What to Do When Your College Goes Liberal: Some Thoughts Regarding the Issue

November 20, 2008 by

approaching-storm1

Approaching storms


On November 11, 2008, Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, launched a website for the purpose of refuting so called “attacks” the school was receiving regarding it’s theology and practice . . . but the attacks weren’t coming from non-believers. Instead, questions and opposition were coming from concerned students and alumni. The reason? Theological drift. Students and former students were becoming increasingly concerned over the fact that the school was drifting from its conservative roots that once steered the school’s course. The College was originally founded by Baptist Fundamentalist William Riley in 1902. Now, a century later, there is only a remnant that remains, wondering exactly why the school has left the foundation from which it was built. The full article can be read here at Christianity Today (November 11, 2008)

While I am concerned about the outcome at Northwestern College, I’m not interested in addressing the issues surrounding it here. I rather want to address a topic that seems to be rampant in our Bible Colleges, Universities and Seminaries, and that is a continual, gradual slide into Liberalism.

This is nothing new. Gresham Machen experience the same disappointment and slandering when his beloved Princeton Seminary fell to Liberal tenets in the early 20th Century. The signs aren’t new either. Below are common occurrences that have historically marked shifts from Bible-saturated, culture-engaging schools to the graveyard of Liberalism and what to do about it.

Evidence a Christian University Slipping Into Liberalism

a. The authority of the Bible is waning.

This is no surprise here. Whenever there are heretics and heresies it can always be traced back to their view of Scripture.

It is incredibly surprising but true that those who affirm the Bible as only source of authority, that biblical authors intended what they meant and we can derive truth from what they wrote, that God is sovereign over salvation, that men should be elders in Churches, that husbands should lead their home, that women should be a helpmate to husbands . . . you are considered an out-dated, culturally-irrelevant, people-hating, close-minded, world-rejecting Fundamentalist who doesn’t understand Jesus’ call to “Kingdom Relationship”. Sad. Who would have thought that one who thinks the Bible actually means what it says would be mocked first by professing believers? But it’s true. This is the first sign, and it always begins here.

b. Substitutionary Atonement is Questioned

Whenever the idea is put forth that God isn’t mad at sinners, that crucifixion was divine child abuse, the Bible itself is being relegated and our salvation is in jeopardy. Richard Niebuhr of Machen’s day summarized it clearly: Liberalism is:

“A God without wrath bringing men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Without the cross, without substitutionary atonement, there is no forgiveness of sins, no reconciliation with God, no peace with humanity. There’s nothing. The very thing that can save our souls and save us from ourselves is rejected. When the authority and efficiency of Scripture is question, the very next doctrine that will be question is the nature of Christ and the cross. Look for it. Don’t be fooled by loose terminology veiled as relevancy.

c. Universalism is Entertained as a Possibility

It seems very popular now to think the Bible only speaks in metaphors and never in physical terms (regarding an eternal, physical hell). It is also and always will be popular to make the gospel sound as least offensive and as non-confrontational as possible. If that becomes the goal, God actually sending people to a physical hell is out. If the center of God’s attributes is love, then a loving God could not possibly do that. That’s too mean. That’s not the way to win friends and influence people.

That’s why Paul said to discern what the Scripture has taught and what you have learned; hold tightly to sound doctrine “So that you might save both yourself and your hearers” (2 Timothy 4:16). Sin is real; God is offended; hell brings justice. If God does not punish sin, He is not a God worth serving because He is not true to Himself and He ignores justice. Even if a professor propounds an over-glorified position of purgatory (God will soak up all the evil in Himself and empty heaven), then I would question whether it is then possible to eventually go from heaven to hell. If God can’t keep people out of hell, how do I know He will keep me in heaven? Don’t let professors entertain that idea. Snuff it out.

Historically, these are the tell-tale signs of coming heresy. It would not be surprising, then, that Machen composed a list of “Fundamentals” that closely resemble the above:

* Scripture’s Inspiration and Trustworthiness
* Christ’s Virgin Birth
* Christ’s Substitutionary Atonement
* Christ’s Bodily Resurrection (As an Historic Event)
* Christ’s Peformance of Miracles during his earthly Ministry

These five componants are what the Fundamentalists held to with the coming onslaught of Darwinism, Arianism, and relativism in the Church. Come to think of it, looking at this list, I’m not sure I mind being called a Fundalmentalist (it’s almost . . . like . . . biblical).

