Bible College or Church (Part 3)?

Last week, I wrote a post entitled “Bible College or Church?” that sparked some great discussion about how the church trains and equips her leaders.  This week, I’m expanding on some of the ideas generated in the discussion.

Yesterday I looked at some of the pros and cons of Bible college.  One of the pros is the Bible education.  Some of the cons–it costs a lot of money to get that education, and the environment where the education is received is more of a “Christian bubble” than the real world.  Is there any way we can equip leaders–heck, all Christians–with a working, practical knowledge of the Bible that won’t cost them a financial arm and a leg?

The short answer:  YES.

The long answer:  Yes, but some creativity and innovation are needed to do so.  And that creativity is beginning to happen.  Here are some things I’ve been thinking about that we can do to start making some changes.

First, individual learning is important… learning in community is vital.  Someone commented last week that they learned more in the midnight coffee chugging sessions just shooting the breeze than they did in their classes.  There’s something to that.  Think about the first Christians–most were illiterate.  The New Testament wasn’t even in print yet.  How did they learn about Jesus?  In community.  Today, we have multiple copies of the Bible and tons of resources for individual Bible study… yet many Christians don’t do it.  I have found that people take it much more seriously and grow better in the midst of community–be it a microchurch, a small group, a smaller group (2-3 people), than they do in a larger setting (like a Sunday service) where someone talks at them for 20-60+ minutes a week.  In the small and smaller group setting, guys who are gifted teachers can still use their gift, but others are allowed to interact, ask questions, and encourage each other as the Scriptures are unpacked.  That cannot happen in a typical church on a typical Sunday morning.  You guys who are preachers may not like that too much–I’m just speaking from my own experience (don’t forget–I am a preacher!).  With the innovations in technology–Twitter, Facebook, etc.–it is now easier for people to network on discussion boards around topics and learn from each other than ever before.  The original blog post that sparked this discussion shows how this works.  We need to be more intentional about learning and applying Scripture in community.

Second, we need creative, innovative, hubs of resources that are easily accessible with high quality content that won’t break people’s pocketbooks.  There are several of these online hubs already in existence:

  • The Resurgence is the brainchild of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  It contains a massive amount of video and print content from the Neo-Reformed perspective.  There are videos and blogs from multiple contributors on a wide variety of topics.
  • Shapevine is another online community with tools and resources–including online video courses on several different topics that are reasonably priced.  It is “missional” focused.  Again, there are multiple blogs from multiple contributors.  I have participated in a live video workshop, where several leaders of a church in San Diego were interviewed, and viewers could submit questions that were answered on the fly.  Shapevine is still evolving, but it is already a great tool.

I think it is possible–and even necessary–for things like this to be created and even network together.  Imagine what could be done if there was a site where anyone could log on and get good, solid information and teaching–theology, church planting, community outreach–the possibilities are limitless.  And they could access the content for free, or even a tiny fraction of the cost of going to Bible college for four years (heck, there could even be links to Bible colleges with distance/online learning degrees if that was the route one chose to take–check out this post by my buddy Richard on what one college is doing with iPhone technology).  I don’t know exactly what it would look like or how it would function, but it could produce a lot of fruit and help guys get good and grounded in practical, applicable Bible knowledge.

These are just a few ideas.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about something that’s bugged me for years about the current system.

In the meantime, throw out some additional ideas for what this could look like…

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About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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6 Responses to Bible College or Church (Part 3)?

  1. justin dunn says:

    well, having graduated, both masters and undergrad from the same bible college, and also working in undergraduate admissions for the same bible college for almost 4 years…i would like to add a thought.

    i have to wrestle with this issue everyday. i have to decide, when i meet with prospective students whether or not Bible College would destroy them, or help them in their endeavor. because it really could do both. the problem is, all “restoration history” bible colleges that i know of (which are many) are years behind in training their students for ministry in our CURRENT world. when it comes to Biblical Studies, i think we are doing a FANTASTIC job, seriously, especially the institution i work for. but from student life, to how students are treated, to the actual ministry classes, Restoration schools are found lacking in knowing our current student body and equipping them for our rapidly changing culture.

    now you could argue (which i do) that the best ministry training you can get is just Biblical Studies. i think it is the only way you can be a great pastor. but nonetheless, many students declare ministry as their degree. there is little to offer students in adequate training (even on the graduate level) in this area.

    i think these schools need to narrow their focus, realize that they are NOT for everyone, and actually listen to what their students needs and desires are for ministry and not what they have deemed teachable in the last 30 years.

    perhaps, training women in ministry to be more than good wives and sunday school teachers. “our” (i hate writing that) schools are extremely sexist. perhaps not treating our students like they are children and allowing them to explore life and allow for the normal college experimentation that most people go through. more hands on training and less molly coddling. realizing that “preachers” are not the most important ministry need right now. open up new worlds of what God is doing and explore new opportunities our society is bringing…well i could go on and on…but thats enough for now…

    these have been interesting reads.

  2. Wow! Some great discussion going on about this VERY important topic. For my very short “two cents”: It seems to be a very basic, fundamental issue of discipleship; how do we make them? Our current ways are all dependent upon THIS and THAT. With Bible College we’ve created a system of dependency. Something just came to my head that I must scoot over to the Pro’s and Con’s post to comment on….

    • Aaron says:

      @aholydiscontent

      The dependency goes both ways. The schools depend upon the churches for money and students, and the churches depend on the schools for grads to fill their staff positions. I’m convinced that the churches with the best chance to get creative and innovative with this are new churches… and that’s fine (like I’ve said, we don’t need to rip down the old to build up a new… let the old continue, and let’s start something new).

  3. David White says:

    This is my idea and it may not be the best idea but I do believe that it is practical and it would work. We just need to create a school or replace the professors just like that of the movie “Accepted.” They were free to think about there needs. They didn’t want go to class and be bored learning about how the verbs and subjects could be broken down in Prep for Bible Study (Fields is still my favorite teacher). But give me a break. Yes it was helpful for me to learn about how the restoration church came into existance because I didn’t come from a church background. I learned valuable information about who, what, when, where, and why, but what today can I use from that. This world has changed so much in the last couple of years since I have been out of bible college and it just frustrates me to no end to know that nothing has been adapted to help the local bible college student.

    A local church can do that. That is what they are there for.

    That’s my idea! Any objections?

    • Aaron says:

      Hey David,

      Sounds like you’re proposing some change from inside the structure along with more responsibility from the local church, right? The idea has merit… now put some meat on the bones. What would this look like? How must the colleges change? What exactly can the local church do to help?

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