Archives For Mission

As many of you know, Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. One of the most unique things about the school is that we are committed to graduating students debt free.

A recent article reports that “since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the amount of outstanding federal student loan debt owed to the government has skyrocketed, increasing by 463 percent.” Currently, America’s student debt stands at $674,580,000,000.00. Yikes!

When Francis Chan started Eternity, he saw the vicious cycle of how student debt cripples Christians from furthering the kingdom. To be a missionary, for instance, Invest in Eternityyou’ve got to get training, which includes some sort of Bible education. To get solid Bible education, you’ve got to pay $30,000-50,000 a year to learn the Bible at most Christian universities. After graduating, you apply to a sending agency only to get told that you have too much debt to be sent overseas. Now, you’ve got to work for the next 10 (or 30) years to pay off your student debt so that you can go overseas. But in reality, you never leave. Mission stifled.

The same cycle rears its ugly head for pastors and lay leaders. We tell them to get trained and then pay them a modest wage that doesn’t cover the $800/month (for 30 years) loan payment they’re enslaved to.

Now, smart students who get scholarships or who come from rich families who foot the bill are exempt from this cycle. But from Genesis to Revelation, the kingdom of God is rarely furthered by people who are smart or come from rich families. The 12 thugs Jesus called apostles are case in point. And they turned the world upside down.

John Dickerson points out in his book The Great Evangelical Recession that the evangelical church is facing a financial crisis. We’ve built unsustainable ways of doing church and unless we learn to run things much more efficiently, many churches and organizations are going to crumble over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, tuition costs at most evangelical schools continue to soar, and student debt continues to rise.

The problem doesn’t just apply to pastors and missionaries. In fact, most of our students at Eternity do not aspire to be full-time pastors or over-seas missionaries. Most end up working secular jobs upon graduation and become lay-leaders and chanservants in their local churches. But being freed from the vicious debt-cycle furthers their mission as well. Because now, these graduates do not scramble around finding high-paying jobs in order to pay off debt. Now, they seek out a secular job because they see that job as a mission field.

For instance, one recent graduate named Alise is an artist. And now after graduating, she’s been equipped to apply a rich biblical worldview to art. If she was enslaved to her school debt, then Alise would need to pursue one of two things upon graduation: A rich husband or a high paying job. Reaching the art community, or producing theologically rich art, would be nothing more than pipe dream realized in the finger paintings of her future kids tacked on the refrigerator door (“That’s a nice painting, sweetheart, but does it really reflect the Imago Dei?”).

Fortunately, Alise graduated debt free. And so she moved into an art district in downtown Portland, where she lives missionally—producing art and rubbing shoulders with artists. The gospel has wiggled its way into a dark pocket of society,

Alise Hay, a servant of Christ and graduate of Eternity Bible College

Alise Hay, a servant of Christ and graduate of Eternity Bible College

through the brush and paint of a creative student with a dream. Mission advanced.

We want to keep graduating students like Alise, who can apply the gospel to every vocation, regardless of whether such a vocation shells out enough dough to pay off a pile of student debt.

Come partner with us!

Eternity is currently running an end of the year campaign to help support our mission. If you desire to partner with us financially, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign/. All of your donations are tax-deductible and will be used efficiently to train our students, like Alise, to live and die well.

2013-14 Giving Campaign

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Depending on your background and personal convictions, Halloween is either really exciting or really dark. Or something in between. Though most people tend to feel strongly one way or the other, there are actually important issues involved in the way we celebrate Halloween, and developing a clear-cut biblical response to this complex holiday is not as simple as we sometimes make it seem.

In the spirit of thinking theologically about everything (which is more or less what this whole blog is devoted to), I’m linking to a few blog posts that we ran last year at this time. In these three posts, I explained why I was cool with my kids trick-or-treating, my colleague and friend Chris Hay explained why he wasn’t, and our friend and colleague Matt Swaney made us both look foolish (jk, jk, jk—but seriously…) by explaining that he decides the issue “missionally.”

If this is something you’re wrestling with at all, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read three different approaches taken by three people who are committed to honoring God on October 31.

 

Trick or Treat Yes

Trick or Treat No

Trick or Treat Maybe

 

 

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the seriesHomosexuality in the Bible

What does Jesus’s love for harlots, tax-collectors, and other outcasts tell us about how He would approach the issue of same-sex love today? Put differently: Since Jesus loved sinners unconditionally, does this mean that Jesus would be (or is)

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

thelatterdays.blogspot.com

frustrated at Churches today who oppose same-sex relations?

The reverend John Spong says yes: “the church…cannot claim to be the body of Christ if it fails to welcome all whom Christ would welcome.” And since Christ welcomed harlots and tax gatherers—the sinners of the day—so also the body of Christ should welcome the LGBT community, especially since they have been emotionally (sometimes physically) beat up by the church.

Part of what Spong and others say is correct. I too condemn as unchristian the hate speech and abuse that some so-called “Christians” have hurled at anyone made in God’s image. A good chunk of the Evangelical church has gone about this issue all wrong, and I have a genuine pain for anyone—including several friends—who have been hurt by the church over this issue, and I want to learn how to mediate Christ’s love to all areas of our broken world.

