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Jesus is Lord—over all of life! Unfortunately, many Christians fail to consider the implications of Jesus’ lordship over anything other than their church life. This is particularly true when it comes to a person’s educational and career choices.

David Kinnaman, in his recent book You Lost Me, explains some startling statistics about the way Christians approach education. Only 16% of Christians report learning how the Bible applies to their field or area of interest. This means that 84% of Christians spend their lives in a career, but have never been taught how their Christian faith should play out in that career!

And the problem begins earlier than a person’s career. Kinnaman also found that only 11% of Christians report receiving helpful input from a pastor or church worker about their education.

Eternity Blog Image (Re-Imagine Education)The implications? The church is sending young people out to be educated and devote their lives to a career, but we are leaving them clueless as to how their faith informs their education or career. We may be doing a good job of teaching them about church life, but we are not preparing the next generation to take their faith beyond church walls.

We all hear horror stories about our kids losing their faith in college. While it seems these statistics have been exaggerated, this remains a legitimate concern. But perhaps the more disturbing reality is that Christians are entering their education and career without Christian guidance related to their field. This practically guarantees that they will adopt a worldly standard of success in their careers, and sets them up to waste what could be a fruitful mission field.

The solution to these problems is holistic gospel living. We need to see how the gospel shapes all of life: our education, our careers, our church life—all of it!

This is our mission at Eternity Bible College. Because the church needs help in training the next generation to think and live biblically in all of life, our mission is to partner with churches in shaping people into world-changers.

Boot Camp AdWe do this with a war-time mentality. We believe that college should look more like a boot camp than a country club, so we train people to live and die well. Think of Eternity Bible College as a boot camp for life, for college, for your career, for your ministry, for your God-given mission. The cost is low, the academic and spiritual rigor is high, and the result will transform your mind and heart before you enter the mission field in your college or career.

Give us one year before you enter college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your major and career.

Or give us one year after you graduate from college and we’ll train you to understand the Bible and all of its implications for your field.

The Bible is extremely relevant to everything you want to do in life. Your interests, your studies, and your career are essential to the mission that God has given you to accomplish in this world. We simply cannot afford to send out well-intentioned Christians who have no clue how their faith relates to their life’s work. We all spend years preparing ourselves for our professional careers. But how much time have you given to preparing yourself for your primary calling of making disciples through your life and career?

Invest a year into our Certificate in Transformational Leadership program. Enroll in spiritual boot camp. Ensure that the years you invest in your education and career are gospel-saturated and effective for the sake of God’s kingdom. Learn more here.

Josh GraumanAs I mentioned in my previous blog, I am excited to be starting a new program in South LA for training cross-cultural church planters. In this post I want to dive in to what the program is going to look like.

My heart as a pastor is to walk in discipleship with people. Some might take that to mean that study should be informal and non-structured, but discipleship doesn’t mean “non-academic.” Discipleship should include rigorous study of Scripture. We have designed The Apprenticeship to include both structured teaching (a full 3-year, 93-unit M.Div. level program), as well as walking alongside our pastors in inner-city ministry. We will study Hebrew, Greek, and Genesis to Revelation chapter by chapter.

Why go into so much depth in such a “practical” program (roughly 75% of the formal program is Bible and original languages)? In short, it is because we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Studying the Bible in depth is extremely practical. While some may view Judges, Jonah, or Jude to be books that may change your theology but aren’t very practical, we believe each of these books have massive implications for your daily lives and topics as commonplace as how you relate to your next-door neighbor.

At Eternity Bible College, we spend about half of our class time doing Biblical Theology. This means that we study Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, which allows us to focus on what God focuses on in the Bible. As a professor, I don’t choose the topics that are important to me. God has already set our agenda in Scripture. And by walking through Scripture chapter by chapter, we can see how revelation unfolds in God’s time, and keep context primary in our study.

We are adopting this same model for studying Scripture in The Apprenticeship. Students will develop the tools to derive their theology and practice from Scripture alone, and will be freed from the shackles of pragmatism and legalism.

This fits perfectly into our vision of equipping apprentices to plant churches cross-culturally. Church planters must be able to rigorously study Scripture on their own, and know how to derive theology, philosophy of ministry, and application to a wide variety of circumstances and topics. Every culture is unique, and yet the Bible is the answer to all the problems of every subculture around the world. So that’s why such a large portion of our program focuses on teaching the apprentices how to rightly divide the Word and apply it in various contexts. (Click for more info on the importance of Biblical Theology or Hebrew and Greek.)

