I am passionate about Bible College. I make no apology for that, and I believe that every Christian needs a sound understanding of their faith. In my view, the need for a proper understanding of God’s word today is more significant than ever before.
Why so? Well, here are a few reasons.
- The world around us, especially the so-called first world nations, are entering a post-Christian era.
- The cultural impact of secularism has diminished the gospel’s effect in our cultures.
- Our governments, our legislators, are compromising gospel principles, the foundation of our laws and society, to satisfy secularism.
- Churches are often seen as archaic and irrelevant in the modern world.
- Christians are less interested in the need to study and know God’s word for themselves.
- Churches services often lean more to Christian entertainment than teaching the word of God in a meaningful way.
- Church attendance has been reduced from 5 or 6 meetings a week to a single session on a Sunday.
- Compromise with alternative lifestyles to appease other points of view.
- Add to all of this the impact of Covid, which has done more to close churches and restrain the witness of Christ than any other single event in recent history.
The list goes on, but the point is that all of these and other issues impact society, the church, and individual Christians. They have weakened the church’s authority and witness.
So why do we need Bible College?
Let me say that many Christians do study and study well. There is a hunger for the word of God. Of that, there is no doubt.
Here is a simple truth. We do not, and cannot get enough biblical understanding from a Sunday sermon of 30 to a 40-minutes. We cannot expect it to develop our walk with God. Surely it will help, but one session a week cannot equip the saints or prepare them to answer for their faith or sustain their walk in the Lord.
Let me be clear; 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. Competing responsibilities and choices also have to be learned and lived. Sunday sermons do help, but we need more to help us understand what we believe and witness to others.
Consider Timothy for a moment. Paul gave him particular instructions 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 wise and mature fellow, Paul continues… “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.
Paul did not write these instructions to Timothy just because he was taking up the mantle of ministry. He knew the key to good ministry, of any kind, from witness and worker to pastor, lies in our understanding of the word coupled with our gifting. And because this is the required lifestyle.
Unfortunately, Bible study is becoming increasingly less valued today, even by some preachers. Sadly, their gospel message is minimized, diffused, ridiculed and watered down by some who present it. All too often, they do not understand the gospel they are preaching. They have an experience with God. Often they have personal charisma, but with little to no learning, as Christians, they cannot offer a sound reason for their faith or counter the argument of the world.
In some cases, anointed services are replaced by carefully stage-managed productions with music and lighting that stir the emotions with carefully choreographed presentations. These are as good as any other well-managed stage show, but they do not touch the heart or the spirit and cannot 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. Preferring to compete over turf and numbers rather than complement each other as fellow labourers, together, in the kingdom of God.
Then there are those for whom the sound doctrine is replaced by fiery eloquence, a message manipulatively designed to stir, to thrill and please the mass often with spurious claims of what God can or will do for you if only you will give more, do more, be or do something more.
There have been 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, untrained men and women take to preach the gospel with self-proclaimed anointing, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, they usually bring dishonour 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 or small. While there are many great and good churches, my comments above are increasingly relevant and represent a growing portion of what is presented as the church today.
Jesus is still the master-builder of the church general against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Still, the local church is often powerless, embarrassing, and frequently fails because its members lack knowledge, vision, and identity in Christ.
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 surer of what you say, 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 society—the Word of God.
We can change our world. It has been done before on many occasions with far fewer options available. With a good understanding of the word of God, the tools of modern technology, empowered by the gifting of the Holy Spirit, we can turn our society around.
We have an opportunity to learn, know and apply the word of God today and make a difference.
If we do not use this opportunity wisely, we will continue to be seen and heard as little more than fools, floating in an ocean of silliness, sharing unsubstantiated opinions with unhelpful ideas. 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. The church cannot provide all the learning we need.
We cannot teach others if we do not understand our beliefs. We cannot reach out to others effectively if we do not know the gospel, the power at our disposal, and our authority. 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 in 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 other people, those you meet and love and work with, need to know what you believe and why you believe it
Bible College is the one place where you can sure that you will learn the word of God, you will be equipped and unashamed as a workman or workwoman of God.
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.