wanting to be another voice of exhortation on this subject, I also want to come at this topic on the positive side (what one should do) as complement you his negative side (what you should not do). Hopefully both will be of service to you.

So what things do you need in your life to do to make the most out of Bible College and so so the tool properly?

1. Obviously there are the normal spiritual disciples of Bible reading and prayer. Where as this is pretty basic, it is easy to let these be pushed to the side in the rush to get other things done. But if you let the busyness of school over take your personal time of seeing and learning from God, then your spiritual vigor will begin to dry-up. You must spend time beholding God through His Word. I know myself, my mind so easily gets distracted by things, good things many times, that Christ and His truth falls out of focus. And this is especially dangerous in Bible College where it is easy to think that since you read a book about God’s work of creation you are good to go. But that is not usually the case. You must fight to retain joy in the Lord and your focus to be on Him throughout the day. The way to do this is to eat the Word and be dependent on him through prayer

There is also a danger to separate your personal devotions with your school work. Don’t let that happen either. Enjoy to the fullest the tremendous blessing of studying God’s Word for school. Use that book on God’s work of creation to cause your heart to spring forth in praise to the God who creates and rules! Let the lessons in the classroom grow your love for the savior. Now you will have to fight for this just like you have to fight for your personal devotions. There will be many times that you will read a book on, say the atonement, and your only goal will be to finish the book. You must stop and cause yourself to realize that the Lord of the universe sent His own Son to bear His wrath so that sinners who have faith might enjoy everlasting joy in knowing God.

2. The Local church. It is absolutely essential that you are part of a local congregation. And I don’t mean just in attendance. You must be focused on serving a local church. This is critical! If the local church is not important to you and you are not active in a local congregation your endeavors at Bible College will be futile at best and harmful to the kingdom at worst. The local church is essential in three key areas:
(a) It is the body in which you grow. Studying the Bible in the class room is great but it can never replace being under the preached word and in a community who spurs each other onto good works. You must be under the watch-care of Spirit filled pastors, lay leaders and fellow Christians. God saves individuals into the community of called out ones. Bible College does not exempt you from this reality.
(b) It will give you an outlet to serve. You need to be an active part of the body. The place to do this is the local gathering of the body. And the body is dependent on its parts serving the greater whole. A very important part of being a minister is service, it is pretty much definition of our task. And the local church is the place to do it. Also, you must have the humility to do whatever service you can. Sitting around waiting for a teaching position to open up is not service, it is a demonstration of pride! You have crafted the plan for your life and you are just sitting around until God comes and fulfills it. No! By grace, you come to people and say, I have no idea what I am suppose to do, so how can I best serve you? A Christian who has this heart will do much more for the kingdom of Christ than the latter. “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor. 41-2) Train to be a servant, not a professional and so serve Christ’s church with a willing and humble heart. And finally,
(c) It is the goal of your theological training. What I mean by this is that service to the local church is the very reason you are at Bible College! You are not attending here to be the next John Piper or D.A. Carson. You are learning Biblical knowledge so that you may impart the glories of God to assembly works, school teachers, business men, third shift shelf stockers, mothers, fathers, waitress, nurse practitioners, electrical engineers, janitors, etc. The very reason you are sitting through these classes, debating long into the night about the extent of the atonement, reading in that coffee shop for hours is to cause men and women to worship and be satisfied in the majesty of Christ as revealed through the word that you are learning. What you are doing here is kingdom work! It is not a piece of paper that you will hang in your office (even though that is what some search committees might think), it is being filled with the knowledge of the Holy One to teach to others.

3. Get real life mentoring from an older, godlier saint. Get an older saint (the older and godlier the better!) into your life to spur you on, give you guidance, and set a real life pattern for life before your eyes. I have found this to be of so much benefit and so lacking in today’s evangelical culture. To be able to have an older man give me wisdom on issues ranging from fighting sin to how one pursues a woman to marry is a treasure. Also there is the immeasurable benefit when I get to watch how he manages his house hold and serves his family. Real life examples are so important to my future as a husband and father and minister. So when you get involved in a local church take initiative to ask an older godlier person of the same gender as you to mentor you.

4. Keep the glory of God central. You’re at Bible College for a reason, not to just go to classes and get a piece of paper. You are here to show yourself well approved to serve a local body for the glory of the One who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. You are not here to be viewed highly in the sight of men, to become smarter than your average church goers, or to be the next major figure in the evangelical culture. You are here to please your Savior by becoming a humble, well equipped shepherd and teacher of His flock that He bought with His own blood.

Hopefully by doing these things the tool of Bible College will be kept in its place for you. If used with these other things your time at Bible College will produce rich rewards of sanctification and growth in the knowledge of the Lord. There are other principles that can be added to this list as well but as I search my mind and my past two years of being up here at Boyce College, these come to mind as the most beneficial. Soli Deo Gloria!