Archives For Education

Christians sometimes aren’t the best at handling disagreement. Conservative Christians are often the worst. Have you ever been in a situation where two people disagree over some (non-essential) theological issue, and very quickly the blood starts to boil, faces turn red, and it’s not long beforeangry one’s character is slandered all because he or she held to a different view?

Or worse, have you ever been in a setting where the tension is thick and no one knows what to say? One person has said something that everyone else disagrees with. And since no one knows how to have a healthy discussion in the context of unity, everyone maintains an awkward silence with a matching posture.

Even worse, have you ever been in a classroom or living room where everyone is on the same page on some issue—you’re all Calvinists, or Charismatic, or Premillenial, or whatever. And rather than trying to understand the view you all disagree with, you sit around and caricature the other side, demonize those who hold it, and pat each other on the back for getting it right while all those other poor, less intelligent, and less biblical fellows “out there” have it all wrong?

Me too. That’s why I love teaching at Eternity Bible College. We don’t do that here. We don’t train our students to slam on other views, nor do we teach them to memorize the right answers. We’re here to educate, not indoctrinate. Rather than telling them what to think, we saturate our students in God’s word and lead them discover the truth for themselves in the context of community, discussion, and yes—disagreement.

Because in disagreement, we are forced to reconsider our views. We are pushed to think a bit deeper, more critically, about what we think we know. In disagreement, we are driven back to Scripture to make sure that what we think the Bible says is actually what the Bible says. Sometimes it’s not.

This is why we’ve decided to do a few more posts on the question about Ezekiel’s temple prophecy (Ezek. 40-48). Last week, I wrote a few blogs about what I think the Bible says about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled. However, in no way do I want to give the impression that this is the only view that has biblical merit. In fact, there are other views promoted here at Eternity and I love this diversity! This is why I’ve asked Josh Grauman (Associate Professor of Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, and angry 2everything else that has to do with God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Bible) to write a couple of posts defending a different view than the one I promoted. Because here at Eternity, you’ll hear both perspectives and you’ll be forced to believe what the Bible says—not what Josh or Preston say—about this doctrinal issue and that theological debate.

By way of introduction, Josh Grauman is one of the smartest guys I know—and I’ve been around a lot of smart people. While most of us are out surfing, playing Xbox, or watching reruns of Lost, Josh is meticulously pouring over the original languages of the Bible. He has translated more than half of the Bible from the original languages and has taught classes on nearly every book of the Bible. He wrote his own Hebrew language textbook; he developed his own Bible software called Scroll Tag. And he’s thought deeply about how Ezekiel’s temple prophecy will be fulfilled.

So I encourage you to read the Josh’s posts carefully. Then go back and read my 3 posts carefully. Then go back and study Ezekiel 40-48 even more carefully. I love Josh like a brother and respect his views immensely. And even though he’s wrong about Ezekiel’s temple (gotta have some fun with it!), I hope that we all, including myself, will be driven back to God’s sacred word yet again, so that our views are grounding in the text and not in our tradition.

A recent editorial piece in Christianity Today written by Mark Galli titled “Higher Ed at a Crossroad” caught our collective attention at Eternity Bible College. The article presents the case of a particular seminary to exemplify ways Christian Colleges may provide a high quality, low cost education with an emphasis on the importance of the local church.

Money TrapWe strongly believe in making quality biblical education affordable and accessible to the local church, and have actually already implemented many of the suggestions Galli makes. We believe that we exist to serve the local church. Therefore, we work hard to keep our costs low so students can graduate debt-free, and be available for whatever assignment God may have for them without the ball-and-chain of debt. Tuition at Eternity is $175 per credit hour. The total cost of tuition for a 4-year bachelor’s degree at Eternity is $22,400. The average tuition per year at private non-profit colleges is $35,000. That means students can earn a 4-year degree at Eternity for about 65% of the cost of attending most other colleges for only one year!

We are assuming demand, since most of our faculty are full time ministry practitioners serving in local churches, and they know the needs of the local church. We have our entire degree program online, so that students can stay in their local church and still get a high caliber Bible education. We even offer our Introduction to Discipleship Counseling class for-credit at no cost.

