School is about to start and since I attend a Bible College, it got me thinking, “What is one thing all Bible College students must consider?” There are many things to consider: cost of the school, location, if they have your major, culture of the school, quality of teaching, sports programs, clubs, etc. All of these are important factors to consider when going to Bible College, but one thing trumps them all: getting involved in a local church.
During my first year at Bible College, I did not get involved in a local church. When I use the word “involved,” I don’t mean simply attending. Being involved means you are consuming and contributing. It means you are being served but also serving. It means you use your gifts, talents and money to help edify the church as you glorify God. I remember thinking to myself, “I go to Bible College, why in the world would I need to get involved in a church? I am around plenty of Christians and study the Bible enough at school.” Oh how I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
During the middle of my sophomore year, I decided to get involved in a church. Best decision of my life! The church I go to is LifePoint Church in Vancouver, Washington. Being involved in this church has helped me grow and mature not only spiritually, but also as a man. I can attribute most of my growth to the people God has placed in my life at this church. Being under spiritual authority, being in accountability, serving, and building intimate relationships has changed my life. I realize now more than ever that Bible College is NOT a substitute for getting involved in a local church. Here is why:
- Bible College is the training grounds, church is the battlefield. Bible College is a place to grow not only from the classroom, but also through experiences. Church becomes an outlet in which we can practice what we are learning in school. This not only builds the church, but sharpens us as well. It amazes me how many Bible College students want to be involved in ministry as a full-time job, yet lack the desire to serve in any capacity. What makes you think you are cut out for full-time ministry if you don’t even serve part-time now? Maybe you don’t want to do full-time ministry, maybe you want to serve freely with your time. If you aren’t serving in a church now, what makes you think you will do it later on in life?
- Tuition and tithing are NOT the same. We all have to pay tuition, but not all of us tithe. Tithing is a very important thing for Christians to do. You can’t tithe at a Bible College, but you can tithe in a church. This helps you and the church. You are learning to commit to God with your finances, but at the same time you are financially supporting the church.
- Spiritual authority. Spiritually authority is a crucial part in one’s growth. When I say “spiritual authority,” I am talking about someone in your life who is the same sex, is older and wiser than you. This person will give you a healthy perspective on things you are facing. They will also be able to give you wisdom as they help you make good decisions and help you follow through on things you set out to do.
- Accountability. Accountability isn’t just a place for confessional vomit, but is a safe place for one to confess sins that are slipped under the rug. It isn’t a place for two young men of the same age cry over the fact they both watch porn. It’s a place for confessing and turning to repentance. It’s a place where direction is given so we don’t slip up in the same sin over and over. This should be done with someone older than you, who is of the same sex and who doesn’t struggle with the same sins as you. For instance, if you are an 18-year-old guy struggling with porn, don’t go to another 18-year-old guy for accountability when he is also watching porn.
- Relationships. The relationships developed within the church are priceless. You will be able to mentor younger people while being mentored by older people. You will be able to experience the kinds of conflicts you will encounter in ministry later on and learn how to resolve them in healthy ways. You will be able to love others as you are being loved.
- Learning about the game is different than playing the game. At Bible College, you will learn about church, ministry, serving, loving others, preaching, theology, etc. These things are all concepts until we practically live them out in the context of a church. It’s one thing to sit on the side lines of a football game and listen to someone teach you about the game. It’s completely different to get in the game yourself and play. When that happens, those concepts you learned have to be applied on the field.
I can’t express to you enough how important it is to get involved in a church. If you haven’t already, find a church and get involved there consistently. Commit to that church. Make it a priority to get involved there as you place yourself under spiritually authority, use your gifts to serve, tithe, and learn about ministry through first-hand experience. To all of my fellow Bible College students: Get involved in a local church!