Passion for Heart and Mind, Part 1

Preston Sprinkle —  September 24, 2011 — 6 Comments
This entry is part 2 of 4 in the seriesPassion for the Heart and Mind

I’m currently at the Desiring God national conference in Minneapolis (MN), and I’m reminded once again that God enlists both our hearts and our minds for radical service in his kingdom.

There’s been a growing anti-intellectualism in the Evangelical church. It’s been a disease that’s hindered the church for the past 100 years at least, and I’m not sure why it continues to grow. Why is it that some believe that thinking too hard about Christ and His word will produce lack of passion for the gospel? Perhaps it’s because for some, it has. For some, engaging in rigorous study of the Bible and theology in Bible College, Seminary, through reading commentaries and theologies, etc., has actually produced a lack of passion for Christ and the world. And this is sad. But this does not mean that the very nature of rigorous study should and must lead to lack of passion. And just because it has done this for some does not mean that theology and study is the problem.

By way of analogy, plenty of missionaries burn out, lose their passion, return home discouraged, cynical, or even loose their faith. (I know a few.) But this does not—it certainly cannot—mean that missions is the cause and therefore we should abandon missions. Me genoito; heck no! In the same way, Seminary and formal theological education has killed passion for Christ in some students, but this is because of sin, apathy, laziness—it’s not inherently because of Seminary. It’s because Satan has wiggled his way into our Seminaries and has stolen the passion from the hearts of those training to be ministers of the word, and not because studying the word too hard inevitably will lead to lack of passion for Christ.

This is why I love my job. And this is why I LOVE Eternity Bible College. We believe that Jesus is the Lord of our hearts and our minds; we believe that Christ has redeemed our passion and our thinking; we believe that a robust, sustained, thorough, pain-staking, study of the word of God should produce a long-lasting, Christ-magnifying, gospel-centered life that seeks to live dangerously for the Kingdom of the beloved Son. It is a contradiction in terms to have a living encounter with God through His word—over and over, every day, through class after class, through assignment after assignment—and not be more captivated by the majesty and scandal of God’s grace toward us, undeserving sinners.

Bible College should be the caldron in which passion for Christ is forged. Fuel for missions, passion for preaching, zeal for evangelism, enthusiasm for transforming culture—all of these should be the inevitable by-product of the Bible College. May Jesus give us grace in creating a school were these things are abounding.

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Preston Sprinkle

Preston Sprinkle

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I'm married to a beautiful wife and we have four kids (3 girls and a boy). I've been teaching college level Bible and Theology classes for a few years now (since 2007), and enjoy hanging out with my family, running, surfing, and life in SoCal. Before I became a teacher, I was in school. Lots and lots of school. I did a B.A. and M.Div here in SoCal, and then did a Ph.D. in Scotland in NT studies. Before coming to EBC, I taught at Nottingham University for a semester, and Cedarville University for a couple of years. Along with surfing, I also love to research and write, and I've written a few things on Paul, Early Judaism, and Hell.
  • Chris, David, and Lance,

    How much education is enough? Good question, and with Chris, I think it depends on what you’re going into. I just met a guy this weekend who works for the Navy and is also going to Seminary. He’s got no intention of going into vocational ministry; he’s going to Seminary for the sole purpose of knowing God better.

    That’s not for everyone, and getting 2 or 3 Bible degrees isn’t for most people. But all I know is that the church does need at least some of our most passionate Christians to pursue lots of Biblical education, so they can contribute uniquely to the Kingdom. We all have books on our shelves and many of them are written by scholars. Books will continue to be written; I pray that they will be written by zealous Christians who worship God with heart and mind.

    Lance, pray for humility. More specifically: pray that EBC gains a reputation that produces students who are genuinely humble. Like, ridiculously humble. When people think of EBC, I want them to think not, “That’s Chan’s Bible college, right?” But: “Oh ya, that’s that place that produces humble Christians. If you want to learn to be humble, you should go to EBC.” I long for the day when this will be our unshakable reputation. After all, humility seems to be the inevitable by-product of an encounter with God, so if our students are encountering God at EBC, then they will be humble.