1. Hold Your Classmates and Professors Accountable to the Word of God

If your professor’s theological zipper is down, call him on it. Hold everything he says to the light of God’s Word. It is common that when a person goes to Bible college, he does not know much about the Bible (hey, that’s why he went, right?). But this can be dangerous because he could easily take as gospel truth whatever is being propounded from the front of the class room. Ask questions in order to understand the position. If something does not sound right, speak up.

A shocking and humbling reality is to realize that even at Christan Universities and Bible Colleges there are broken people who regularly engage in stealing, sexual immorality and drunkeness. Most students could care less about what they are learning; most desire to play video games rather than wrestle with the Word of God; most write their doctrinal statements of the Holy Spirit at midnight the night before it was due, because they decided to play rather than actually wrestle with what they believed about the Holy Spirit.

All that to say: I would encourage you to encourage your classmates. Correct them when necessary. Challenge them and remind them that whether or not they become a “vocational” minister of the Word, people will naturally hold them with high regards merely because they graduated from a Bible College. It is your God-given responsibility to hold accountable those who are part of the flock (Matthew 18; 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3; Hebrews 2)

2. Resolve to Encourage Students in your Sphere of Influence

There are many opportunities you have to influence students.  At Multnomah, there are opportunities for students to teach freshmen Bible Study Methods. This is a unique opportunity not only to be in a mentoring relationship with the professor who oversees it, but also to encourage fellow students.  This may be unique to Multnomah, but if you have that opportunity at your school, take it.

Rally a group of fellow enthusiasts around for prayer; hold a Bible study. Host a weekly time of worship and Bible read-through. Promote what you want on the campus. If there is a particular class that you question the theology, gather the students for an extra session and facilitate a discussion centered on the areas of disagreement.

If you can and are able, join student government and rally for the change you see needed. Talk to the academic dean. Express your concerns that the school is not adhering to the word of God. Be a reformer in your own generation, in your own family, in your own school.

3. Reform is Always Needed

Often institutes and universities are started precisely because there was a need for reform. This was the case for Gresham Machen, who founded Westminster Theological Seminary because of Princeton’s ever-increasing slide into liberalism. Multnomah University was started by John G. Mitchell for the same reason. The point is, there will always be need for reform.  As excellent as Multnomah University is, it will inevitably need reform some day, simply because it is run by humans. And it will need competent, Bible-saturated, culturally relevant theologians to rise up and again hold the banner of Christ and the truth of the gospel . . . and next generation will need to then reform us.  It is a process necessary until the coming of our Lord.

Reformation never comes without a cost. For some of you, it may mean you move schools. For professors, it may mean they lose their job, much like Machen, R.A. Torrey and B.B. Warfield. But being right never has been poplular, and it shouldn’t surprise us that it never will be.

For an excellent article on Fundamentalism click here for Piper’s article


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Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2

November 18, 2008 by

I have always had difficulty when academic institutions acknowledge that they are not a local church (no church polity, no church discipline, etc. ) yet claim to be accomplishing a task that only the church is given the authority to do; namely, the work of preparing the saints for the work of the ministry. As I understand it, the Church is the only institution that is given the authority to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). However, it is difficult to undergo the necessary theological studies in a local church context. As a result of this, there have been some attempts to integrate rigorous theological study done at a seminary, with practical apprenticeship done at a local church. Almost all of these experiments fail to properly integrate the two. These programs often end up lacking a genuine apprenticeship or fail to offer a theological education that is academically rigorous.  However, there are a few churches/schools/apprenticeships that have made significant contributions to the reform of ministerial training.  Here are three: 

1.  Bethlehem Seminary (www.thebethleheminstitute.org) is currently the only Seminary of its kind because both the apprenticeship and the theological study are governed by a local church, in which they can be properly integrated.  The new M.Div. program is a 4 year commitment and involves rigorous theological studies, including extensive Greek and Hebrew studies.  Bethlehem Seminary will only accept 12-14 M.Div “apprentices” every year into their program.  Each of these students is mentored by a Pastor and progressively becomes more involved in ministry at the local Church level throughout the 4 years of the program. 

