Choosing A Bible College

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.

  • Ecclesiology

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?

  • Soteriology

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.

  • Music

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.)

  • Modesty

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.

  • Excellence

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.”

Life at Fairhaven Baptist College–Senior Year

Where shall I begin?  Most of the events I’m going to describe happenend less than a year ago, so they are fresh on my mind.

To start things off, I have to speak about last summer.  After I got back from a missions trip to Canada, my family moved to Kalamazoo, about an hour and a half from Lansing.  The m0ve was different for me; yet I knew I wouldn’t be at home much longer either.  Plus, that put us an hour and a half (it cut the driving time in half) from college and of course: Andrea.  In the last days of June, Andrea arrived back from Mexico for good.  She had been gone for almost a year, yet we still did not completely know eachother as much as we wanted.  Thankfully, I had the same two days off in a row every week at work, and the driver distance was now half of what it was.  That all translated into me being in Chesterton two weekdays a week for most of the summer.  Our relationship truly grew into love that summer.  Andrea’s mother, Mrs. Leslie, was becoming weaker, but she was still able to enjoy the blessings of God very much.  I really got to know Mr. and Mrs. Leslie very well last summer–the rest of the family too.  I am truly greatful to God for giving me that time to spend with Andrea and her family before school even started.

So Little Time

In early August, I received a call from Andrea who was at a Fall Push bus meeting at my bus captain’s home.  There she told me that I was going t0 be leading a bus for the month of September.  “Wow!  Me?,” I thought.  It was quite overwhelming to hear all of that, and know that I would be responsible for a bus full of children from a depressed inner-city.  At the same time, I was very excited.  What an incredible learning experience that was going to greet me when I moved back for the school year!

And that it did.  I was able to head up Bus #95 for five weeks: Fair Day, Skate Day, Candy Drop Day, Zoo Day, and Patriotic Sunday.  I have a ton of stories from each week, but I’ll highlight a few here.  Fair Day went extremly smooth for us (they had changed the name from Circus Day after 30 years of it being that).  Skate Day is a story and a half!  It downpoured for three days straight, and Sunday was the worst of it.  But, praise God, all of the busses had a great week despite the flooding that made nation-wide news.  Anniversary Sunday was a lot of fun for everyone, and no real obstacles came about.  I think I had 12 parents ride my bus that day too.  Then their was Zoo Day–our biggest day, and with no lost children at city zoo for the third largest city in America!  I am grateful to God for giving me a ministry oppurtunity last September where I was able to see new familes accept Christ and become regular attenders.

Coming swiftly at the heels of the Fall Push is the actual season of fall (ironically, the Fall Push is mostly during summer).  In late October–one year ago–the engagement event was starting to be in play for Andrea and I.  We went to S6303544-1an apple orchard together with her family, while enjoying all of the sights, smells, and treats of the season.  Then on November 1, I took a day off of school to visit my parents…as well as buy a ring!  Then on November 14, we were engaged.  Some of you may wonder what the “whole story” of our engagement was, but that’s not what this post is about.  This is supposed to be about college!  But after we were engaged, life began to move extremely quick.

In late November, Christmas lights came and went.  Andrea and I went with my junior year roommates and their respective others to the Weber Grill in downtown Chicago.  It was there that I discovered HUGE pretzel rolls with cheddar cheese spread.  Glory!  Anyways…  Something else that determined where Andrea and I are at now  happened that same night.  I had an interview with Assistant Pastor Chris Starr of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Brogue, PA about working at the church as an intern.  I had heard great things about Mt. Zion from plenty of people at Fairhaven, so I felt confident that this could be God’s will for us.  Pastor Chris is now one of the biggest mentors in my life (whether he believes it or not!).  God would pave the path plainly over the next few months.


Early in the first semester, I had the opportunity to preach alongside of one of classmates at Fairhaven Baptist Church’s New Years service.  I was so nervous, even if I didn’t look it!  God led me through that whole process!  It was such a blessing for me to preach about having a thirst for God in front of the church which I had grown to love and admire.  It was one of the highlights of college–not just because I was able to preach, but because God had changed my life through men behind that same pulpit I was preaching from.  I remember listening to men like Bob Kelly as  a sophomore in high school from that same pulpit.  It was then that I knew that God wanted me at Fairhaven.  And then I was somehow preaching to the same church.  What a humbling experience!

Wedding planning seemed to dominate the second semester of school.  I was finally beginning to realize that college was not going to last forever.  There is a life outside of Fairhaven Baptist College.  Reality really began to hit when I met with Dr. Voegtlin about what I was going to be doing after graduation.  He told me that Pastor Starr was probably going to be asking me to come to his church, and that I should prayerfully consider.  His words to me were, “I don’t know of a better place for a church planter to train and minister.”  Just a week or so after that meeting Pastor Randy Starr called me–another huge mentor in my life now.  I accepted the offer after truly finding God’s will in the whole matter with much prayer and seeking God.  My new bride and I were going to Pennsylvania in early June!  Then there was even more preparation…

Classes during my senior year were eventful to say the least.  Two of my “interesting” ones were Articulatory Phonetics and Second Language Acquisition Methodology.  Both are linguistics courses for future missionaries that help develop tools for language learning.  We all had a great time in those classes, and learned a lot from them.  My favorite though was Systematic Theology.  I just loved digging into the Bible and seeing all about God and his plans for us.  Especially the doctrine of salvation–we learned about all of the terms: justification, sanctification, redemption, adoption, atonement, regeneration, etc.  It all can sound so complex and “deep” to the average Christian.  And it is true that salvation is very deep.  The greatest truth I learned from that teacher is that salvation is so simple that a small child can understand and be born again: not even knowing what one of those terms I just mentioned means; but also so deep that we can enjoy our “so great a salvation” even more the more we discover the richness of God’s love.

