I am passionate about Bible College, I make no apology for that, and I do believe that every Christian needs a sound understanding of their faith.
The world around us, especially the so-called first world nations, are entering into a post-Christian era. Society is falling further away from the principles of the Gospel, the same policies that enable them to become first world nations, and there can only be one end-result if that trend continues.
Many Christians everywhere see the value of the church, bible study the bible with diminishing value in today’s hectic and time competitive world and the consequences can be devastating.
Once upon a time, you had to give up work for a year or two and potentially move to a new town, but now, through Vision Colleges, you can study from your home – and at your pace. It really is a different era.
There is a simple truth. We do not, and cannot, get enough biblical understanding from a 30 to a 40-minute sermon on a Sunday, nor in midweek meetings, no matter how well presented and anointed they may be.
It is not the fault of the sermon or the preacher. The subject matter, the word of God, is enormous and Christian life covers vast options and styles, with competing responsibilities and choices that have to be learned and lived. Sunday sermons do help, but we need more if we are to present a sound understanding of what we believe to others.
Consider Timothy for a moment. He was given particular instructions from Paul as he took up the ministry at Ephesus. In particular “Do not allow them to despise you or treat you like a young man” (1 Tim 4:11). Timothy was not young. He was the “new kid on the block”. Timothy was around 45 years of age, very different from many perceptions, a wise and mature Christian.
To this fellow, Paul continues in His second letter, “work hard to present yourself a worker who has no reason to be ashamed but rather study to understand and present the word of God with wisdom” 2 Tim 2:15, (my paraphrase). Again “do not forget that all scriptures, as you well know, is given to us for sound doctrine, correction and instruction in righteousness and enables us to be fully equipped for the work to which we are chosen. 2 Tim 3:15-16 (my paraphrase).
His mother and grandmother had taught Timothy the scriptures since he was a child. He was a protégé of Paul. He worked with, witnessed, and was discipled by Paul. He was imprisoned with him, ate and slept and learned all he could. Timothy was already a master of the Word of God in knowledge and experience of ministry before he went to Ephesus, but note Paul’s command. Study. Study to show yourself approved.
Because we do not take Bible study seriously, it has become less and less important, as indeed has the very idea of church service. Where once the church was open most evenings and twice on Sunday now we find that church is open less and less only once on Sunday and so the bible and Christianity in general not taken seriously.
Bible study is becoming increasingly less valuable today, and the message of the Gospel is being minimized, diffused, ridiculed and watered down by those who present for all too often they do not understand the Gospel they are preaching.
In some cases anointed services are replaced by carefully stage-managed productions with music, lighting that with carefully choreographed presentations stir the emotions. These are as good as any other well-managed stage-show, but they do not touch the heart, the spirit and bring life-giving change.
For some, the goal is to be the biggest church in the city; a vision that takes priority over ploughing and serving the kingdom of God. Some prefer to compete over turf and numbers rather than complement each other as fellow-laborers together in the kingdom of God.
Then there are those for whom sound doctrine has is replaced by emotive eloquence, a message manipulatively designed to stir, to titillate and please the mass often with spurious claims of what God can or will do for you if you will only give more, do more, be or do something more.
There have been a few excellent men and women down through the ages who were self-taught and made a significant contribution to Christendom. While we should admire them, we should remember these were are the exceptions, not the rule.
As untaught and untrained men and women take to preach the Gospel with self-proclaimed anointing, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, they usually bring dishonor to the body of Christ. They affirm the value of Paul’s message to Timothy, and it is attested in our communities today.
Of course the above is not true of every church large and small. While there are many great and good churches, my comments above are increasingly relevant and represent an increasing portion of what is presented as the church today.
Make no mistake, Jesus is still the master-builder of the Church general. The church local is often powerless, embarrassing and frequently fails.
Spurgeon made a startling statement while speaking to a group of young evangelists and pastors: “Indeed, you do not need to do bible college to preach the word, but oh, if only you would spend a year or two in college you would be more sure of what you say, and make far less foolish statements as you get to know this word you believe.” A comment from his book “Lectures to My Students”.
I believe we have the most potent and practical tools to change and impact humanity, the Word of God. If we do not use it wisely, if we do not understand the word of God, then we will be seen and heard as little more than fools in an ocean of silliness, floating around, sharing opinions and ideas that are unfounded and unhelpful. We will create room for yet more doubt and leave more souls to face a Christ-less eternity.
We cannot understand and live out our faith without sound teaching, and the church can’t provide all the learning we need. We cannot teach others if we do not understand what we believe ourselves. We cannot reach out to others effectively if we do not know the Gospel that is at our disposal and the authority we have. But reaching out is still our responsibility.
It is not too late to capture our community and our nation and even the world, but we need to do it God’s way, with God’s word with God’s people and learn how to be the witness Jesus called you to be.
That is why you should do Bible College, because of other people, those you meet and love and work with need to know what you believe. For them to understand what your message, you need to know why you believe it.
Rev Dr. Denis Plant is the Principal and CEO of Vision Colleges. Vision Colleges comprises of the Internet Bible College, Vision Christian College, Vision International College and partners with Texas University of Theology and Vision International University and offers a very flexible bible college program tailored to individual needs and able to offer award from a Certificate to a PhD by distance education or by partnering with through local churches to set up their own bible college.