Hebrew BibleYet we still believe that our study of Scripture must be applied to daily life or it hasn’t been understood correctly. In fact, it is impossible to understand the Bible as God intended without applying it to real life. The Bible addresses our thoughts, motives, and lifestyles, and so to understand it properly we must be in contexts where these are dealt with. And so that is why I am so passionate about the rest of our program. There will be lots of time for “fireside” discussions, prayer, and doing ministry and life together. Although I am going to be heading up the program, our apprentices will also learn from and walk with other pastors as we minister in the inner city together. Here we have cultures colliding as many hispanics are moving into one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and we have the privilege of planting a church here that brings the unity and hope of the gospel.

Once again there is a lot more information on our website, but that gives you an idea of what I am going to be embarking upon. We would ask that you keep us in prayer and if you know anyone interested in training for cross-cultural church planting, that you direct them our way! Click here for more info.

Josh GraumanI recently announced that I will be leading an internship program through my church, Cornerstone South LA. We call it The Apprenticeship, and it’s designed to train cross-cultural church planters. This is something that has been in my mind for quite a long time, and I’m excited to see it becoming a reality.

As anyone who knows me well can attest, I have always viewed myself first and foremost as a pastor. For the past ten years I have loved being a part of what Eternity Bible College is doing, investing in students, and even being able to help design the curriculum. I love Eternity’s heart and vision. And yet I have always felt a tension when teaching students that I have not been able to disciple outside of the classroom. As much as I can teach students in class, my passion is to invest in people through the local church.

It was this tension that led me to pursue teaching the Old Testament module at our Simi Valley campus. The last few years have been amazing as I’ve been able to teach the same group of students for nine hours every week, guiding them through the entire Old Testament. This has been a great experience for me and I know the process benefits the students. Yet my heart yearns for the kind of discipleship that can only take place outside of the classroom.

The Bible was written to deal with real life. So it is only in the context of life that we can really understand and apply what the Bible is trying to teach us. If we are only thinking about the Bible in a theoretical way, we are missing the point! As Jesus says, all true learning results in becoming like your teacher (Luke 6:40). That is why I always encourage students who are pursuing further education not to go study under “smart” people, but under people they want to emulate.

The Apprenticeship

This tension between academic learning and practical application is at the heart of everything Eternity Bible College does. I have observed that it is only when I am walking with students in the context of real life that I can bring up things that we learned in class that apply to specific situations. It is only when we see weaknesses or blind spots in real life that we can remind each other about what we have learned.

So I want to spend whatever time I have left on this earth investing in life-on-life discipleship. We are all here on this earth to fulfill our God-given mission to make disciples.

As I teach in a classroom setting, I know that my students are walking with their pastors and church families to apply the truths they are learning in the classroom. This is something Eternity requires and takes very seriously. As I evaluate my own heart, I want to take personal responsibility for those whom I am teaching, as Paul commands Timothy to do (2 Tim. 2:2). I want to walk with younger men in the trenches of local church ministry as we flesh out the deep truths of Scripture that we are learning in class. I believe this is something that God has gifted me to do, and I am excited to invest more deeply into a smaller group in the context of inner city ministry.

In a future post I will talk a little bit about what the program will look like, but in the meantime, feel free to look at the program website.

To this point, the books we’ve recommended as our book of the “month” have been popular level books—books that the average reader can get through without too much difficulty. This “month,” I’m recommending a book that will require more effort from the average reader, but I think it’s worth it.

The book is Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith and it’s the first in his “Cultural Liturgies” series. I think this is an important book, especially for those of us who are convinced of the importance of “worldview.” Here’s why.

Smith invites his readers to view our familiar world in an unfamiliar way. One poignant example he explores is the shopping mall. We believe the mall is a purely secular location that we visit on our terms to pick up items we need for our own reasons. But Smith paints the mall in a religious light (or rather, reveals the inherently religious nature of the mall, hence the term “cultural liturgies”).

Mall Cathedral

The moment we enter the mall, we gain a sense of transcendence from the vaulted architecture, the skylights, and the lack of windows, which divert our attention from the sea of cars outside and the mundanities of daily life. In this place, time is marked not by the ticking of the clock (which you’ll be hard pressed to find) but by cycle of festivals and celebrations for which the “cathedral” is regularly re-adorned. Oversized photographs on the walls and mannequins in shop windows function as icons, embodying for us a vision of the “good life,” reminding us of what our “worship” will produce and calling us inside to “taste and see.” When we decide to partake of this vision of the good life, we approach the altar, item(s) in hand, and the priestly salesclerk guides us in consummating our worship, sending us out with a benediction (“Thanks, have a great day”).

