What if all of your children were in conversations like this every day of their lives, from house to house to house, and someone said, “Hey why don’t you think about going to Bible college?” They’d probably say, “You know what? I am so saturated with the Word of God, I can’t even think about going to an environment where half the people aren’t even converted. They focus on doctrine instead of on Jesus. It feels like I’d be going backwards to do that. Thanks for asking but…no thanks.”
There’s not a “doctrine” against going to a Bible college. Probably most of the guys in the room, including the guys that came with me, did something like that, but we’d never do it again. My son knows far more—ten times more—of Jesus and of Jesus’ Word and the doctrine of Christ and the Life and the mind of God than I did after going through seminary! He’s never even been in a Bible class or a Bible study in his life, as far as I know; yet, he knows ten times more than I knew coming out of seminary with all A’s. I was a substitute teacher for the professors when they were out of town, in Greek and in other subjects. They thought I knew a lot, but my son knows ten times more than I ever knew at his age. He’s never even been to a Bible study, but what he has done is he’s been with a bunch of unlearned and ignorant fishermen. We have had a lot of guys who have been through seminary, but they’ve been surpassed in many cases by people who know Jesus better than they do. People have come to learn the Word of God better than they have because they understand how it all fits together now, instead of just being “topics” and word studies.
Are we against Bible college? Would we tell anyone over the phone, “Oh, why don’t you skip Bible college”? I would never tell anyone that. That might be the best thing they have available to them in their situation. Not everyone has what we have. That might be the very best thing they could do in an environment filled with rituals, services and lukewarmness. And they might actually learn enough of the Scriptures to rebel against the systems of men, because the Bible does contradict the systems of men. A lover of Jesus says, “Oh! Wow! Thanks for showing me that. Why are we doing it?” And, the “religious medicine man” says, “Well, ignore that…Ignore the man behind the curtain.” When honest people ask honest and insightful questions about the Scriptures, it puts the religious system in deep trouble because there are no Biblical answers for what they are doing.
Personally, I was awakened to the Word of God, and I began to see that we weren’t practicing the Word of God…but that’s my situation. Somebody might ask me over the phone, “Should I go to Bible college or not?” I would say, “Well, tell me about your situation.” If someone is asking me that, then he probably doesn’t have the life of Jesus around him every day, or he probably wouldn’t even ask. So maybe for him, it’s an okay thing to go, if for no other reason than to learn that the Bible doesn’t support 90% of what happens in the church world today. In Bible colleges you may learn more of the Bible—hopefully they teach the Bible at the Bible college, at the seminary; not all of them do! But the ones that do, well okay, that might be a good thing for that person and their situation. I have no problem with that.
A doctrine “against” things doesn’t set any men free. Jesus didn’t teach a lot of “against” doctrines. He simply showed people where He lived, and then invited them to come. They began to leave the things behind them that became unnecessary props. A blind man needs a cane. What do you do with the cane when your eyes are healed? You don’t need it anymore. Do you then say, “All canes are bad!”? No…For a blind man a cane is good. For a crippled man crutches are good—if he throws away the crutch he is going to be in trouble. A blind man who throws away the cane because he’s too proud to use it is going to be in trouble. But a man who can see doesn’t need the cane, and a man who can run doesn’t need the crutches.
If someone calls me or emails me and asks, “What do you think about Bible colleges? Should I go or shouldn’t I go?” I would never tell that person, “Noooo, you shouldn’t go! That’s a bad thing.” But I would say to them, “God does have a higher way, and it’s the unlearned and ignorant men that turn the world upside down.” How many pharisees turned the world upside-down? How many fishermen turned the world upside-down? It doesn’t take many fishermen who love and know Jesus to change the world. However, ten million pharisees—people who know the Bible backward and forward, and spend their time thinking about the Bible, rather than being drawn to the God of the Bible—those people don’t change anything. They advance religion but not Jesus.
I would encourage people to fall in love with Jesus, and to do the Bible college thing if they need to and it makes sense for them in their world. It doesn’t matter in some people’s worlds. If they teach the Bible at that Bible college, that’s okay. But God’s Way is to have a true Church, not a seminary. Surely you all have read your Bibles enough to know beyond any doubt that what I’m saying is in the Bible, and what we’re all used to in the “religious” world is not found anywhere in the Bible. A Church that the gates of hell can’t prevail against is God’s Plan, where people are laying down their lives. They learn their Bible from Apollos, Silas, Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla. They’ve learned the applications of the Word of God in the context of people who are worshipping, loving and sacrificing their lives for them. “Greater love has no man than this, that they lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:13). When they see that, they are changed. “The pillar and foundation of truth is the “Ekklesia”—not the Bible study, the devotional, or the seminary. “The LIFE becomes the Light of men.” If people hear information but never see it in daily life, they may not be changed.
Some people are changed a little bit by information. Jesus came to be with people so that He might send them out. He didn’t come to teach them doctrines so that they might teach doctrines. He came to teach them to obey, so they could go into the entire world and teach others to obey. That’s formation, that’s not information. That’s formation. That’s the way of God. You don’t really tend to get formation in a seminary. You get information in a seminary. So there’s a more efficient way to change lives than by attending a seminary. I went to seminary, but benefited only a little bit from it.
My son has benefited a hundred times more from being around Timothy and Silas (and his dad maybe a little bit : ) ), and other people, day in and day out. People who loved him could say things like, “John, do you know what Isaiah said about that?” “No, I don’t know.” “Well, let’s look at that together. Here’s what Isaiah said about that. Now what are you going to do about it?” The passion of Jesus is fanned in my son’s heart by loving interactions on a daily basis. Now, does this sound like “home church” to you? Not really!