  • Chris Hay

    Great conversation! Indeed, we need scholars of the Word from an evangelical persuasion. Absolutely! I agree with so much of what has been said. Actually my time in seminary was a rich time of spiritual growth for me. Then years of weekly exegeting the text in order to accurately preach it each Sunday was a major growth catalyst. As you unpack the text, the grammar, word studies, syntax, etc, the truths of scripture become so vivid and rich and meaningful. You get to know God better, understand His ways and His truth in a deeper, richer way. I agree with Preston that the problem is NOT seminary or Bible college or academic study of the Word; it is the heart. It is a false sense of success as in getting a grade, etc. As you do your studies, ask yourself where your view of God is wrong and how this thing you are studying confronts those false views.

    One good way to keep your studies devotional is to get involved in a ministry where you are giving out. As you learn, read, study, do exegesis–have an outlet to share it with others. Let the excitement of your discovery become contagious to others.

    How much education is enough? That is so subjective and depends on what God calls you to do. Personally, I don’t think you can get enough. I have an MDiv, but I am a lifelong learner. Let us never think we have arrived!

    We truly need to exercise our hearts AND our minds!!

  • Lance Hancock

    Preston and David:

    I’d like to imitate Paul and regularly intercede for the brothers and sisters the Lord has put in my life at different stages and seasons, even after I’ve departed from them (or vice versa).

    If there were Scriptures that you would pray over EBC, whether for the institution as a whole, the staff/faculty, the students, etc., what would they be? I’d love to hear what the Lord is laying on your hearts for EBC…

  • Lance Hancock

    Thanks for the post, Preston. I’m thankful that EBC is seeking to be a place where both the heart and mind are cultivated to love God and serve Him. Keep posting often, bro. I’m blessed by the insights that are shared on this blog, and I know many others are as well.

  • Brother Jee,

    Glad this was some help!

    Let me first of all repeat the point I made in the post, that it’s not the inherent nature of studying the word a lot (i.e. in Seminary, Bible College) that leads to spiritual complacency. God didn’t design his word to be studied in moderation. “If you encounter Me too much, too often, then you’ll get apathetic…” This doesn’t make sense. And again, plenty of pastors, missionaries, church planters burn out in and through their ministries, but this doesn’t mean that we should bag church planting, pastoring, and venturing overseas. The problem lies elsewhere.

    Some advice:
    Pray. I didn’t pray nearly enough when I was in school (or even now!), and I should.

    Don’t busy your life. Our capitalistic, consumer culture tells us that production leads to acceptance and value, and this has crept into the church. There’s something that just sounds so spiritual when you tell people about all the Christian things you are doing and people respond: “wow, you’re doing a lot!” And you know that feeling that wells up inside of you, the one that pats yourself on the back for all that you are doing for Jesus? Ugggh. We lift our Babels to the King expecting value and acceptance to flow from the throne…what a joke. Jesus wants our hearts, our focus, our minds, and busyness is a creative tool wielded by Satan to deceptively steal joy from Christians, many of whom live in Southern California.

    Honestly, much of keeping your passion through your studies is simply being aware of how it can, though shouldn’t, kill your passion. Pray, ask God to keep the fire lit, do less, pray again, then keep yourself soaked in the beautifully rich narrative of God’s redeeming grace!

  • Preston

    This was so helpful! Lately, I’ve been spending much time contemplating whether I should be in school receiving more education or elsewhere sharing the Gospel to those that have yet to hear the Good News. (Because everyone has already heard the Good News in Simi Valley ;] )

    It wasn’t long before I decided to remain in School. Now my commitments are stronger. However, this blog post has helped me rethink the importance of education and that “seminary is NOT a spiritual cemetery.”

    Could you give us a follow up to this article?
    Maybe insight and wisdom on how to keep our studies devotional or other means of staying passionate? [And other Professors & Pastors are more than welcome to chime in please.]

    Wisdom on questions such as..
    How did you(all) personally get through Seminary? (Was it a dry time? How did you stay focused?)
    What was it like after graduating Seminary and entering the ‘real’ world?
    What led you to pursue a ph.D? Or how did you discern an M. Div was sufficient?
    Is Seminary for everyone?
    How much education in an institution is enough? (I know there are many variables. To be specific, an average Christian in California desiring to be in ministry (serving the local church) via. Bible Study, Small Group, leading worship via instruments.
    And
    Are there certain tendencies ‘students of the Word’ fall into that should be avoided?
    etc.. Any other insight or discernment is greatly appreciated. =]

    Thanks Preston & those that choose to chime in.