EBC is committed to a training that results in growth in spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness; with an emphasis on spiritual disciplines
In an enormously helpful and wisdom filled little booklet entitled Leadership Training in the Local Church 1, Dr Stanley Jebb, who himself has considerable experience in this area, shares this experience: “About twenty years ago I was attending a conference of Christian leaders and at lunch found myself sitting next to the Principal of a major British Bible College. As we chatted he discovered that I was seeking to train men for the ministry in the local church, and in the course of conversation I confessed that I was seeking to produce men of God. To my astonishment and dismay he promptly said, “Oh, that’s impossible in a Bible College. The students are so ‘bolshy’…demanding their own rights, etc..” ”
Dr Jebb goes on to say that the emphasis of training for spiritual leadership needs to be on character since, “It is impossible to read the New Testament carefully without seeing that godly character is one of the main emphases of both Jesus and the apostles. Yet can we honestly say that character training receives a great deal of emphasis in theological colleges?”
My dictionary defines transformational as “a process whereby somebody or something is changed completely, especially improving their appearance or usefulness”. It’s a concept we are tediously familiar with in the secular and entertainment world, bombarded as we are with programmes demonstrating make-over techniques for your home, your garden, your wardrobe, your appearance and goodness knows what else, but the evidence would suggest there is little emphasis on it, and little thought given to it, in the training and equipping of Christian leaders and workers. Far too much emphasis has been placed, at least in recent years, on the attaining of academic standards and the completion of assignments, and not nearly enough on an individual’s prayer life, on the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit, on their appetite for and engagement with Scripture, on their thought life and personal disciplines – hence the shocking comment quoted in the opening paragraph.
For me, two of the most important Scriptural texts in this area are Romans 12:1-2 and Galatians 4:19. Between them, these verses provide us with the means and the goal of spiritual transformation. The means is the renewal of our minds and the goal is Christlikeness.
As a teacher and preacher I love the emphasis Paul places on the mind in Romans 12. It is all too fashionable in some Christian circles today to despise – and I use the word carefully – reading, study and anything that remotely smacks of academic study. I have witnessed it at first hand and it’s often cloaked in a spiritual and pietistic guise. I know Christian workers who boast about the fact they haven’t read a serious Christian book in ages, and a student at Bible College who gloated that he hadn’t visited the College Library in a whole year. Now, of course, what and how we read and study is enormously important but true spirituality doesn’t bypass the mind and the intellect and we are in real need today of men and women who can think biblically and whose minds have been trained to do so.
On the other hand, in Romans and Galatians Paul reminds us that the renewal of our minds is not an end in itself. The goal is not to win a specialist round on Master Mind or to attain some academic qualification but to increase in spiritual wisdom and discernment and to become Christlike.
How does a Bible College – how does Edinburgh Bible College – address this vitally important aspect of preparing God’s people for God’s purposes?
By ensuring that
- the Bible itself, the primary means that God uses, under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, lies at the very centre and heart of all we teach and study
- students are well versed in the Scriptures through constant and regular exposure to it and study of it
- quality time is spent, individually and corporately, in prayer and worship
- there is peer accountability in the areas of spiritual disciplines and growth
- students are repeatedly reminded that all their study is not an end in itself but part of the God-ordained means for growth in holiness and Christlikeness and if the one doesn’t lead to the other than it has been wasted
Michael Burer helpfully defines spiritual transformation as
“the intentional transformation of the inner person to the character of Christ.” It is intentional in two ways: It is part of God’s will for the individual believer, and the individual believer makes a conscious choice about it; it is transformation in that it involves definitive, measurable growth in a certain direction; it involves the inner person in that it concerns itself with character, thoughts, intentions, and attitudes more than actions, habits, or behaviors; it has the character of Christ as its goal and standard of measure.
“An act of worship in response to God’s mercy and grace which involves the intentional transformation of the character to be like Christ and the intentional transformation of the actions to conform to God’s will.” 2
If we at EBC can be part of bringing that about then we will have done our job.