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“Where the Remnant Comes to Train”
Have you ever decided that you were going to lose some weight, and so you went down to the local superstore to look for the new and improved pills that claim that you can lose weight quickly, easily, no work required, and eat all you want? Well, many have tried these shortcuts only to find that the side effects included: blurred vision, nausea, heart palpitations, heart-attack, and stroke. The truth is that nothing will replace getting rid of junk food, eating wholesome foods, and old fashioned exercise (i.e. hard work).
The same can be said about your education for ministry. There are many schools out there that are like the diet pills: shortcuts that try to replace hard work. We have all seen them all over the Internet:
• Free Tuition
• Open Book Exams
• No Writing Requirements
• Get Your Degree FAST
You may quickly receive your degree certificate, but side effects include: blurred spiritual vision, shallowness of spiritual depth, a heart that will faint during testing and trials, confusion about real spiritual direction, and a shipwrecked ministry.
This is not a debate over non-governmental accreditation versus governmental accreditation. The difference between the two in many aspects is philosophical and ideological. Both have their benefits and drawbacks. (More on the differences in an upcoming article.) This article is really about two things: (1) insisting on valid academic standards, and (2) spiritual depth.
Let’s take a look at some basic standards that you should be aware of:
• Associate degrees require 60 semester credit hours of study, and Bachelor degrees require 120. (No exceptions: there is no such a thing as a 60 to 90 hour Bachelor degree.)
• A 3 semester credit hour class completed in residence would require attending class once a week for 16 weeks with at least two hours a week of homework. Extensive reading and a good bit of writing are all a part of the educational process. You are not going to complete a 3 SCH course at home, part-time, in a couple of weeks.
• Closed book exams and writing are essential to the learning process. Remove them and you greatly degrade your education. In fact, it can reduce it to glorified Sunday School material.
• Master of Divinity: All legitimate M.Div. Programs should require between 80 to 100 SCHS to complete, regardless of the major.
• If you have a secular undergraduate or graduate degree (to include a doctorate), the Master of Divinity should be the required program of study. You should never be allowed directly into a doctoral program without the appropriate religious graduate degree.
• A thesis should be required to complete a master’s degree, and a dissertation should be required for a doctoral degree. No shortcut should be accepted. The only ones that will be shortchanged are you and all those that you minister to in the future.
Life Experience Credits: We need to be more realistic with Life Experience Credits (LECs). The Accrediting Commission International has set very good standards: maximum LECs at the undergraduate level is 30 and a maximum of 8 at the graduate level. No college or seminary accredited by ACI should allow more.
Depth of Materials: All programs should challenge you, stretch you spiritually and intellectually, and have significant depth to them. Over the years, we have had many serious students that tried other schools, only to return out of spiritual hunger and a search for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We have also had many new students from other schools surprised when they learned more in one course with Biblical Life College & Seminary compared to an entire degree program at their previous school. What you receive during your training will be used in ministry the rest of your life. Dig deep and expect transformation during your studies.
Mark 11:12-14 (NKJV)
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again." And His disciples heard it.
Many ministers skip over these verses to deal with aspects of faith, but few understand why Jesus cursed the fig tree. There is more involved here than just a lesson on walking in faith. We see the phrase "a fig tree having leaves" and do not realize what is being referred to in the scripture. Our hermeneutic process must dig a little deeper than just glossing over the surface. The fig tree had leaves as if it had already born fruit, even though it "was not the season for figs." The tree had not yet endured the heat and toil of summer that is required to produce fruit, yet it was trying to present itself as having fruit. This deception was cursed by the Savior.
Here is our lesson picture. The leaves can represent your degree certificate and the fruit is what should have been developed in you as you underwent the season of learning required to develop the proper fruit. Heaven does not care about the leaves (i.e. your degree certificates hanging on the wall), rather it looks for the fruit that was developed in your life through the discipline of structured spiritual and academic study.
Those seeking shortcuts are more interested in showing leaves, and those that have real spiritual hunger and a desire to be used of God in the Last Days have a desire for fruit. I pray you hunger for fruit!
© Copyright 2010 by Michael K. Lake, Th.D., D.R.E.
All Rights Reserved
Michael K. Lake, Th.D., D.R.E.
Dr. Lake is the Chancellor and Founder of Biblical Life College and Seminary. He is an Internationally respected authority on nontraditional theological education, educator, author, and serves as a Bishop on the International Board of Directors for the Restoration Fellowship International.