I also cherish, embrace, and promote—sometimes amid much criticism—the radical, counterintuitive grace of Jesus, which I have blogged about here, here, here, and here. And here and here. And here. I’m certainly not some crusty curmudgeon who wants to put grace on a leash to protect our churches from being overrun by gay people, or other sinners like smokers and drinkers and dancers. The more the merrier, I say. I genuinely hope that our churches become filled with gay people. After all, Jesus wasn’t born in a feeding trough in order to attend some plastic church in the burbs. He came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and chase down wayward sons.

But what does Jesus do when He finds sick people?

He heals them.

This is the main problem I see with the logic of those who enlist Jesus’s radical grace in service of unconditional support of the LGBT community: Christ-like love does not demand unconditional acceptance of behavior.

We celebrate Jesus’s healing of the sick, finding of the lost, and cherish both Jesus’s acceptance of the woman caught in adultery and His life-given command to “go and sin no more.” That’s because Jesus’s love, though not conditioned upon behavior, does not endorse sin any more than a righteous physician would ignore an infection.

If we take the rhythm and pattern of Jesus’s life seriously and swim with the same ethical current, Christians today should hang out with, build relationships with, listen to, have drinks with, and show compassionate love toward LGBT people who have been beaten down, marginalized, and outcasted by society.

But such unconditional, counterintuitive, scandalous love does not demand an unconditional acceptance or approval of behavior. When Jesus embraced the sinner—the one in need of healing—He didn’t applaud their behavior: He proclaimed “Go and sin no more,” not “go and turn a few more tricks tonight, and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee tomorrow.”

Jesus reached out to and befriended tax-gatherers, but he didn’t endorse extortion.

He hung out with prostitutes, but he didn’t sanction illicit sex.

He admired the faith of Roman soldiers, but he didn’t endorse violence (or the paganism that saturated the Roman military).

I’m not trying to smuggle homosexual love in the back door of Jesus’s prohibitions. I’m only trying to make a larger point that Jesus’s radical love for sinner does not mean that He was indifferent to sin, even though his love was not conditioned upon us fixing our behavior. Indeed, the physician doesn’t expect the patient to come to the hospital with a head start. “Here you go, doc! I went ahead and ripped out my tonsils; you can take it from here…” The Physician joyfully works on patients in a coma with no health care (eat your heart out, Obama!). But…He works. He operates. He heals. He takes old pieces of His beautiful creation and restores and transforms, spinning out masterpieces of new creation.

Could it be that our culture has defined “love” as unqualified and unconditional toleration and affirmation? But Jesus, being true to His first-century Jewish context, never saw love and behavior as incompatible: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 13), not “If you love me, you can live however you think will bring you the most earthly happiness.”

Marriage, sex, and children are gifts given by the Creator, not inherent rights demanded by creatures.

“Yes,” you may say. “Love the sinner and hate the sin!” But I’ve got one better. How about we “love the sinner and hate our own sin.”

When heterosexual Christians seek to love LGBT people, they should hate their own greed, pride, self-righteousness, and the lack of love shown to their heterosexual spouse. Let’s put to death our own deeds of the flesh with humble, relentless passion before we reach out to the “other sinner” in some clinical fashion. Heterosexual Christians are sinners plugged into the life-support of grace. Remember that.

Now, you logicians out there have noticed that this entire post begs the question: “Is homosexual sex a sin?” So far in my study, I’d say yes. But stay tuned for the rest of this (rather long) blog series. We’ve still yet to cover the most important passage in the debate: Romans 1:24-27.

Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. It’s not even your typical Bible College. It’s a place where students come—according to our mission statement—“to live and die well.”

chan-EBCThere are several things that make Eternity unique. Most people who are familiar with us know that we offer courses at the most affordable price possible—$175 a unit. What would cost you a semester at most schools can get you an entire 4-year degree at Eternity.

But Eternity is more than an affordable Bible school.

Another thing that stands out is the relational atmosphere. Most students get to know their professors very well here, and there are no thick walls between teacher and student. Students borrow our cars, share our meals, or sometimes live in our houses. Even our president will have a couple students living under his roof every semester.

But Eternity is much more than just a relational school.

Consider the nature of our classes. We believe that both heart and mind are essential to living out the Christian faith. If we cranked out students who were all heart and no mind, then they will be like engines with no rudders. If we create students with large heads and small hearts, not only would they look funny but they’d probably do more harm EBCthan good for God’s kingdom. This is why every professor, every class, every assignment at Eternity seeks to challenge both heart and mind so that we can produce graduates who can think and live well—and die well.

But Eternity is more than just a well-balanced educational institution.

All of these are important factors that make Eternity a unique school. But one thing stands out the most to my mind.

Eternity exists to further the mission.