We have also taken material from our college-level courses, focused on the key points, and presented them simply and attractively through our Silo Project.These self-paced mini-courses work well for those who want to learn about the Bible, theology, and ministry but don’t want to mess around with college credit. They can also be easily incorporated into Small Groups or Adult Fellowships.

All of our students are required to be actively serving in a local church. We see our mission as equipping men and women to serve in the local church, and recognize that they need to be doing it as they are getting their education, not after they get it. We work hard to avoid the artificial ‘Bible College Bubble’ by having a very small and efficient campus, no dorms (students have to live in the ‘real world’), and even encourage students to live near their church and commute to classes. While serving in their local churches, every student is required to have mentor. Through these mentor relationships we are able to assess the spiritual growth of students and learn how they are applying their knowledge in real life service to the world, through the church.

We are finding that many churches are excited about why we do what we do, and how we do it. If you are part of a church who wants to join in this shift in Biblical Higher Education, we have many ways you can partner with us.

We are thankful that Mark Galli and others are calling our attention to a growing and immense problem in biblical higher education. And we are pleased to let you know that at least one school in the U.S. is doing something about it as well!

Next Stop: Zambia

Preston Sprinkle —  January 21, 2013 — 3 Comments
African lady walking

Outside Lusaka

My trip from Nepal to Zambia felt like a time warp. You can go ahead and erase all those images in your mind from UNICEF commercials and BrAngelina adoption trips. They may reflect other parts of Africa, but they don’t reflect much of life in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. There are poor people here for sure, especially outside the city, but there are also quite a few middle-class and even upper-class Africans who haven’t earned their wealth through corruption. My trip from the airport witnessed many SUV’s, BMW’s, and well-dressed businessmen on their way to work. There are plenty of American sized grocery stores, a few malls, and many large homes all with high electric fenced walls. As far as the church goes, unlike Nepal which is 2.5% Christian, about 80% of Zambians confess some sort of faith in Christ and in 1996 it was declared a Christian nation. You may think this is great news. And in some ways it is. But just as the post-Constantine Christianization of the Roman Empire created mass problems for the church, the lip-service many Zambians give to Christianity presents its own challenges to the gospel here. And then there’s the whole “health and wealth” movement that has infiltrated so many countries in Africa. Zambia is no different. Apart from the nominalism and the prosperity gospel, others Zambians will repackage traditional animistic beliefs in Christian lingo, making it tough for westerners to sort out a genuine confession from renovated voodoo. There’s still much work to be done here.

And the Zambians are doing the work. I’m shocked—as are most western missionaries who visit Lusaka—at how self-sustaining and theologically rich

Me with pastors Kalifungwa and Mbewe

Me (white guy) with pastors Kalifungwa (left) and Mbewe (right)

many churches are here. There’s an informal network of Reformed Baptist churches in Lusaka that are extremely healthy compared to many churches in Africa. Heck, compared to many churches America. To put it in perspective, two of these Reformed Baptist pastors, Robert Kalifungwa and Conrad Mbewe, have raised up and sent out 20 fully supported missionaries in the last 10 years! They have planted churches all over Zambia and beyond. And all of this is home grown. Pastor Mbewe, whom Desiring God labeled the “African Spurgeon,” told me over lunch that “most Americans think we’re running around chasing elephants.” I about coughed up my burger in laughter—partly because his booming laugh shook the room, and partly because he’s probably right. The fact that the restaurant was playing Kenny Rogers’ “the Gambler” only added to the irony.

Once again, the church of Zambia doesn’t need us to come show them how it’s done. In many ways, I’d love for them to come here and show us how it’s done. However, they are inviting the west to partner with them in what they are already doing. And the one main area where pastors Kalifungwa and Mbewe said they could use a lot of help is with Christian education.

Mbewe

Conrad Mbewe, the “African Spurgeon”

And that’s why I’m here: To explore potential ministry opportunities with African Christian University (ACU), a Christian liberal arts school that’s looking to launch classes in 2014. And to make this leg of the trip super exciting, my own pastor Matt Larson flew all the way out to join me!

I can’t wait to tell you about this amazing school. It has the potential to drastically improve both the spiritual and material poverty of the continent. I’ll talk about ACU in the next blog, but first let me introduce you to our host Dr. Ken Turnbull.

