Archives For Christian Education

I’ll never forget back in seminary overhearing a fellow student say, “Wow, he’s not a pastor for a reason.” It took me second to figure out what he meant. But after listening to the same dry, monotone, impractical and irrelevant lecture read off the pages of 20 year old notes, I knew what he was saying. Some seminary professors belong in the ivory tower and they should stay in the ivory tower. If they wandered behind a church pulpit, few would understand (or care about) what they were saying.

I’m thankful that I had a lot of professors over the years that broke this stereotype, many of which are pastors and professors—and do a great job at both. However, the few negative examples I’ve encountered over the years have motivated me more than the positive examples. Since I always wanted to be a professor, I made a commitment to punch myself in the face if I ever resort to giving boring, irrelevant, ivory-tower-ish lectures for a living.

Another incident in my life shaped me from the opposite perspective. When I studied archaeology and geography in Israel in Fall of 1999, my professor kept giving us stuff to read by liberal scholars. He himself was a conservative (and a passionate teacher!), so I asked him one day: “Why do we only read books written by liberals?” He answered: “Well, I want my students to read the best scholarship out there”—what he said next changed my life—“and few Evangelicals do good scholarship.”

He was thinking in particular of archaeology, and for the most part he’s right. Most of the top ancient Near Eastern archaeologists are not evangelical (or even Christian; Bryant Wood is a rare exception). But I didn’t understand why it had to be this way. Why couldn’t Evangelicals also be top-notch scholars? At that moment, I determined to never sacrifice my faith on the altar of scholarship, nor sacrifice scholarship on the altar of my faith.

Jesus is Lord over both our hearts and minds and He wants us to worship him with passion and precision. If you only focus on the mind—thinking deeply about theology and doctrine—but not the heart, you will live a very intelligent but irrelevant life. But if you’re all heart and no mind, you’ll cruise across the sea of life with a massive engine and no rudder.

This is why at Eternity Bible College we teach to transform both heart and mind. We want our students to think deeply and live passionately. We challenge our students academically, not to temper their passion but to fuel it. I’ve never understood the logic that says you should study less to have more passion. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes people go to Bible college or seminary and end up dispassionate. It’s also true that many missionaries and pastors end up apathetic, burnt out, or in some cases lose their faith. But that doesn’t mean that we should prevent people from becoming missionaries and pastors.

Studying doesn’t kill passion. Worshipless and heartless study might. But the Scriptures we teach were breathed out by a Creator who touched Mt. Sinai and set it ablaze, who spoke to Isaiah and crumpled him to his knees, who whispered 10 billion galaxies into existence. “This is the one to whom I will look,” says the LORD: “He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa 66:2). How could we not pour over with painstaking study every single precious and powerful word of our Creator?

It’s so exciting to see our graduates get this. One of my favorite times of the year is graduation in May. I love to look out across the student body and see a bunch of wild-eyed radicals chomping at the bit to further God’s kingdom in creative ways. Only now they’re equipped with a thick biblical worldview. And I love how our graduates get creative. One student, Justin Enerson, graduated in 2013 with his Bachelor of Biblical Studies. While a student, Justin spent a year teaching aspiring members of the Skid Row homeless community to weld. For their projects, he taught them to build bike-drawn ambulances to send to remote African locations where low-cost, efficient transportation is needed. Justin then moved for a time to Africa to work with Zambikes, where he distributed these “Zambulances.”

Justin Enerson (the white guy) in Africa, celebrating with a village that had just received the gift of a bike-drawn ambulance.

Justin Enerson (the white guy) in Africa, celebrating with a village that had just received the gift of a bike-drawn ambulance.

Passion. Heart. And Mind. Justin’s confrontation with God’s word stirred up a desire for mission. And impoverished Africans are reaping the reward.

Eternity Bible College is running an end of the year campaign. To help support the mission of Eternity, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign/. All of your donations are tax-deductable and will be used efficiently to train our students, like Justin, to live and die well. 

2013-14 Giving Campaign

WritingIn honor of the launch of our Fall semester, I’m going to explore an interesting phenomenon: plagiarism. Few will be surprised to learn the truth. Christian students plagiarize, whether they attend public or private colleges, secular or Christian universities.

I find the psychology behind the urge to cheat fascinating, but I also want to bring a theological perspective to bear. And keep in mind that what I will say about plagiarism here finds its expression in many forms of cheating and corner-cutting in many professions.

