For years I have held the belief that you do not need to go to Bible College to go into ministry or even to be a good minister. One of my heroes of church planting in the last century is Steve Murrell who planted a church in Manilla in 1984 and now has over 50,000 people meeting across his Victory Fellowship churches every weekend. He is famous for saying that all you need to go into ministry is ‘a bible and a passport’. He places a massive emphasis on discipleship but not on understanding everything or studying for years before you get to work fulfilling the Great Commission.
Given my admiration for the work Murrell has done without a large emphasis on ‘theological’ training why do I find myself about to move my family from Melbourne to Sydney to attend and study at one of the most academically rigorous and highly regarded theological colleges in the Southern Hemisphere?
Ultimately it has come down to a couple of key reasons. The first is that after being a Christian for ten years, three of which were served in full time ministry and having been on the leadership at two different churches I have come to appreciate all the more the importance of sound theological training in a church’s leadership.
Paul writes to Timothy to watch your life and your doctrine closely so that you will save yourself and your hearers (1 Tim 4:16). James writes that teachers will be judged more harshly (James 3:1). Paul repeatedly instructs the churches he writes to in his epistles to preach the gospel that was preached to them and not a distortion of it.
I do not believe that you need to go to Bible College to understand or teach the gospel correctly. You can absolutely read and study on your own and listen to sermons and teachings by yourself to do this. But it will be harder to persevere on your own and more limiting because you will most likely lack other like-minded individuals to discuss ideas with and you will probably be limited in resources as well. At college you can be exposed to different views and also network with other young Christian leaders that will challenge you and provide a support network as you enter into ministry. Once again you can do it on your own but it’s harder. Will all due respect to Mr Frost, this time I have not taking the road less travelled.
The second big reason for me to go to Bible College is that in some sense the world of academics, learning and writing is something I value and a desire to be an influencer of in one way or another. This desire is a part of who I am. I appreciate being able to help people think through complex ideas or confusing topics and I want to be able to do this accurately and to the best of my ability. I believe that theological training will help me do this even better. Another way to say it would be to say that it is in line with my gifts and abilities.
Finally there is something to be said for the biblical principle of iron sharpening iron. If you want to be the best then it is good to work alongside those who also strive to be the best and there is no doubt that those who attend Bible College are for the most part keen to become the best equipped and the best able to minister the word of God and to evangelise the nations. I am looking forward to the friendships and sharpening to come.
Finally I want to give a big thanks to my pastor Martin Pakula and Hills Bible Church for the encouragement, input and support that they have offered in making this decision. It is a real blessing to be a part of a community of believers who seek to give God glory and want to help you to do the same.
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