Years of training and mentoring from parents. Countless hours of preaching and counseling under a pastor. The end of high school is drawing nearer. For fundamental Baptists, one of the greatest decisions in life approaches. It is one of those decisions that makes other decisions for you–once it is chosen, there is little turning back. This is a choice that ends up being one of the first steps a young person makes in finding God’s perfect will in their life–a decision to be taken with the utmost care and godly counsel.
Unfortunately though, the decision of which Bible college to attend is often taken all too carelessly. There are many decisions that lead up to choosing which Bible college. First, a young person must determine through prayer and study whether the Lord’s will is for them to be in the ministry. If God does not want them in the ministry, most pastors would still advise them to attend Bible college for at least one year to build a strong foundation in their life, then go on to study for their particular field. If God does desire for them to be in full-time service (as we say), then a plurality of choices is open for them.
Today, it seems that fundamental Baptist Bible colleges are in abundance. Yet, does that mean that all of them are acceptable and possibly God’s will? This is the main question I wish to answer.
Obviously, all Bible colleges have their strengths and weaknesses, as do churches. A strong temptation is to rank specific points of a college on some kind of scale of what is important and what is not. This is what should be avoided, however. Every specific point should be weighed on its own merit, before it is ever weighed against any other point. For example (I’m painting with a big brush here!), if a college has a weak stand on the Bible and a strong stand on music, it should not be reasoned away by saying, “I would rather have weak bibliology than weak music.” Why is this? Read this from Pastor Kent Brandenburg: it is a far better explanation than what I could say. With this point assumed, then, here are a few major specifics (assuming they at least claim to be Fundamental, which would assume creationism, pre-tribulationism, etc. ) that I would examine as a whole to determine exactly where God would have a young person attend Bible college.
Is the college under the authority of God’s institution of the local church, and therefore its pastor; or is it a para-church organization?
Unfortunately, this is one of those points that honest people rank as less essential, and therefore throw aside. A ministry of a local church is not only blessed by God because He ordained that church, but for several practical reasons as well. With a local church college, one voice is being heard, with no room for confusion. There is accountability to be a part of that church–working and worshipping as one church family. Christ does not say that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against a para-church college; but He does say that they will not prevail against His church. Where would be a better place to train for the ministry than a Bible college that is under the authority of an Independent, New Testament Baptist church?
Is the college focused on reaching the world for Christ from a biblical point of view, or more inclined to follow the teachings of Augustine (Calvinism) or Pelagius (Arminianism)?
I cannot understand why someone who grows up in a good church would want to sit under someone who believes Christ’s blood is limited, or that God’s sovereignty is limited. To put it simply: take the Bible for what it says. On the other hand, the church and college should not be inclined to just see how many they can “get saved.” Instead, what should be practiced and preached is the Matthew 28 way of faith in Christ alone, and repentance toward God, followed by believers’ baptism and discipleship.
Is the college communicating the gospel with fervor and depth, or bloated with un-biblical contemporary styles and methods?
Here is another thing that many look over. Yet this has and will continue to be the death trap to numbers of unaware families that decide they are going to rank in their own minds essentials and nonessentials. For more information on this, read my post titled: Not of the Father. (Yes, I am referencing myself here, but this is my explanation of the issue, with plenty of other sources from more knowledgeable men.)
Does the college preach and practice dress standards, or simply gloss over them as a nonessential?
Are the standards consistent across the board? Some college handbooks say that modesty is different from one room to the next. Reading the Bible, the issue of modesty is always consistent wherever one is at. I am not talking about, “Ties must be worn to class, but do not have to be worn when sleeping;” or “Culottes cannot be worn in church, but can be worn when participating in athletics.” Those are not modesty issues, but rather an issue of being sharp and in order. What I am talking about are those that say you must abide by the dress code while on campus, but when you are off, you are off the hook–and other similar situations.
Is the college excellent and sharp in what it does, or sloppy and careless?
Yes! This is a Bible principle! Some think that Fundamental Baptists should be sloppily dressed, unorganized, and unprepared. The Bible says otherwise (Philippians 1:10, I Corinthians 14:40). You should seek a college where the pastor and faculty are organized and scheduled, therefore being an example to learn from. Personally, I am thankful to currently be in a church where I have learned this principle even more. On the same note, the academics should be very challenging. Graduates should be fully equipped to study, counsel, discern, and teach from the Bible with authority.
What is lacking from this list are the real nonessentials of cafeteria food, location, size, and job opportunities. I am not saying that these should be totally looked over, but I sincerely believe that if one can trust God and pray for His will, He will provide everything that is needed, and possibly much more. As a personal testimony to God, I trusted Him as He led me to my alma mater–without ever tasting the food (which ended up being out-of-this-world), knowing little about its campus and surroundings (which are top-rate and beautiful), and relatively small in enrollment (which provided a personal feeling, while being still large enough to provide a well-balanced education).
Here is a simple question to ask regarding Bible college: “Would I be a member of the church that the college is under?” That should hopefully narrow the choice down quite a bit. This is the choice that, once it is made, makes other choices for you. At college, one will often find God’s will in their life when it comes to a mate, ministry philosophy, and place of ministry. Much prayer between young people, their parents , and pastor should be made in finding God’s perfect will in this area. And do not forget, God will never go against His word. If any doctrine or standard is wrong, then God is not leading there. God is always consistent with His Word. Seek God through His Word, and He will lead in His perfect way.
Psalms 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”