2.  Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College (www.sovereigngraceministries.org/PC/Overview.aspx) is a one year program, ranges from 15-25 students at a time, and is restricted to those who are commited to ministering within the Sovereign Grace network of churches.  It is only one year, and because of this, it is not academically as rigorous as a typical seminary.  It does include a limited amount of Greek study and there is a special focus on the spiritual life of the potential pastor.  The goal of this Pastor’s college is not only to impart a general theological framework and practical study skills, but to give opportunity for hands on ministry within a local church context and to promote growth in Christ like character.  This is a great opportunity for those who can fit into the ministry ethos of Sovereign Grace, and are in a season of life where a 3 or 4 year seminary commitment is not reasonable. 

3.  Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has an internship (www.capitolhillbaptist.org/we-provide/internships/description/) is 5 months long, and is for those who sense a call to the pastorate.  It is not intended to be a seminary replacement, but rather to compliment a seminary education with an internship experience.  Throughout the program, an intern writes about 100 papers and reads over 5000 pages of text.  The 6 interns attend elders meetings, are involved in ministry at the local church, and spend weekly time with one of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  If you are currently are planning to attend a run-of-the-mill seminary, or have already attended one, I would highly recommend taking a look into this program as a supplement to those studies.


This might be a good time to pitch an interactive web forum we attempted to launch some time ago, and are hoping to resurrect.  It is our desire that it would be an effective tool for those seeking to be trained for the ministry.  www.bibleschooldiscussion.com  Write anything you know about a school, post questions about a school you are considering, add a school to the discussion.  Our goal is that it would be a place where potential students can see what is available for those looking to train for the ministry, and can have an idea of what is really being taught at various institutions.

 


PART 1


 

Media and The Glory of God–Why I Have Facebook

November 12, 2008 by

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I have always been skeptical about technology. Some have compared it to the young tiger that is very cute and cuddly, but when it grows up, it turns and eats you. While this certainly can be true about anything, I have come to reject this idea for several reasons. I would like to try and convince you that all sources of media use can be used for the glory of God, as well as to show you that men you and I admire and want to be like used the media of their day to spread the gospel. I guess you could call this “my defense of why I joined the static noise of Facebook”. Whenever I get a new gadget (an ipod), join a social network (facebook), I always make sure there is precision and purpose for what I do. Below are some thoughts for you to think about.

1. All Things are Under the Lordship of Christ

It is my theological conviction that all things are under the lordship of Christ. As Abraham Kuyper has said,

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Therefore, everything that is created is good, because it comes from a good Father; it is what man does with those resources that are bad. Christ rules over all things. That is the logical argument and conclusion Paul makes in Ephesians and Colossians. Not only is Christ Lord over everything, but as His ambassadors in His Kingdom under His rule, we have the authority and the calling to redeem and take back that which has been used for evil. Don’t despise the technology that is being polluted. Instead, show how to properly use them for the glory of God. You should be thinking Kingdom governance and oversight. Show how a citizen of God’s Kingdom stewards and manages properly resources He has made available. You are a manager of many resources that can be used as a tool. Redeem technology. If your excuse is, “Well, so many people have used it for ill” then for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake get out there and use it for good. Don’t let pagans use for evil the things your King has created. Show them how to use it properly.

2. Every Media Tool is a Vehicle to Spread the Gospel of Christ

Your main objection and the responsibility you have as a steward of God’s gifts is to use it for the purpose of spreading the gospel. To be honest, I am technologically illiterate . . . but I’m learning. More honestly, I used to be a puritan/fundamentalist (. . . well, I still am in many ways) when it came to anything new in technology. I only saw the evil in it. I saw ipods were only used to waste time listening to music that mushed your brain. And Facebook? Well, don’t get me started on Facebook.

But I have been convicted that we as believers have a unique opportunity to reach and evangelize the world . . . from our desk. Don’t get me wrong, this is not negating or excusing you from the responsibility to physically get in the presence of non-believers and preach the gospel. But while you are preaching, evangelizing, fellowshipping and spreading the gospel to your sphere of influence, you can also be impacting those around the world. You should be active in all types of media . . . no matter what your eschatology. Blogs. Facebook. Websites. The gospel of Christ can be used in any media. Picture these as an extension of your voice. When I use a microphone, it is acting as merely an extension of my voice to reach a larger group of people. Blogs, Facebook, ipods and websites can all be tools in which God uses as an extension of spreading the gospel. So the only question that remains is, “Why aren’t you involved?”