Why would a Christian student, genuinely committed to Christian standards of morality, steal intellectual property from another source, cheat on an exam, or lie about the amount of reading he or she has done for a course? I believe the answer is nearly always the same: justification.

Even the most committed Christian need only look to the Noble End to overshadow the Sketchy Means of getting there. So we justify some shady tactics (we intentionally avoid thinking about the shadiness) in order to gain a position where we’ll be able to provide for our families, impact the world, and give to our churches (of course, we would never spend any of that money on filling our own lives with things we don’t need).

I recently read a fascinating article in the Journal of Higher Education written by a guy who makes his living by charging students to write their papers and take their courses for them (yes, this includes ethics courses!). Perhaps the most startling aspect of the article was his casual remark that seminary students—those preparing to be pastors—were a great boost to his business.

Perhaps the assignment is unfair or unnecessary (“this is just busywork”). Maybe you could see how it would be helpful to most students, but you’ve already thought about this topic quite a bit, and you’re now busy with bigger and better things, so…

…so you’ll claim credit for something you didn’t write? You’ll copy the answers out of a book? Smuggle in a cheat sheet? “Refresh your memory” by peeking over another’s test-taking shoulder? Sell your birthright for a bowl of soup?

ScantronLet’s be honest here. You’re not really cheating on a test. You’re not really plagiarizing.

You’re selling your soul to gain a pathetically microscopic portion of the world. You’re trading your every ounce of your integrity for a slightly higher percentage on one assignment in one course in one degree program in one school.

Could it possibly be worth it? Does this question deserve an answer? And yet Christians cheat on tests and steal from sources on a regular basis. And yet Christians cut corners and engage in little lies in workplaces around the world.

Every student needs to ask himself: Why am I taking this class or pursuing this degree in the first place? Am I doing this to get a good job? If that were so, then perhaps “bending” the rules and “borrowing” some material is nothing more than an innovative way of outstripping the competition.  Your career is the important thing, so if you can enter your career competently and do a little less work in getting there, isn’t that just an example of “working smarter, not harder”?

But I don’t think the point of education is the job you’ll get or the career you’ll build. No, the point of education is becoming a certain type of person. Education is about improving yourself, and therefore the process is more important than the grade.

Make no mistake:

  • If you enter (and move all the way through) your education already knowing what you need to know, you’re a fool.
  • If you think education is about a diploma, you’re not likely to learn much in life.
  • If you’re more concerned about your career than the type of person you will be in that career, you do indeed have bigger things to worry about than studying for that test or carefully researching that paper.
  • If your paycheck or potential promotions mean more to you than the state of your soul, then you’re not going anywhere in life, regardless of your salary or title.

In writing this, of course, I’m a hypocrite speaking to hypocrites. But there’s never been a better time for the Christian community to recognize that “everyone else does it” is a great reason NOT to do it, that our souls matter more than our grades or careers, and that the only Source of evaluation and promotion that matters is the very One who said “You shall not steal.”

In my last post, I introduced you to a vital ministry brewing here in Zambia: African Christian University (ACU). I also made the bold claim that this school has the potential to put a real dent in the spiritual and material poverty in Africa. It may seem absurd that one school has such promise, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it does. ACU, I believe, could be a major catalyst toward Africa’s solution. But before we talk solution, let’s look at the problem.

kids for sale

The future of Africa

After 40 years of dumping trillions of western dollars into Africa, the continent is still struggling. Hurling money oversees hasn’t helped African in the long run. Such (often) mismanaged charity has created an attitude of dependency and stripped away the need or desire for self-sufficiency, not to mention fostered wide-spread corruption both inside and outside the church. Therefore, many experts locate the solution to Africa’s demise in three main areas: leadership, education, and the gospel. Here’s an oversimplified explanation.

Leadership has been a major problem across the continent, as African Economist George Ayittey pointed out quite thoroughly in his book Africa in Chaos. Bad African leadership has crippled the continent. The solution therefore is raising up a new generation of African leaders who will better manage the vast resources in the country. Such influential leaders, who can strategically fill such a weighty role, generally come from the educated class.

This leads to the second point: education. Many Africans who want (and can afford) quality education leave the country to get it, but then they typically don’t come back. What Africa needs, therefore, is to focus on improving higher education in Africa. Quality African education will cultivate a more sustainable solution to Africa’s problems. The hope of Africa lies in Africa.

