KEDS Director of Studies Dr Stephen Vantassel explores the practical benefits of a theological education in a short but useful essay that ought to be read by anyone considering enrolling on a Bible college or seminary programme. This article is used with kind permission and was originally entitled The Benefits of a Bible College Education.
While teaching at a Bible School here in the United States, I had the opportunity to talk to a discouraged student. The student was questioning the value of being in Bible School "doing nothing". He opined about how he could be out working for God in evangelism rather than spending time in a classroom.
I responded by asking if it would be better for a farmer to plant seeds by hand or to spend some time in school learning how to plant crops by machine? The answer is obvious but he didn't seem to really believe that my story had any real relation to his dilemma. I continued by stating that Bible college isn't a waste of time because it will make you an even more effective tool in the service of Christ.
This article is a further explanation of my original point. Bible College training improves the effectiveness of ministers in a number of ways.
First, Bible College consumes time. It may sound stupid, but just the fact that the individual is a few years older before working in the ministry can greatly improve his/her ministry's impact. For with time, comes experience and with experience comes wisdom. It should also go without saying that sometimes people discover during their study time that they lack the needed gifts for full time ministry. Think of how much wasted time is saved both for the individual and the potential church, if the person found out that pastoring wasn't for him/her before taking the pulpit.
Second, Bible College engrosses the student in the study of God's word and Christian Theology. The Bible College experience exposes the student to ideas and insights that he/she were heretofore unaware. Bible College forces the student to develop his/her own positions on controversial issues like baptism, suffering etc. before that person is confronted with those dilemmas in the Church. However, Bible School also strengthens the faith and commitment of the student by showing how and why Christians believe in ways different than others around them. In short, the Bible School student will know why he/she believes and why he/she doesn't believe.
Third, Bible College improves the student on the social level because it brings him/her in contact with people he/she would otherwise probably never meet. In the church setting, a Presbyterian would probably never have a long relationship with an Anglican. Not because of animosity per se, but because they reside in different religious communities. Bible School changes all that by bringing Christians from different denominations and sitting them beside each other in class. This setting forces students to not only wrestle in the realm of ideas and beliefs but to face the meaning of loving fellow Christians even while they may be debating a point in theology. Arguing abstract ideas is one thing but arguing with someone who loves Christ but differs from you puts a whole new perspective on it.
Bible School offers benefits to those interested in lay ministry also. Bible School can develop students into more well rounded believers. Many non-ministerial students enter Bible School training because they are seeking how to integrate their faith in Christ into their work place. They want to learn how an understanding of Sin, Repentance and Salvation impact their roles as professional counselors, teachers, even public officials.
Others attend Bible College out of a desire to just learn more about the Bible. We must remember that (regrettably), the modern Church doesn't teach its members as systematically as it once did. In earlier times, new Christians underwent a thorough catechism where the great doctrines of the Church were impressed upon the young converts. Bible College today, fills that need that many Christians have. The benefit for the Church is the creation of highly skilled lay people who can assist the pastor in teaching, counseling and ministering to the Body.
Finally, Bible Colleges teaches her students how to learn. Bible School can't do everything or teach everything there is to know about theology, Scripture and Church History. But Bible School does provide the student with the skills on how to delve more deeply into areas previously unknown to the student. Bible School isn't the end of a students education. It is the launching pad from where the student can be directed to achieve new heights of personal, social and Spiritual development.
So who should consider coming to Bible School? Anyone who has a desire or need to learn more about the Christian Faith. Why should they consider Bible School? They should consider attending because they seek to better fulfill the commands of Christ and expand His Kingdom over their own lives and the lives of others.
Copyright Stephen Vantassel. Used with permission.