3. Everything You Own is for One Purpose Only . . .

Why have I chosen to spend X amount of dollars on a car? To spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. That car is an extension of my legs. It takes me to Western Seminary where I listen to influential men who prepare me to prepare. Why do I own a home? To house my family and other weary sojourners who need refreshment. Why do I own an ipod? To listen to men that are present day Spurgeons. If I lived in Spurgeon’s day and was even 100 miles from him, I might not even know he exists. And how many people didn’t! Now, I can listen to Piper, Macarthur and Mark Driscoll all because of the gracious, good gift from God expressed in an ipod.

4. Spread the Gospel, Not Yourself

I can’t tell you how sick I am of updates on Facebook that tell me how great my friend’s mocha was, or what euphoric experience they had the other day. As Christians, our primary task is to spread the vision of Jesus Christ and His glory. Take a look at your facebook and answer this question:


Do your posts, updates, links, pictures and videos reflect the aroma of the spreading of Christ, or do you contribute to the world’s static chatter that numbs our minds to thinking after Christ?


Answer the question. Make the changes.

5. Those Before Us . . .

If Paul would have shunned the stadium, men of Athens would not have heard him. If Luther would have despised the printing press, no Reformation. Period. Because he took advantage of the media of the time, there was a Reformation that exploded throughout the world. If Billy Graham would have despised the microphone, the some odd million people would never have heard him. If Piper would have neglected the tape recorder, we would not have any of his sermons from the past.

6. Final Exhortations And Some Ideas

  • Redeem your ipod. Don’t just fill your 80 gig ipod with music, fill it with sermons! We live in a unique day and age where we can listen to a sermon given thousands of miles away, all while jogging! Redeem your ipod.
  • Start a blog. There is no greater way to influence a great amount of people than by blogging your opinions . . . but blog the opinions of the Apostles. Pick something you are passionate about in regards to the gospel—a need you see not being fulfilled—and begin to rally around you fellow enthusiasts for the cause of Christ
  • Start a Facebook. Spread the message of Jesus Christ. Don’t just tell your friends pointless updates, encourage them in the faith, challenge them in their beliefs, and call them to join you in the spreading of the gospel, not yourself.

What do you think? How and what do you see is the purpose of social networks like Facebook? According to what you’ve heard me say, how do you think they should be used and why.


Spread the gospel. Preach the Word. Get Facebook.

Every second counts…

November 7, 2008 by

Good is the enemy of best. There are tons of good things that come along. We could fill our day with things that are good and never end up doing what is best.

As the older we get and the more influence we have, more opportunities will present themselves. It’s a responsibility to learn to manage our time and influences well.

This is a struggle that I deal will constantly. I have a pregnant wife, two babies, I am a small business owner, an operations manager for non-profit ministry, on the preaching rotation at church, and a student taking 16 units (3 of which are Greek)…oh yeah, and I do this Paul and Timothy stuff. I say all this to illustrate the potential over-busyness of my life.

My wife has asked me before if I think we will ever be less busy. I am always trying to gently let her down with my answer. But the truth is, being entrusted with more is a blessing and a gift. After the two servants were faithful with their talents, their master said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” (Matthew 25:21, 23). They were given more to steward. God is using our season of life to prepare us for the next one. The household is an incubator for church leadership. Managing a local church well comes from managing a household well (being faithful with a household leads to the opportunity to be faithful as an elder).

So what do we do? Many successful, honorable, godly, older man have told me about the value of planning. Gregg Harris calls it the Noble Planner (an MP3 of his teaching on planning can be found here). Gregg spends every Sunday afternoon planning his week. He sits down with his family after church and they plan what is best for them to do in a given week. Gregg plans on spending alone time with every member of his family every week.

CJ Mahaney talks about it in the Sovereign Grace leadership series. Mahaney is very protective over his time. He says that he will not flex his schedule, save an emergency. Mahaney plans time into his schedule to free up his wife to study, and then he creates reading lists for her.

John Piper has said that he purposely only goes to the church office once a week. He knows that his home office study is the “safest” place to get the most work done with his time.

As pastors, the nature of their job requires that they be flexible to deal with crisis in the lives of the Saints. When those crisis’ arise, they become the best thing they can do with their time.

