Back at the beginning of the 20th century, a massive change was taking place in the evangelical church in America. Denominations had become overrun by the ideas of Higher Criticism which was nothing short of an attack on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. But the changes in the churches and denominations were only the symptoms of something much worse. The average person in the pew heard sermons from these compromised churches that denied the fundamentals of the Christian faith—so much so that J. Gresham Machen called Liberalism “another religion.”
These sermons were coming from the men that were trained at denominational seminaries where the professors had embraced the lies of liberal theology in many forms. Although begun as biblical schools, liberalism had kept in and taken over. From Europe to America, the eventual result was that the unwary Christian found himself shocked to hear the assault on the Bible coming from their pastors. But many Christians were ill-equipped to respond.
The historic Christian church did respond though. New churches were planted. Fellowships were formed to work together. Missions agencies were begun. And seminaries were started to train men for the ministry, and Bible institutes were raised up to equip the layman. The Moody Bible Institute, Philadelphia School of the Bible, Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and others sprang up to meet the needs of the church.
With our nation currently undergoing a dramatic change, the church has not been untouched. For decades many discerning believers have been sounding the alarm that what was once “evangelical” has changed. Although it is still known by that name, it no longer teaches the same things. The church in America as a whole has slid far from its foundations, and with it so have the churches, missions agencies, seminaries and Bible institutes. The reality is that liberalism never builds anything because it is parasitic. It only takes over its healthy host and then devours it from the inside.
The time has come for rebuilding once again. We must continue planting churches, form fellowships and partnerships, rebuild or replace missions agencies, and begin training our pastors and laymen in Bible colleges and seminaries that are faithful to the truth.
Not all is lost. There are still many who have not bent the knee to Baal. But with the way things appear to be headed, larger Bible colleges, Christian universities, and seminaries will have a hard time staying open with greater pressure put upon them from our government. We need to remember the power of the Bible institute.
Bible institutes are a powerful blessing to the local church. They can train local church leaders to better serve the church. They can be a source of training an army of Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, missionaries, evangelists, counselors, and more. They have low overhead and don’t often offer degrees, so tuition is affordable enough for almost everyone.
I’d encourage you to look up your local Bible institute and support it through sending students, praying for them, teaching if you are trained, and supporting them with your gifts.
If you attended a Bible Institute, what was your experience? Would you recommend them and how did it bless you and the Church?
3 thoughts on “The Growing Need for Bible Institutes”
I love hearing your call here.
My grandparents attended Philadelphia School of the Bible (1930s?) and I know that set a foundation for them (my grandpa became a pastor and my grandma was of course an educated pastor’s wife).
It is interesting to think of where things may be headed for us as you mentioned, “larger Bible colleges, Christian universities, and seminaries will have a hard time staying open with greater pressure put upon them from our government.”
I would love to see a Bible institute with some sort of “certificated” program started at our church. I am beginning to believe that this training ministry should not simply be an option for a church but a goal to develop and host. We currently call our “Sunday school” hour the “Hickman Bible Institute”. I have taken notes from my TMU and TMS classes to create college level studies for our people. I love it! Many people (not all) of our church body attends.
If you have a “how-to” or helpful directions for getting off the ground, i’d love to hear more. It seems that organizing into “tracks” or making a curriculum plan is helpful. Offering it on another night of the week might set it off as something different from regular “church” also. Anyway, if you have any materials or direction for me, I’d love to hear it.
Thanks for reading and for your question. I know that there are quite a few churches that are doing what you described in regards to a church-based training center. These “advanced Sunday school” level courses or Bible institutes are great, but take a lot of work on the part of the church (as I am sure you are aware). This is why local Bible Institutes and Colleges are so important to the small church. Some churches may not have a pastor that is seminary trained–or who has the time to commit to such a large endeavor for a small handful of people. And if it gets stretched out over a long period of time, it can be a daunting task.
We are developing at IFCA International what we have called “IFCA Bible Institute” where we are drawing on the combined strengths of our members to produce teaching series’ and seminars that will meet the needs of the local church in the areas of doctrine, preaching, apologetics, church history, biblical counseling, and Bible. Our goal is to take the best teachers, men like Alex Montoya, Tommy Ice, Mike Vlach, Stephen Davey, Robert Thomas, and many others, and record their lectures for the blessing and edification of the church. This will allow men who have had little training to be better trained. It will also help the pastor who has been out of school a while to be sharpened. And it will assist the church in training the next generation of pastors, elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, and teachers.
IFCA has a long history of equipping the church through biblical educaton–including men like William Pettingill, the first dean of Philadelphia School of the Bible; Louis Talbot, Charles Feinberg, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, J. Vernon McGee, and others. These men developed the Bible Institute because of what we are seeing today in the church and academia. We are continuing in our tradition to produce faithful men and faithful churches.
I’m happy to see that Hickman is doing the same! Blessings to you and the saints. I guess my advice for you would be to think about your current members and your context to see what is their greatest need or area of weakness and start there. Maybe it’s evangelism, or maybe it’s their understanding of church leadership. Working through a systematic theology might work for some, but most people prefer a direct connection to their lives and ministries. I’d start with the practical training (with biblical doctrine as the basis) and then move on to more systematic theology. From my experience, it seems that this will excite them when they see how it helps them and the church–leaving them wanting more.
Hope that helps!