Archives For Higher Education

The Local Church Is First

Chris Hay —  January 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

churchHere at Eternity Bible College we believe in the local church. We believe the church is the Bride of Christ, the living organism that God instituted in Acts 2 to be His primary vehicle to accomplish the Great Commission. We recognize that we as a Bible College are NOT the local church, but that we do have an integral role in seeing the church fulfill her God-given task.

We require every one of our students to be involved in a local church which includes having a regular ministry and having someone in their church mentor or disciple them. We have even built in procedures and accountability that could result in a student being asked to leave if they are not involved in a church. It is that important to us.

We currently have about 115 students at our Simi Valley campus. These students are plugged into 44 different local churches in the greater Simi Valley area! I think that is an amazing statistic! Our students are getting an incredibly diverse ‘hands-on’ education as they immediately apply the things they learn in the classroom to the ‘real world’ of ministry.

We also have about 75 Distance Ed students, and all of these students are also involved in their local churches. That means our students are actively ministering in nearly 120 different local churches. And there are currently 156 older, wiser adults serving as mentors/disciplers, investing in our students, helping them work through issues and the things they are learning in the classroom.

This ‘non-academic’ education is a critical part of every student’s education. In his journal article “Multiplying Jesus Mentors—Designing a Reproducible Mentoring System: A Case Study,” D. Michael Crow observes that Chinese church leaders complain that institutionalized training models from the West are too formal and academic, as opposed to their more informal apprentice-style training models. Using the apprentice model, Chinese evangelists led millions to Christ, prior to the arrival of institutional models from the West in the early 1990s. They say that conventional Western academic approaches tend to produce leaders with lots of head but little heart who are unable to lead, care for people, or minister effectively. We here at Eternity work hard to avoid that syndrome in our students and graduates.

So we will continue to require our students to be involved in a local church. We will continue to require every student to have a mentor in his or her local church. We will continue to provide training for those mentors.

We do this because we are fundamentally committed to the local church. Are you?

While the previous posts have been discussing higher education in general and considering possible Christian responses, this post will focus on Christian Colleges and Universities. First, I want to acknowledge that these institutions are endeavoring to do a great thing in providing a solid, biblically based education. But that does not mean that they are doing it well, or even properly. The question needs to be asked: Are Christian higher education institutions remaining faithful to Jesus?

A few months ago, Christianity Today devoted an entire issue to the topic of Christian Higher Education, titling it How to Save the Christian College. It contained many helpful articles for anyone interested or involved in the development and maintenance of higher education institutions. It was also informative and thought provoking for anyone who’s been considering whether they should even go to college, and especially a Christian College.

The cover story, written by Perry L. Glanzer and titled The Missing Factor in Higher Education, claims that the missing factor is character development. The historic universities gave up their quest for truth and the moral/ethical/spiritual formation of students in favor of creating information specialists. Students no longer go to college to get a well-rounded education to benefit them in all aspects of their life. They go to learn the necessary information to succeed in a particular career. But he believes there is still hope for Christian Higher Education as it looks to its roots and renews interest and focus on cultivating wisdom and character in students.

As great as many Christian colleges are at providing good character forming education, we must also examine the structures and methods by which that education is being delivered. Is it God honoring to create an institution that is built on the backs of people going into tens of thousands of dollars in debt? Is this something that is carefully considered and concluded that it is God pleasing? Or, is such a model simply acquiescing to the world’s approach to what education is? What do you think? Does the end justify the means?