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.”
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.