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In my articles entitled “Things You Need to Know Before You Answer the Call to Prepare For Ministry – Part 1 & 2,” I shared about the call to prepare for the ministry and how that a lifestyle of study is a vital part. In this bulletin, I want to address some of the paradigms I hear continually about classroom study verses nontraditional study. To the surprise of many, this discussion will not be about the overall quality of the educational process, per se. Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education show that there are no real differences in the educational results of traditionally trained individuals and those that receive their training non-traditionally. The only exception to this rule would be professionals such as medical doctors, etc. Such hands on professions demand residential training.

What I want to discuss are “real world” issues that deal with life in the ministry. I can speak specifically on this issue since our only purpose is to train aspirants of biblical ministry. I have had many tell me that they need “in the classroom” experience, not because they learn more, but because they need that teacher looking over their shoulder and demanding that homework be completed each week. Although all of us have had that low level of personal motivation at one time or another in our lives, it does not work well for those in the ministry. Someone that is truly going to function well in ministry must be:

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. To succeed in ministry, you must stay motivated, disciplined, be creative in your approaches and have the determination to overcome any roadblocks the devil will throw your way. These all can be developed or should I say MUST be developed to complete your education through theological education by extension (TEE) or by whatever other catch phrase they are using in non-traditional education today. You must learn to make study, discipline and creative problem solving a part of your lifestyle, if you are going to succeed in completing your educational journey. The very skills that must be developed to complete your degree will serve you just as well as the knowledge gained in the courses you take throughout your ministry.

Getting Down to the Basics

Step One – You Have Got to Schedule Time to Study.

If you have never used a daily planner, scheduled times or made to-do lists, then you have not been that involved in ministry very long. The more that you have to do, the more necessary proper planning and controlling your time becomes.

“3 Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” Prov 24:3 TLB

Although I am not a big fan of the Living Bible, I think that they really hit the mark with this verse. If your life is going to prosper in what God has called you to do, then wise planning, common sense and keeping up to date is a divine must! Get a DayTimer, Franklin-Covey Planner, PDA – whatever you feel comfortable with and start using it. Plan at least three 90 minute sessions of uninterrupted study per week. Then begin working on keeping those appointments and making the best use of that time. You will find that the doers and shakers in the Kingdom of God, as well as in the business world, will constantly schedule everything. In my own life, I schedule times for morning prayer, morning exercise, times for study, writing and (since I love my wife and being married) special times with her each week. What you do not plan for and MAKE time for, you will seldom ever  accomplish. This is a discipline that will serve you for the rest of your life and ministry.

Step Two – Integrate Study Habits into Your Lifestyle

The busier you get in life and ministry, the more you will need to redeem the time that you have for study. As I shared in the last bulletin, once you enter into ministry, you will really begin to study. All the study that you complete in your ministerial preparation is simply the foundation. If we endeavored to develop programs that would prepare you for everything you would face in ministry, you would be in seminary until the age of 70! The purpose of college and seminary is to give you the proper foundation and tools that you will need to use for the rest of your life. So here are some tips for redeeming the time:

1.         Audio Lectures. I cannot stress the power of these enough. It takes time to get the great truths of God deep within our spirit, mind and heart. I was recently listening to another Christian educator that stated for you to retain the information given in a lecture or sermon that you must listen to it at least 12 times. Now I am not saying that you must listen to every BLCS lecture that many times. For the purpose of our courses, I recommend that you listen to each message twice. The first time, just listen through it. Enjoy the teaching and get an overall sense of what is being said. The second time, slow down and take notes. Listen for the things that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing to you. You will be amazed at the revelation knowledge that can be generated in these lectures.

Get creative in your listening times. The wonderful thing about audio tapes, CD and MP3 files is that you can take them with you wherever you go. You can listen to them driving back and forth to work, exercising, doing housework, etc. This is why we have been working day and

night to convert all of our lectures to the MP3 format. Devices like the iPod make this so much easier. On my iPod, I have about 1,000 of my favorite songs, around 37 audio books and at least 70 complete teachings from my favorite bible teachers and preachers. I keep it in my briefcase (which is usually within arm’s reach of me at all times) so I can pick it up and begin using it when I have a few moments. There are things that God is doing in my life and in my spirit that must be nurtured. Anointed teachings have always been one of the ways God has used. Could you have believed that you could have all the lectures from an entire college course sitting in your pocket and ready for your benefit at any time? Don’t you think it’s time that the people of God use these technologies for our benefit?

2.         Keep a textbook and highlighters with you all the time. For a minister, books have always been of utmost importance. While Paul was in prison, he asked for his books to be brought to him. (2 Tim 4:13) An under-read minister is ill prepared for what life brings his way (or the life of his congregation). An underread minister will have congregations that are hyped up every week, but seldom fed! So if you are called to ministry, books and reading will become a vital part of your life for the rest of your life. Might as well get into the habit now.

You should keep the textbook of the current course you are studying with you along with a set of highlighters. (My favorite highlighters are the Zazzle by Zebra. They work the best of any I have tested and a five color pack is available at Wal-Mart or Staples.) When you get a few spare moments, jump into your next chapter. Again, like with the audio lectures,

read through the chapter first. Then go back over it again, highlighting important statements or information. If a statement is used by the Holy Spirit to spur another thought or idea, I will usually write it in the margin of the book. This way I can use it later.

Once you have read through the chapter twice, then go to the workbook and answer the questions asked. You will find many times that the statements you highlighted are the same statements the professor found important enough to write questions around.

Step Three – You Have Got to Have a Prayer Life

It is the power of the Holy Spirit and His anointing that will take these studies and transform your life. You have got to stay plugged into God. Every failure in ministry (or in a godly life) can be attributed to a failure in prayer. While you are scheduling time to study, listen to lectures or even time with your wife, remember to schedule time with God. That time breathes life into us and rejuvenates our spirit and soul.

A Final Thought

We get many questions about on-line studies. Although these work well for completing an MBA for the busy businessman, I am not fully convinced that it is the most conducive medium for training aspirants of ministry. Why? – for the very reasons I have already given. You need the time listening to anointed teachers to produce life transformations and divine impartations. You need time contemplating what is written in the books to stretch your heart and soul so that the Kingdom of God is increased in your life. For the minister, it is more than just the accumulation of knowledge. It is cultivating an environment for spiritual revelation and impartation. Without creating this type of spiritual atmosphere, I am afraid we will produce a generation of ministers that make ministry a business instead of a lifestyle!

Copyright 2008 by Michael K. Lake, Th.D.

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About the Author

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.

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