On one level, this is all nonsense—the mall is not a church. But Desiring the Kingdom argues that this interpretation of the mall is profoundly realistic. The world around us shapes us, not simply at the level of our intellect, but at the level of our desires. Commercials don’t convince us of the logic of buying their products, they appeal to our desires. They make us want it. And in doing so, Smith argues, the marketers are exhibiting a more biblical view of humanity than most churches hold.

Our society recognizes that we are not primarily thinkers. Rather, we are primarily lovers. We do what we do not because we follow our logic in every case, but because we are driven by desire. Think about it: Do you drink Starbucks coffee (or the more obscure and therefore more trendy type of coffee that you consider far superior to Starbucks) because you intellectually believe it is so much better than the alternative that you’re wiling to spend $2 for a small coffee and $5+ for other drinks? No. You drink Starbucks because your desires have been trained, not just for the flavor, but for the atmosphere and experience. It’s not necessarily illogical, but it’s deeper than logic. It’s about a vision of the good life that resides more in our gut than in our brain.

PrintAnd here’s where Smith’s argument gets very important. The world is busy shaping our desires. Meanwhile, the church fights back by filling our minds. We fight love with facts. This is where the worldview approach often falls short. Descartes famous saying, “I think therefore I am,” summarizes our default view of humanity. We are thinking beings. So put the right knowledge into a person’s head and he or she will behave accordingly. And there is some truth here. But we all know it’s not the whole picture. We don’t upgrade to the new iPhone because we believe the new features are worth the price. Our desires have been trained to despise our (months) old iPhone and long for the newest.

Smith’s solution is worship. Our desires are trained through worship, not just ideas. We need to shape our worldview, but we also need to shape our longings. We need formation, not just informationWe need to desire the kingdom. In this regard, Smith advocates liturgy, but in a broad sense. He’s not saying we all have to become “high church” in the sense that we all do responsive reading and observe lent. But he does argue that those things can play an important role in shaping our desires. Biblically speaking, we are whole beings. We’re not disembodied minds, we are embodied creatures. So involving our senses in worship, engraining deep habits and rituals into our routines can help to train our desires. It’s not just about thinking, it’s about worship. It’s about love. The marketers understand this, the church should as well.

That’s Smith’s overall contention, and I’ll warn you that he’s persuasive. As I said, it’s not the easiest book to read, but it’s also not the hardest. Smith intentionally took a middle path: the most scholarly discussions are moved to the footnotes, but the overall discussion is still meant to contribute to higher-level debates. Anyone who has had a year or more of college education should be able to hang with Smith’s arguments, and his writing style continually emphasizes key points.

This book has been very influential for me, and it’s shaping the way I view my role as a Christian, as a parent, as a church member, and as an educator. I would say this is one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time. Give it a shot.

 

Eternity Bible College GraduationIn the unrelenting stream of life, the significance of each event, each person, each thing often goes unappreciated. Milestones help us to pause and take stock of what has happened and why it matters.

This weekend’s graduation marks ten years of Eternity Bible College. I’ve been here for eight of those ten years, and looking back, I can testify that God has done amazing things. This weekend we hosted a vision banquet, where we celebrated what God has done and looked forward to what we believe God wants to do through Eternity.

In the midst of lectures, meetings, projects, grading, and all of the other consistent aspects of my job, the significance of it all sometimes hides just out of sight. I’m thankful for this milestone because it forced me to stop, look around, and remember that God has been working in miraculous ways.

I was reminded of the transformed lives we’ve sent out across the world. Of the supernatural financial provision that has carried us to this point. Of the unbelievably gifted staff, faculty, board members, students, and supporters of many kinds that God has brought to the school.

Perhaps best of all, I was so encouraged to see that God has taken the mission of Eternity Bible College and has been making that into a reality. Our graduates are able to bring transformation into so many areas of society, all around the world. Our graduates are able to work hard and graduate without being crippled by student debt—94% of our students have graduated debt free, and the remaining 6% have less than $2,000 to pay off. All of this has been happening in close partnership with local churches around the world, and our graduates are leaving with a passionate commitment to the church.

Looking back at these first ten years makes me very excited for the Kingdom of God. If you resonate with the mission of Eternity Bible College, I’d encourage you to take a look at one or more of the short videos below. We showed these at our vision banquet this weekend, and they tell the story of Eternity from a few different angles. If you’d like to partner with us in some way, please visit our partnership page. And thanks to everyone who has supported the school in so many ways over these past ten years!