Begin to view time as something that you have to invest. Invest your time in the place that is going to yield the greatest return. Or to use another analogy, plant your time where it will bring forth the most fruit.

Here are some practical suggestions:

      1. Begin planning out your week. Sit down on Sunday afternoon and in light of worship, fellowship, and the ministry of the Word, plan out what is best to do with your time the coming week.

      2. Start using a calendar. Whether it’s a physical paper planner or something on your computer, use something to help manage your time. I use Google calendar, because it is internet based (I can access it anywhere), I can share it with owther Google users, my wife can easily add items to it, and I can receive email or text message alerts.

      3. Help your wife to find time to read and study. Free her up and make her reading lists.

       4. Learn to say no while still being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit to “walk in the good works that have been prepared beforehand.”

       5. View the importance of the different areas that you have been given stewardship over. Your children and wife are way more important than Greek paradigms.

Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit

November 5, 2008 by

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair, for if the iron be blunt . . . he knows that there will be a greater drought upon his energies and his work will be badly done.”  We shall do our Lord’s work the best when our tools are sharpened, and worse when they are blunt.  Below are common ditches young preachers fall into.

1. Carrying on a Conversations with Our Professors in the Pulpit
A common habit of young preachers (and I myself bare the guilt of this) is to try and fit everything we know about God, salvation, eschatology, hermeneutics, Karl Barth and the heresies of the Emergent Church all into 2 Samuel 8:4 (or whatever text we’re preaching at the time).  The problem is, 2 Samuel 8 only talks about 2 or 3 of these things.

It is important to remember that while you and I are wrestling with Ladd, Brunner, Barth, N.T. Wright and others, the people in the pew need to be encouraged, exhorted, corrected and instructed.

I’m not saying to keep your people dumb.  Not at all.  You should not shrink back from challenging them to use their mind, to wrestle with the complexity and mystery of the gospel and to struggle with tensions like the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

What I am saying is don’t bring into the pulpit something you yourself are unsure of.  Countless of times young preachers take into the pulpit what they just learned that week. Preach what you know!  Bring certainty, not confusion.  The Pulpit is not the place to wrestle with an issue you have yet to figured out. Hey, if you’ve figured out how inaugurated eschatology coincides perfectly with Pre-Millennialism in Isaiah, go for it!  Seriously. Stretch the minds of your people and cause them to think deeply about God’s Word.  But, like me, if you’re still a little uncertain about how that works out, leave it in the classroom.  Don’t carry on a conversation with your professor in the pulpit.

2. Preaching Obese Sermons
As I said above, a tendency that I have is to pack everything I know about the text into the text.  This may not be the best approach, but it takes discernment.  Often, what I have found is a shorter, power-packed, point-driven, Word-exalting sermon is the best sermon.  Just remember: it’s better if you end 10 minutes early leaving them wanting more then going the set amount of time while they are wishing you were done.  I have heard many sermons that were incredible, only to bomb at the last 5 minutes—and everyone remembers the last part of your sermon the most. Your sermon should be the silver bullet that pierces the heart, drives home conviction, and sets the heart ablaze for God and His Word.  Aim for clarity.

3. Over-Dependence Upon Personality
If you are of the gregarious personality that can “wing it” in the pulpit and still present a fairly decent sermon . . . don’t.  You could easily fall into the habit of putting off preparation.  And don’t presume upon the Holy Spirit’s assistance when you have neglected preparation. When Friday night roles around and activities of all kinds seek your attention, it will be too easy to think in the back of your mind, “I’ll just wing it; I know I can get away with it,” when you know you should stay in your study and tighten your sermon.  The Holy Spirit works in the preparation as well as the delivery.  Give Him kindling to ignite a blazing torch.

On the other hand, If you’re like me, and you know there’s no way you can afford to approach the pulpit unprepared, prepare, but don’t over-prepare.  Yes, nail your sermon down. Memorize it.  Know it.  But leave room for freshness.  Know it well, make sure you have time to let it sit (a day or two), and then review it once before delivery.  Know your personality.

