There is a murmuring of some Christians about how “unscriptural” Bible colleges are. Many of these voices are those of pastors who refuse to allow God to call any man out of their church. These warlords couldn’t care less about Jesus Christ and His cause. They’ve worked hard to build a church and they’re not about to let God mess it up by directing someone away from their ministry. These are small men who think only of themselves. They long to be “big” and figure they can’t be if a good man leaves. Of course, they would never admit to being jealous of other pastors or desiring to be noticed. Mind you, this isn’t the way it is with every pastor but there are a few self-servers.
The warlords like to point out that there were no Bible colleges in the Bible. (Oops! Acts 19:9, 10) Many are aware of the Independent Baptist emphasis on the local church so they like to trumpet that only the “local church” should train men. Now many of these same churches do not have “local church” day schools to teach their young people, but then they aren’t in danger of losing a six-year-old to the call to preach. Their argument sounds good but is usually laced with inconsistence when they send girls to non-local church schools. And, of course, none of them claim any need (or ability) to train men for secular fields. Some have gone so far as to claim that God can’t call a man out of their church unless He tells the pastor about it first. Of course if a man in their church dares to follow God rather than man they are immediately anathmatized and told that God will never use them, their children’s teeth will rot, their car will get bad mileage and various other impromptu judgements “of god.” Then the pastor demands that no one in the church ever fellowship with them or the same things will happen to them. (Isn’t is a miracle that we get anything done for the Lord!?)
So now we have scores of five-to-ten man “local church” Bible institutes that many times under-train their victims…er…students. But then, who cares as long as they don’t take their tithe and leave!? Then, of course, the pastor feels a need for his “preacher-boys” to succeed to prove he’s right so they support their own men for ridiculous amounts to the detriment of others not from their church. And best of all, even when one of their “graduates” is ninety-years-old they will still refer to him as their property, their “preacher boy.”
These pastors claim to believe that the local church should train its own, therefore they refuse to let any of their men go to a Bible college. (“Bless God! Why should I let someone else build their church with my men?) Strangely though, if a man comes to their “local church” Bible institute from another local church, they let them! The manner in which their door only swings one way betrays their hypocrisy.
So, are Bible colleges unscriptural? Yes! But, once again, Christians are asking the wrong question. By un-scriptural I by no means mean anti-scriptural. They aren’t “of the devil.” We should be asking, “Are Bible colleges of the devil?” Now are you going to try to convince me that all Bible colleges were inspired and founded by Satan? I know you may point to one or two but I bet you can find a few local churches that some folks will claim the devil helped found as well.
If you want nothing to do with anything “non-scriptural” then you will have to do away with your: Sunday School, your evening service, midweek service, Christian school, church building, church buses, church bookstore, church library, church kitchen, vacation Bible school, special meetings, assistant pastors, pastor’s office and on and on. (Also your furnace, air conditioner and computer! Sorry guys. They’re simply not found in the Bible.) It is obviously ridiculous. Just because these things aren’t found in the Bible, by no means does that signify that they are against the Bible. Thus, when a man bemoans Bible colleges because they aren’t in the Bible and happily ignores all the non-scriptural things he benefits from it is too obvious that it isn’t really the “non-scriptural” status he is upset with. It is simply that he wants to hang on to and control every man who ever came through his door. He does not know of a greater cause than his own “local church.” Neither God, or man had better mess with his people.
So should local churches not have Bible institutes? Of course they can have them! A pastor can do what he pleases. He’s only wrong when he compels men to attend it rather than letting them follow the Lord. He is only wrong when he uses the Bible as a bludgeon to cajole and intimidate them into doing his will. One thing about Christians. When we want something bad enough we have a great way of making our desire a “Divine declaration” so as to hide our conflict of interest and justify our wrath on all who disregard our “authority.”
There are probably many “local church” Bible institutes that wouldn’t even stay open if the quality of education was the reason for attending. Thus, when the pastor/teacher/prophet/guide/leader/king/warlord sees his men looking longingly toward a real school where they could get a real education and be properly prepared to serve the Lord he is faced with a dilemma. Should he be humble and send them off with his blessing and trust God to fill the hole they leave or should he throw a spiritual arm-lock on them and threaten them with divine lightning bolts for even thinking of partaking of something so unscriptural as a Bible college? (When did Bible knowledge become our enemy?) It really is a test to see if he or Jesus Christ is first in his ministry.
I was saved in a local church and when God called me to go to Bible college my pastor graciously gave me his blessing even though he didn’t completely like the school I was going to. Furthermore, I know of pastors who have a good local church Bible institute that still don’t interfere with one of their young men who feels God wants him to go somewhere else. Both of these are examples of grace. It never ceases to amaze me that we, the recipients of God’s grace, have none with each other.
I once had three families leave the church I was pastoring at the same time to go to Bible college or into the ministry. It comprised around twenty-five people. That’s a lot of people to lose at one time. I didn’t interfere because what they did was none of my business. If men can’t have a direct relationship with God then our group is in big trouble. We condemn the Roman Catholic Church for placing a “omnipotent” man between God and those in the congregation yet we are prone to do the same thing.
In defense of pastors, it is a terrible thing to have to trust God! It is scary indeed to see good people preparing to leave your church. Growing a church is like growing a garden. It takes years of care and cultivating to begin to see fruit. It is extremely hard to take your spiritual hands off someone and let them navigate life with God alone. It is also painful to think about the “hole” that their departure will leave in the church. But it must be done.
Bible colleges aren’t the enemies of the local church. They are helpers that prepare men to serve the Lord in a specialized way that is plainly difficult for many local churches to provide. Why shoot your friend?…unless you have something to gain from it!