The Importance of Education

by Tim Chaffey

     Last night, I received my Master of Arts degree in Biblical and Theological Studies from Luther Rice Seminary in Lithonia (Atlanta), Georgia.  First of all, I need to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for allowing me to complete this degree and I look forward to the doors that this will open up for me.  Also, I was truly blessed during the ceremony last night, especially during the commencement address. 

     As I was driving last night I was thinking about the ceremony and all the work that I have put in to earn this degree.  Certain conflicting attitudes exist in the church concerning education.  Throughout the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church kept her people in the dark by refusing to allow them to read the Bible.  Thanks to men like Martin Luther the Bible has been made available to just about anyone who desires to have one, especially in the Western world.  Even with this tremendous blessing, many churches have downplayed the importance of educating their people and instead have opted for a shallow, watered-down version of Christianity.  Sadly, many of the people in these churches have very little knowledge of biblical teaching and are content to remain in their ignorance.  I have had some people discourage me from continuing my education because they do not see a need for it.  After all, they reason, the disciples never received a college degree, why should you worry about it?

     Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum.  There are churches that look down on you unless you hold a theological degree.  I can remember applying for a youth ministry position at a particular church that refused to even consider interviewing me because I did not hold at least a Bachelors degree.  I met with the pastor of this church and he explained to me that they just let go of a youth pastor who had a Masters degree because he could not relate to the students.  [I hope the reader catches the irony in that attitude]. 

     I am not against a church having certain requirements for applicants but I also believe that there are many Christians without a Bible College degree who have made (or would make if given the opportunity) excellent pastors.  This is due to the fact that a believer should always be growing and maturing in his/her faith.  Some have devoted their lives to the study of God's Word and are far more prepared than a Bible College graduate who may have been taught a little bit of theology along with his ministry training classes.  I recall the frustrations I had in my undergraduate program because there was a definite lack of theological training.  Most of the focus was on ministerial and leadership principles.  While these may be necessary skills, they are no replacement for a solid biblical foundation. 

     By this time, you may be thinking that I am against Christian education.  Not at all!  In fact, I am all for it.  I believe the Christian should be highly educated in their line of work and more importantly, in God's Word.  Christian schools (elementary - college and seminary) should strive to be better than their secular counterparts in every subject area.  Churches should take the time to teach their people how the Bible relates to every area of education - history, geology, astronomy, archaeology, etc.

     Unfortunately, most churches will not take the time to train their people anymore.  They just focus on making people feel comfortable and the end result is a watered-down version of Christianity.  It is disheartening for me to see so many Christian men and women in their middle and later years who know very little about the Bible.  If things continue as they are now, the number of educated Christians will be even lower. 

     Jesus Christ commanded us to love the Lord with heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12: 30).  If we are to honor this command, then every Christian needs to develop his/her mind to the highest level.  This is hard work but our Lord never told us that the Christian walk would be easy.  We are in a battle over the eternal souls of men and women who are led astray by false philosophies and ideas.  Do you honestly think that they will be persuaded by the words "just trust in Jesus and He'll make everything better?"  While that might work for a handful of people, we need to be prepared to refute the false arguments and beliefs and replace them with the truth.  Of course, this must be done with gentleness and respect.  We do not tear down the person.  We tear down the arguments and we must do all things for God's glory (2 Corinthians 10: 5). 

     So, get wisdom!  If this means a college degree (or two, or three, or four, etc.) then so be it.  Just make sure you put them into practice.  If you never earn a college degree from a Christian institution, that's fine.  Just make sure you are taking the time to study God's Word as much as possible so that you may be prepared to give an answer to every person that asks (1 Peter 3: 15). 

     May 14, 2005

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