Christian Education

In Defense of Rules, Part 1

First posted October, 2009. Discussion here.

Fundamentalists and evangelicals of my generation are generally not fond of rules, especially in ministry settings. Exactly why this is the case is an interesting study in itself. In the case of fundamentalists, perhaps it’s due to the fact that many of them grew up in rules-heavy Christian schools in an era full of glowing idealism about what these highly-disciplined, conscientiously spiritual environments would produce. The inflated hopes of those days were sure to result in some disappointments. And maybe the current rules angst is the result of a generalized disgust with the whole concept and all that seems connected to it. In defense of those who feel this way, it is only too easy to find examples of rules excesses and absurdities.

Whatever the reasons, young fundamentalists are often eager to cast “man-made rules” in a negative light and to argue from Scripture that these rules are dangerous at best, and downright hostile to Christian growth at worst.

My aim here is to offer a perspective that differs from that of many of my peers, but one that I believe answers better to both Scripture and experience.

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"[C]ould it be that the indifference to and ignorance of the basic elements of the Christian faith are themselves functions of a widespread belief that these things are not important?"

“The man or woman who has been told they have cancer will hang on every word their specialist speaks to them. They will not go into the consulting room looking for entertainment; their situation is too serious to waste time on trivia” The Moral Dimension

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On Laying Up Treasures


Among the recent criticisms of Bob Jones University, one of the strangest is that the university’s teachers are poorly paid. One critic even prepared a chart showing faculty salaries from independent four-year colleges and universities throughout South Carolina, locating Bob Jones University at the bottom of the salary scale. The (anonymous) critic took this lack of munificence as such an obvious scandal as not even to require comment.

Plenty could be said about the survey itself. Comparisons of this sort are rarely as helpful (or, in this case, as damaging) as they are meant to be. The variables are simply too significant for direct evaluations to be made.

A larger issue is at stake, however. The fact is that the published salaries at Bob Jones University are not greatly out of line with faculty salaries at most Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning (especially if regional cost of living is taken into account). Professors in Fundamentalist institutions are paid far less than their peers in comparable secular colleges and universities.

This situation extends further than just Fundamentalism. Many broadly evangelical schools do not pay their professors much more. I have degrees from two large, evangelical seminaries. In one of those institutions, a tenured professor told one of my classes that, in order to support his family, he had to make $10,000 to $15,000 of outside income every year. A recent reporting instrument shows that institution paying an average salary of only $25,000 per year, less than the reported average for the Bob Jones faculty.

While average salaries are low for Christian professors, they can be even lower for pastors. Many pastors receive no more compensation than professors at Bob Jones. In fact, many receive substantially less. Smaller churches frequently offer salary packages that virtually require pastors (or their spouses) to work outside jobs.

The people who take these positions—these professorships and pastorates—are obviously not taking them for the money. Some other concern is in play. That concern can be expressed in various ways: ministry, serving the Lord, the care of souls. Jesus called it “laying up treasures in heaven.”

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Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 2

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2012. Read Part 1.

Perhaps the weakest part of our local churches’ Christian Education (CE) program is in the area of teacher training. So many churches appoint people and turn them loose without training them in the ministry they are asked to assume.

The CE workers are handling the Word of God. Do they know the Word? Do they know how to teach? Do they know something about the age group they’re teaching as well as some details about the administration and organization of the program in which they’re working? All too often they don’t.

When Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, he gave Timothy the process for developing a strong ministry. Paul wrote, “Don’t build this work around yourself. This is not your work alone. You build the church by involving other people. You must train other people in the things that I have taught you, and in turn they will become good teachers also.” This is the greatest need we have in Christian Education today.

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Christian Education's Greatest Challenges, Part 1

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2012.

The Bible places great emphasis upon the need of the local church to educate its adults nd children in the Scriptures. Christ Himself was a teacher (“teaching in their synagogues,” Matt. 4:23; “taught them as one having authority,” Matt. 7:29) and the title “Teacher” was used for Him at least forty three times in the Gospels. The apostles taught (Acts 5:21, 42; 11:26). Paul commanded the Ephesian elders to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He testified to the Colossians that he admonished and taught every man (Col. 1:28). The Romans who were gifted to teach were urged to concentrate on teaching (Rom. 12:7). Elders of the church must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Timothy was to give particular attention to reading, exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). The heart of Timothy’s ministry was to be teaching training, with the goal that the teachers he trained should train others as well (2 Tim. 2:2).

The ministry of Christian education within the local church is a crucial ministry! And I believe the greatest need we have in local church Christian education are teachers who are devoted, knowledgeable, competent, Spirit filled leaders seeking to sincerely serve the Lord through their teaching ministry.

But any pastor can attest that finding teachers like this is not easy, keeping them seems even more difficult, and training them is especially difficult (if it is even attempted in the church). But recruiting, motivating and training workers are the three greatest challenges in local church Christian education.

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How Important is a Seminary Education? Part 2

libraryRead Part 1.

A seminary’s practical theology department addresses how the academic categories affect church ministry. Students need instruction in preaching, counseling, personal evangelism, and pastoral practice. Philosophical and practical ministry questions regarding missions, youth, senior citizens, music, and a whole host of other areas in church life receive attention.

Because the seminary classrooms do not come equipped with baptisteries, communion equipment, potential counselees, or unsaved people who need to hear the gospel, most seminaries expect and require their students to pursue internships with their local church where real life ministry takes place. While students in seminary receive helpful instruction about practical issues, no amount of teaching can replace the actual doing. Seminaries know this, and they pursue partnerships with local churches to help their students fill in the gap between the theoretical and the actual in ministry.

Besides the benefit of learning significant aspects of biblical, theological, and practical ministry knowledge from trained experts in these fields and in addition to developing skill for the doing of ministry in a local church, students who attend graduate school receive the intangible benefit of maturity. The typical student enters seminary at the age of 23; most would consider someone in this age category as a novice (and therefore unqualified for pastoral ministry, 1 Tim 3:6). The seminary experience provides many opportunities for the development of character and maturity. Issues related to the wise use of time and money, the practice of leadership, the art of learning how to think critically while encountering ideas contrary to one’s own, and the ability to accept critique from professors and fellow students all help to develop growth.

Knowledge, practical experience, and maturity constitute the skills aspect of seminary training, but aspiring pastors also need to advance and grow in their personal relationship with God. The popular catch phrase for this educational component is “spiritual formation.” I refer to it as heart training.

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Attack on Bachman: Media confuses Minnesota Summit Project with Summit Ministries "...main stream media attacks on Michele Bachmann have intensified. Some have even taken aim at Summit Ministries, which is a place where... Michele has sent several of her children for Biblical worldview instruction."

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