Jesus told His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-29). A few days later, He said: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And thus began the impossible mission; the mission of a rag-tag band of Jesus-followers, who against all odds, in the face of persecution, with the prospect of political upheaval, would take the good news about a risen King to the ends of the earth. The disciples would multiply and be persecuted. And the more they were persecuted the more they multiplied. And the more they multiplied the more they were persecuted. Through it all, the King demonstrates His power through the Spirit working in these outcasts to penetrate all areas of culture with the good news that Israel’s Messiah reigns over the earth.

And that’s what I love about Eternity. We’ve taken the baton from Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church in equipping unlikely heroes in “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). And I love it!

Many people don’t think of “mission” when they think of theological education. They probably assume that Bible Colleges exist in order to make Christians smarter about doctrine and theology. Maybe they do—but we don’t. If giving knowledge to college students were the goal of Eternity, I wouldn’t be here. No way. I’ve got better things to do than make 20 somethings, who already struggle with pride, puffed up with more knowledge.

As an Old Testament professor, I long to take my students to the Garden of Eden, to Mount Sinai, through the Red Sea, and into the sands of the desert order that they come face to face with the Holy One of Israel. I want them to feel the heat from the burning bush, cry out in agony with ebc 2Jeremiah, and feel the pains of death as they walk across the valley of dry bones with Ezekiel. Why? Because such an encounter with Yahweh generates and sustains a holy passion for mission.

We’re not just training college students. We’re raising up martyrs.

Quite honestly, the front-line ministries excite me the most. I’m involved in a ministry called Touch Nepal, which supports indigenous pastors in a Hindu nation. My church supports another ministry called Zoe International, which rescues children out of the sex-trade industry and saturates them with the gospel. I love these ministries. They excite me more than any other ministry I’m involved in.

But if the kingdom of God is like a garden, then Touch Nepal and Zoe International—and a host of other ministries preaching and living the gospel in the hard to reach areas—are the fruit. They’re the tomatoes, the cherries, the 20 pound watermelons sprawled out over the earth. But a garden’s soil needs to be fertilized, tilled, churned up, and revitalized. That’s where Eternity comes in.

We are the rototiller, the shovel, the bag of nutrients spread over the ground. Eternity nourishes and revitalizes the soil; otherwise, there may not be any fruit next year.

Historically, this has been the mission of Bible colleges. They were originally planted to stir up the soil in order to further the mission, and that’s the heart of Eternity. We exist to train students to live and die well—both near and far, local and global. We raise up artists to reach the art community, public school teachers to transform education, business owners to construct gospel-centered, counter-cultural businesses. And we raise up pastors and missionaries to evangelize the nations.

By teaching at Eternity, I’m digging graves for aspiring martyrs, whose blood will be redeemed by the King whose blood saved the world.

Come die with us, whether as a student or a partner in enabling us to fulfill our mission.

The Foot-Washing God

Mark Beuving —  September 11, 2013

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” – John 13:3–5

FootwashingThis passage has fascinated Christians throughout church history. Jesus washing his disciples’ feet has been an enigmatic gesture. We duplicate it from time to time at weddings or in church services. Other times we try to get at the heart of servitude behind it, imitating the spirit of foot-washing.

We all seem to recognize that this is a powerful act that Jesus performed.

Consider what Jesus did here. Foot-washing isn’t what it used to be (nostalgic sigh). At the risk of sounding vain, you could wash my feet without being too repulsed. But I don’t walk consistently long distances over consistently dusty and pack-animal fecesed roads wearing only sandals like everyone in the first century. I can say with confidence that Jesus bent down and washed some nasty feet that day.

And then think about John’s wording. With the realization that “the Father had given all things into his hands,” that “he had come from God,” and that “he was going back to God,” Jesus took the natural next step. He got up, swapped out his clothes for a servant’s towel, and did a servant’s duty.

Jesus wasn’t performing some symbolic gesture to identify himself as the kind of person who serves. No, Jesus actually did what a servant does. He was a servant in that moment. And in that moment, he had the full realization that all power belonged to him. He worked as a servant knowing full well that he came from the universe’s throne and was heading back to it shortly.

And here’s the craziest part of the whole thing for me. Judas was at that dinner party. John carefully explains that this foot-washing scene took place “when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (v. 2). Which means that this is a bit different than a husband washing his wife’s feet during a wedding ceremony (are a wife’s feet ever cleaner than on her wedding day?). Jesus (in the moment he knew he had all power) literally became the servant of his most bitter enemy (in the moment Satan was most influencing him).

Dante placed Judas in the worst circle of hell. Jesus washed his feet.

Why did Jesus do this? Here’s his explanation:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master” (vv. 14–16).

Jesus became a servant—actually performing the actually degrading actual work of an actual servant—so that we would learn to do the same. “A servant is not greater than his master.” But how many of us are “greater” than Jesus in this regard? Maybe we would perform a symbolic foot-washing of already clean feet. But no way would we actually do what an actual servant does. No way would we degrade ourselves to help the fully capable churchgoers around us. And NO WAY would we do anything to bless our enemies, especially not a sacrificial act that puts us to shame even as it brings them honor. We’re better than that.

But Jesus wasn’t. And he tells us not to be.

 

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