In the process of discussing our wedding and honeymoon plans, Andrea and I decided that she could go back and visit her friends and ministry in Mexico once more before we were married.  The airfare was fairly cheap at the time, so it seemed worth it to both of us.  However, Andrea’s mom was becoming extremely weakened through her battle with cancer.  We all knew that it was terminal, which made us give this little trip for Andrea a second thought.  After gaining some wisdom about the situation, we decided that Andrea should still take the trip.  Looking back now, we realize that God was in that whole process, even though it may be hard to explain to someone not directly involved.  So Andrea left the Tuesday of Volleyball Marathon, and was going to be back the following Thursday.  That Friday because there was no school, I took a trip home to visit my family.  It was  early that Friday afternoon in March that I heard that Mrs. Leslie had passed away.  I knew that my main responsibility was to get Andrea back home as soon as possible.  She was able to be back the following day, praise the Lord.  The funeral was uplifting, to say the least.  It was joyful: how a funeral should be.  It was the kind of joy where some sadness was shown, but overall God received all of the glory in the life of a  sold old Christian servant: twenty years as the “dorm mom,” with countless  “daughters”  serving God with their husbands all over the world.  The college girls sang “So Little Time” and “Let the Lord Have His Way” as two specials for the service: perfectly fitting for Mrs. Ellen Leslie–now my mother-in-law in heaven!

As my final year was coming to a close, God continued to work.  Preaching Conference came at the end of April as normal, and spoke to my heart about something.  David Cloud preached a message about the “Emerging Church” and the effects that it already has had on fundamental Baptist churches.  After the sermon, Dr. Voegtlin challenged all of the graduates of Fairhaven Baptist College to stand.  I believe it was sad to him that some graduates fall into the temptations of changing things and making churches more like the world, and less like Christ.  What a message!  I think I am going to write an article to summarize all of this sometime in the future, and what it meant to me…

Graduation was speeding up on us!   Cap and gown fittings, graduation testimonies, finals, and rehearsals were all common words during those last few weeks.  Then one week after that, I was going to be married.  And two weeks after that I was moving 500 miles away to “Countryville”, PA–fully involved in the ministry in which I was trained for.  Exactly six days before graduation, myself and another college student were soulwinning on our bus route in Gary.  We knocked on one door when a lady who looked extremely familiar to me answered the door.  I couldn’t place her, though.  She said that her children used to ride the bus to Fairhaven every Sunday.  But both of her sons were killed in a car accident about 2 1/2 years before.  Then it all clicked to me…and her!  This was Joseph’s mother; the boy I had led to Christ during the Fall Push of my sophomore year!  That’s why they had suddenly stopped coming to church!  She told be that he and his brother were riding in the bed of a pickup when they were rear-ended on the corner of 23rd and Garfield.  They both died instantly.  She couldn’t stand to be in the house where they had lived with her only two children, so she moved to where we knocked on her door that afternoon.  I knew that he was saved, though.  He was in heaven!  Because of me?  Of course not.  God had miraculously led our paths together so that Joseph could be redeemed!  Praise the Lord!  I told his mom that, and she started to cry tears of joy.  She said, “He told me that he was a Christian all the time, and knew that he was going to go to heaven some day.”  This was all of the Lord’s working!  “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”

My class graduated on May 14, 2009 at 7:00pm.  Pastor Wilbur Unger preached the commencement–the same pastor who I had helped for two weeks the previous summer.  He preached a message on standing and working.  Everything seemed to be perfect that night…except college was completed for me.  It seemed a little sad to me, believe it or not.  There was going to be no more living in the dorm, Christmas Lights, cafeteria dining, snack shop, college basketball, passes, chapel…now its on to real life, I guessed.  It’s hard to believe that all of this was just five months ago–to the day, actually.  It seems so long ago.  I can’t even express in words how much I love Fairhaven Baptist Church and College.  I owe so much to God for leading me there.  Andrea and I both have huge responsibilities also, to stand and to be instant. We have been given far to much to just throw out and say, “Well, yes, we graduated from there, but let’s not talk about that right now.”  Instead, we owe a huge debt, spiritually speaking.  In any ministry we are involved in from now until the day we die, God’s Word must be the cornerstone.  We are not to be pleasing men, the world, or ourselves; but the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to be zealous and hardworking in everything that we do, defending the faith in every step.  That’s what I got from Fairhaven Baptist College, and that’s what Andrea and I will continue to stand on.