But as a Christian, educated leadership may improve Africa’s material problem but it won’t change people’s hearts (which actually may end up hurting the material condition as well.) What is needed is theological education. But not just theological education that trains pastors—though this is still a tremendous need!—but liberal arts education that’s governed by a Christian worldview. We need doctors, engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, journalists, chemists, historians, and school teachers, who can receive a top-notch education in Africa that’s focused on the Lordship of Jesus in all things so that this next generation of leaders can transform Africa for Christ. All three areas (leadership, education, gospel) are necessary.

Patricia and John

Patricia and John, two of ACU’s board of directors

And all three areas beautifully converge at ACU. The school wants to provide a top of the line education in all subjects—including theology—that are taught from a Christian worldview. So when students study business, they will learn how businesses should reflect kingdom values and further God’s reign over the earth. Aspiring journalists will look into the complex fabric of human affairs and testify to God’s stamp on human nature and history. Chemists will cultivate worship as they explore the ingenuity of God’s creation. In all of this, ACU will maintain the same academic rigor of any university in the West. Africans won’t need to go to Europe or North America to receive credible training. They can just go to Zambia; they can go to ACU. And they can seek to bring Africa under the rule of Christ as they pursue gospel-centered vocations.

But this is just the beginning. Ken has come up with a “Student Labor Program,” where students will not only learn in the classroom, but on the ground. The ACU campus will provide opportunities for students to learn agriculture by farming the land and caring for livestock. They will learn value-added business skills by selling their goods that they harvested from the earth (think: creation mandate, Gen 2). They will learn basic work skills by taking ownership of their own campus: upkeep, repairs, and other operation needs. They will even learn how to run a fish-hatchery from the lake that Ken wants to build. In all this, these students—the future of Africa—will experience discipleship both inside and outside the classroom, so that they can go out and disciple others. In the long run, Ken wants to work himself out of a job. He would love to see ACU’s alumni return to the school to take

Me with Ken Turbull, the director of ACU

Me with Ken Turnbull, the director of ACU

ownership of the project. How cool would it be to not only see the vision of ACU come to fruition, but ultimately see Zambians take ownership of the school.

Once again, I’m reminded that God is on the move around the world. Sometimes it’s tough to see this when we race around in our own little world with tunnel vision. I know, because I fall into that trap almost daily! I would love to see the global church reach across oceans to join arms with one another so that Jesus’ kingship over the globe would be unmistakable to the nations.

Most of us could think of a lot reasons for not becoming missionaries. Some of these reasons may be legitimate. Many will probably be excuses. Today I’m going to share the story of one of my co-workers. Kristen’s reason for staying off the mission field is mind-boggling.

Indian SlumsWhile serving on a short-term missions trip in India, Kristen saw Christians effectively ministering to people in the slums by teaching them English. She thought, “I can do that—maybe this is how you want to use me, Lord.”

Logically, her first step was to get trained to teach and to be a missionary. So she attended a well-known, prestigious Christian college. Kristen loved her college experience and felt genuinely prepared for years of ministry ahead. She saved a ton of money by completing two years of her education at a junior college, so she only had to foot the bill for two years of Christian higher education.

After finishing her degree in education, she moved back home to get to know the Bible a little better by studying at Eternity Bible College. She was following the responsible, textbook path to the mission field.

But then she looked at her financial situation. Her two years of Christian training left her in significant debt, and the time had come to pay up. God providentially opened up a position for Kristen at Eternity Bible College as the Assistant Registrar, and she has been a huge blessing to all of us. God has also opened up her heart to continuing her ministry with the college students here. So Kristen’s story has a happy “ending” (of course, the story continues), and God has faithfully led her every step of the way.

But the dark side of the story is the reality that if Kristen was still convinced that her calling was to the mission field, she would not be able to follow that calling. Why? Because she got trained for ministry.

Does that sound a bit off? Before a missionary leaves the country, he or she works hard to partner with churches and individuals who are willing to support the ministry overseas. But if that missionary was trained at a typical Christian college, he or she could not even begin the hard work of raising those funds until the nearly impossible task of paying off many tens of thousands of dollars in student debt had been settled.

Here’s where the shameless plug comes in. One of the reasons that Francis Chan and his team started Eternity Bible College was the problem of student debt. They saw potential missionaries being turned away by sending agencies because of outstanding student loans. The world needs schools that can train Christians for effective ministry without binding them hand and foot with financial fetters.

Let me insist that it is not easy to train students for $175 per unit. We all—board, staff, faculty, students, supporting churches and individuals—make big sacrifices to make it happen. But stories like Kristen’s assure us that what we are doing is essential.

Watch the video below to hear more about Kristen’s story, and visit our site to learn more about partnering with us or studying at Eternity.