Ken is an American missionary who’s heading up the ACU project, and he has a fascinating journey. Ken has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a post-doctorate from Cal Tech. He spent a number of years as a tenured professor at University of Arkansas where he had a vibrant and promising career. And then, at the age of 40, God called him to the mission field. A few years later, he and his wife packed up their 5 kids and moved to Mozambique where he spent 3 challenging years working as a church planter. Long story short, he got connected with pastor Kalifungwa who told Ken his vision about the college and the rest is history. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen a scholar of Ken’s caliber with such a promising career do what he did. Move over Albert Schweitzer

So Ken has come here in his own words as a “support to what God has already

My pastor Matt Larson (left) talking with Ken Turnbull on the site where ACU may be built

My pastor Matt Larson (left) talking with Ken Turnbull on the site where ACU may be built

been doing in the hearts of these African pastors.” He’s truly serving, not controlling, this African-based, thriving ministry. He’s adamant that he’s here not as the big boss, but as a servant to the local pastors. The indigenous nature of this thriving ministry is enough to get me excited. But it’s ACU’s fascinating vision that’s put hope in my heart that in spite of the corruption, in spite of the poverty, in spite of the violence, in spite of the theological anemia that’s swept across much of the continent, there is yet hope for Africa. And after talking with Ken over the last few days, I’m becoming a believer that such hope lies in ACU and ACU-like projects. They have the potential to transform a continent. I’ll tell you why in the next post.

Yesterday I said that everything in this world is important because of the kingdom of God. If God’s righteous reign is to spread into every aspect of this world, then we need to take everything seriously. This is God’s world, and we should love every inch of it and long to see it redeemed (Rom. 8:19–25).

One of the major reasons we have trouble thinking highly of this world is the reality of sin. Our world is soaked in sin. Sin is responsible for everything from thistles to headaches to rude customers to cancer to death itself. So when we look at the world, we see sin. It’s unavoidable.

So let’s burn the place to the ground! Right? When the milk in my fridge gets corrupted, I plug my nose and pour it down the drain. There’s nothing lovely about spoiled milk.

But our world is different. Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew use a helpful analogy here. They explain that sin is like a stain. It’s messy, it taints what it touches, but it’s different than the fabric itself. There is still good fabric underneath the stain. If I love my favorite shirt enough, I don’t throw it out with my every coffee spill.

Here’s where I’ll carry the analogy a bit too far and into some cheesy territory. I do everything I can to clean my shirt. Very often, I can get the stain out. If that doesn’t work, I can always take it to the cleaners. And lucky for us (brace yourself for the cheesiness), we know the ultimate Cleaner who at the end of all things will bring us back our once-stained world, sparkling clean, renewed, reinvigorated, and—because our Cleaner is also the Master Tailor—made even better than before.

Cheesiness aside, I hope the point is coming across. This exercise would be so helpful for all of us: read Genesis 1 and 2, then skip ahead to Revelation 21 and 22. These are the bookends of Scripture and the parallels are stunning.

So what do we do? We engage every aspect of our world with Christian fury. We look to politics, economics, education, childcare, and entertainment with a passion to see God’s will done in each of these spheres. Rather than turning away in disgust because these activities are too corrupt, we ask ourselves what it would mean for each of these spheres to come under the lordship of Christ and be transformed by his grace.

Of course, this task is difficult. Impossible even. But if God’s plan of redemption is indeed as wide as creation itself, then we will have to represent him across the board. We can’t be defeatist and give up simply because we can’t do the whole job by ourselves. If it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing even if we’re bound to fail. We labor to see God’s will done in and around us, and we trust him for the results.

Our world is stained by sin, but it’s worth fighting for. Let’s attack the stain but rescue the fabric.

A few weeks ago my oldest daughter was going through the annual standardized testing. This lead to an interesting conversation between a fourth grader & her dad. It went something like this:

Daughter: Dad, can you make me a good breakfast? I have to eat properly so I can do well on my test.

Dad: Why do you have to do well on your test?

Daughter: So I can get into the right programs…so I can go to a good college.

Dad: Why do you have to go to a good college?

Daughter: So I can get a good job.

Dad: Why do you need a good job?

Daughter: Dad, you don’t want me to live on the streets do you?

That interaction is loaded with all sorts of things that need to be addressed, but for today let us just focus on one simple question.

Is the purpose of education to simply get a good job? Or is the purpose of education to actually learn?

Have at it…