4. Overstepping the Authority of Our Elders
At times a young preacher can fall into the trap of feeling the need to correct the congregation in an area where the elders have “overlooked”.  This would be overstepping the bounds of authority given to you.  Leave room for elders to “eld”.  They are older for a reason: they can say things you can’t . . . merely because a certain amount of wisdom and authority comes with age.  Of course I’m being general here, and application takes discernment.  But the principle is the same: Let the elders see and address the need for correction of certain matters.

Hopefully, these few ideas will cause us to become much more effective in the pulpit and in the Kingdom.  There will be mistakes . . . many.  But learn from them and press on to sharpen the aim of your presentation of the gospel.

Preach the Word


What Are Some Other Tendencies Young Preachers Have?


 

Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 1

November 1, 2008 by

Years ago, I would have never imagined that I would ever be pursuing a formal seminary education.  The Christian community/tradition I was in was pretty anti-institutional in many respects.  We called seminary “cemetery”, and it was only for stuffy, proud, rich young men who had turned Christianity into an intellectual pursuit, much like the other sciences.  Formal theological education was only for the “hireling” who was seeking to make merchandise of the saints by applying for the CEO (pastor) position at a local hymn singing country club (typical church) so he could hear himself give speeches (sermons) to as large crowd a crowd as he could muster (congregation), hoping to make his name great. 

And now, years later, after many paradigm shifts, here I am, with seminary applications in hand.  And I need to ask myself honestly, ‘have I sold out?  What has changed?’

Some things have indeed changed, and some have not.  I would still extend a critique to the way many of us in America (and around the world) ‘do church’, as many of our gatherings reflect the ways of the world rather than the pattern entrusted to us in the Scriptures.  I am still grieved by the way that many are making merchandise of God’s people, and the way we perpetuate this problem by handling church leadership like a corporate office over a business venture.

But now I look at many of these churches, and in them, I see many of God’s beloved people, struggling to see the Kingdom of God while keeping one foot in the world.  People gathering with other believers to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, worship God, and to be exhorted by means of His Word.  They are looking for encouragement, discipleship, and others to walk with on this calvary road, and all too often they come to the church only to hear, see, and be surrounded by the same things they are seeking refuge from.  They hear contradictory messages from different corners of the congregation, and being untrained in the scriptures, many of them choose to follow whoever is speaking the loudest.

I want God’s Word to be what is loudest in those churches.  I want them to hear things, that by the Holy Spirit, will fight back the flesh and encourage the Spirit.  I want them to be encouraged to trust a Holy and Perfect God, even when everything in their life seems amiss.  I want to grow with them in discipleship and discerning the will of God, cherishing the one who rescues us through His own shed blood on the cross.  I feel called to shepherd, and I want to learn, I want to study, I want to be mentored.  Certainly, not all the training (or even most of the training) needed for tomorrows elders takes place within the four walls of a Seminary.  However, I would argue that in our present day, Seminary is one of the best places to:

1. Study the heritage of the faith passed down and entrusted to us, and to learn from  the lives of Godly men and women who have gone before us.  

2.  Acknowledging the mistakes of the past so that we might avoid them as a church in the future.

3.  Consider the struggles of those who are in our churches today and considering how to care for them in light of God’s Word. 

4.  Develop and practice rhetorical skills to be used in defending right doctrine and proclaiming the truth in a winsome manner.

5.  Grow in critical thought as it relates to theology and the church.

6.  Study God’s word on a daily basis in a community that is thinking critically and pastorally.

7.  Learn to read the Bible in the languages it was originally written in.   This may help us grow to understand the underlying misconceptions in many modern day controversies, and walk in the awareness of any assumptions translators may have made while translating the texts into English.

8.  Spend time listening to older people who have spent dozens of years pouring over the Scriptures.

9.  Spend more time reading.  

10.  Spend time learning to communicate well through writing.

These are all important skills that are invaluable to our next generation of church leaders.  There are indeed many dangerous things that Seminary may bring before us.  Many Seminaries are steeped in bad doctrine and are unhelpful all together.  Many things about our current conceptions of Seminary itself are  just plain unbiblical.  However, God is still using many Seminaries as a key component in the training of tomorrow’s church leaders.  

All this to say, we should work towards reform in our Seminaries… more on this to come.  But just as a teaser, here is the way one Church/Seminary is reforming the way Seminary is done: The Bethlehem Institute.

