Edinburgh Bible College buildings silhouette

Vocational Training

EBC is committed to a training that doesn’t just impart head knowledge,but equips believers to become actively involved in gospel work

Icon for an EBC Distinctive: Vocational trainingFor sometime now, in general, Bible Colleges in the UK have been suffering from something of an identity crisis. But it has not always been so. When I had the great privilege of studying at what was then the BTI (Bible Training Institute) in Glasgow, back at the end of the 70s, there was no doubting the purpose of the training and the burden of those training us – preparation for effective Christian living and service. While we studied hard and applied ourselves to a rigorous discipline of reading and assignments, under the tutelage of some great academic minds great emphasis was put on spiritual disciplines and on our personal relationship with the Lord, since that is the key to effective Christian living and service.

Some of the highlights of my three years at BTI were the days and half-days of prayer, the missionary prayer meetings, the daily times of corporate worship led either by students, staff or visiting preachers. When a friend of mine became Principal of a College which had abandoned these things as a core part of the course and asked why he was told, ‘because our students are adults and you can’t tell them what to do.’ I doubt if the same rule applied to attendance at lectures or conforming to academic rules!

Tragically, all of that has largely been replaced with the demands of academic attainments and accrediting bodies who care little for character development and spiritual formation. The overriding goal now is the attaining of some supposedly credible qualification, not the deepening of a relationship with God and the development of a heart and mind that is biblically saturated and Christ centred. The results are truly alarming.

Increasingly we are producing

  • men and women who are well qualified but poorly equipped for Christian service
  • people with PhDs who can’t and don’t pray
  • experts in the biblical languages who can’t explain and share the gospel
  • brilliant missiologists but lousy missionaries
  • graduates who can talk knowledgably about Barth and Bultmann but who are biblically illiterate
  • proficient theologians who can’t preach to save their lives

For many, Bible College, which used to be the route to spiritual development and Bible training, has become just another, more sheltered and comfortable, route to getting a degree. Bible Colleges have become spiritual universities. Biblical training has been supplanted by theological training and, after more than three decades of this we are all much the poorer for it.

What is needed is a complete re-calibration and re-orientation of this vitally important work. We need to return to first principles and draft new mission statements that put spiritual development at the top of the agenda.

We need to recognise afresh that there is a much, much higher accreditation to be sought than that to be gained from some secular academic institution. There is the accreditation that comes from the Lord who owns and blesses the life of the man or woman who is consumed with a heart for godly living and service.

That’s why EBC’s strapline is intentionally and unashamedly –

preparing God’s people for God’s purposes