Focusing Bible College and Seminaries

October 29, 2008 by


ReLit, a ministry of Mars Hill church, has recently pumped out some great resources. Their series of books, books you’ll actually read, are great for newer Christians seeking to get an overview of some specific doctrinal issues.

One of ReLit’s books is by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis called Total Church. In it, they address the issue of theological education with the following excerpt:

“We are not against theological colleges, but we need a big switch of focus from the isolation of residential theological colleges to apprenticeships in the context of ministry. This is how Jesus trained people. This is how Paul trained people. In residential colleges the academy sets the agenda. With on-the-job training, ministry and mission set the agenda.”

Theological education, outside the context of the local church, can become very “heady” and not practical. Studying theology becomes an academic affair rather than light unto our paths.

I feel for Bible College and Seminaries, many are caught in this “middle ground.” In Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem points out that the church has three main purposes (Grudem 867-868):

1. Ministry to God: Worship (Schools have weekly chapel)

2. Ministry to Believers: Nurture (Schools are building up the body for the work of the ministry)

3. Ministry to the World: Evangelism and Mercy (Schools have days of outreach and evangelism campaigns)

They aren’t a local church, yet they are often doing many things that the local church has been commissioned to do. Anytime a school engages in an activity of the church, they must follow the Scriptural mandate for such activity, i.e. communion, teaching the Bible. Schools even practice a form of discipline by means of expulsion. I guess the only thing I haven’t seen a Bible College or Seminary do is baptize someone.

The point is the lines are way too blurry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries shouldn’t be acting like rogue institutions, they should be arms of the local church. Leave the roles of the church in the church. Stop doing communion, stop counseling, stop requiring ministry, and other tasks they have been commissioned for the local church. If the church is missing the mark somewhere (lacking in counseling or ministry), we need to fix the problem not commission a whole new group of people to do it.

Bible Colleges and Seminaries should keep their role in view: they are teaching Bible and theology. That’s all that the local church needs for assistance. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should be filled with elder qualified men, preparing young pastors to do the work of the ministry. Bible Colleges and Seminaries should have professors doing what the local church doesn’t seem to have time to do, which is devoting their time to teaching new pastors intensive Bible and theology. Bible Colleges and Seminaries are a great gift, their lives have been freed up to devote themselves to studying the Bible and theology and teaching new pastors.

We need a sharper and more focused view of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Denominational schools are a lot closer to where I am advocating (schools like Southern Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary are a great example). At Westminster all of the professors are teaching elders in their local churches.

Christian liberal arts colleges are great, training Christian school teachers is a wonderful pursuit, but men are coming to Bible Colleges and Seminaries for something different.

Another concern is that men feel that just because they have an MDiv., they are now qualified to be a pastor. Seminaries are poppin’ out thousands of 25 year old “pastors” every year. These men become ordained office holding pastors because of their degrees. Theological education is vital, but we need life experience to go along with it. We need time “walking with the wise.” We need to be ordained, or elected, or asked into church leadership because of the evidence of God’s grace in our lives, not because of our master’s degrees.

There are two skills to become an overseer–many characters qualities–but two skills. A man must be able to teach and he must be able to manage his household well. God help us to not raise one above the other. Too many pastors are chosen from resumes.

I encourage young Timothy’s to pursue theological training and seek out your training with some of these things in mind.

Revival Hymn

October 27, 2008 by

Below is a compilation of sermons put to music.  If you haven’t heard this yet, you need to see it.  Some of the preachers here include the 20th Century’s greatest revivalists: Leonard Ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, Paris Readhead and A.W. Tozer.

Leonard Ravenhill was a revivalist preacher in Great Britan as well as America.  He had a tremendous influence on men like Keith Green and Paul Washer.  Tozer once said of Ravenhill:

“To such men as this, the church owes a debt too heavy to pay. The curious thing is that she seldom tries to pay him while he lives. Rather, the next generation builds his sepulcher and writes his biography – as if instinctively and awkwardly to discharge an obligation the previous generation to a large extent ignored.”

Duncan Campbell was a Scottish born-minister and president of a Bible College in Edinburgh Scotland.
Paris Reidhead was an American preacher whose famous sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” stands with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

And A.W. Tozer . . . well . . . everybody knows what he’s done.

All these men prayed for revival in the pulpit and in the hearts of people, and most of them died without seeing the fruit of their labors.  Check it out.