Please Do Not Go To A Bible College 2

A few years ago, I posted a blog, Please Don’t Go To A Bible College. I wrote the article after teaching at a small Bible college for five years and noticing many students committing themselves to thousands of dollars in student loans to earn a four-year degree, which could only land them a job that

  1. had nothing to do with so-called ministry and
  2. they could have gotten with their high school degree — “Would you like whipped cream on top?”

At the time, I got a lot of feedback on the post, especially from some of my former students. However, a few months ago I received the following long email from David. A young man I’ve never met. To keep this blog as short as possible, I have only included the Reader’s Digest version of Steve’s email.

Mr. Afshar,

I’ve read your article on not going to Bible College over a dozen times. I agree with you 100%. You have one of the very, very, very few articles on the internet about this subject and I decided to finally email you asking for two things: 1) advice and 2) you write a follow-up article.

After high school, being terrified to be out of God’s will, rather than joining the military to work as a civil engineer, (An ASVAB test had highly qualified him for that position.) Steve, who comes from a Pentecostal background, felt he was called to be a missionary, so he went to a Bible college.

After finishing college, he tried to go to abroad as a missionary, but all his plans failed, so he tried to pursue a Master’s program to, as he put it, “…bring another skill to the table…” It was then that he found out his former Bible college’s accreditation was so poor that the only school that would accept him for graduate work was a seminary.

After the door on being a missionary closed, he applied all over the country for a youth pastor position while “volunteering everywhere like crazy” trying to build up his resume. But he was turned down everywhere mostly due to being single. He couldn’t find a job even at McDonalds or Starbucks.

Today, at the age of 28, Steve is back to school again starting from scratch. None of his credits, even English, was transferable. He has three more years to complete his BS. He’s already been awarded the engineering student of the year, been put on the board of directors for a non-profit organization that gives scholarships to qualified students, has an internship at an engineering firm, and is waiting to hear back from another organization regarding a grant for a summer project.

If it wasn’t for the following, we could all say, “All’s well that ends well.” However, this is not the end of the story. David continued with these sobering words:

Going through all of that has left me in a bad shape. I am cynical about the things of God. I have trouble seeing God as someone who is good and blesses. I constantly struggle with disappointment, disillusionment, anger, and regret. I remember imagescountless sermons on hearing how God will, “open doors” ,”bless my sacrifices”, and etc. My anger is affecting my schoolwork now (My 3.81 GPA will drop down considerably after this semester). I don’t have a dating life because no women in her 20s want to marry a guy who doesn’t have a job and won’t get one for at least three years. I did ALL the things I was told to do and this is where it has left me. I’m ashamed of having gone to a Bible college, and these days I do not tell people.

Because I had many students who went through what Steve is experiencing — and I’m deeply sorry to say that some now consider themselves to be atheists — I wrote another post a few years back to deal exactly with the above issues and questions. Please see, Modernity, Post-Modernity, Metanarrative, And….

In that article I showed how the church, in general, has made God a being who operates like a computer: by correctly using a set of programs and algorithms, God will give you the right answer. And if the answers are not what you expected, it is due to your insufficient input (lack of faith, sin in your life, not reading your Bible enough, not praying hard enough, not being present at every church service, not tithing, and…) and hardly ever preparing us for the reaction of a sovereign God whose answers might often be, “NO.”

Steve ended his email with these questions,

How do I move on? How do I get past the regret and anger? How do I get into a good relationship with God? How do I let go? Do I need to see a therapist and who would I see or how do I find one? How do I heal? How do I deal with being sexually frustrated and not being able to do anything for at least three more years and when it is slim pickings in your 30s?

Could you please write another article in case there is anyone like me, who is going through the same thing?

Since receiving this email, I’ve spent a good hour talking to Steve on the phone. He’s a brilliant and articulate young man. I don’t know how much I was able to help him. That’s why I need you to help me answer the above questions. What would you say to Dave? Please give me some practical advice and not just spiritual clichés.

 

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14 thoughts on “Please Do Not Go To A Bible College 2

  1. Very painful situation. I felt his pain (a little bit) and feel sorry that he was misguided. As of now I have no answers for him other that the “cliches”, so I won’t go into that. But I did pray for him and will continue to do so. If the Lord reveals something, I’ll share.
    In one of my struggles lately with my own shortcomings, failures, brokenness, not having “accomplished anything for the Lord”, etc., etc., etc., I felt the Lord whispering to me: God is greater than all of that (the list I just mentioned). A great peace has come upon me and I have a rest in me which tells me He will lead me on to where He has planned for me because He is greater than …..(fill the blanks). Another thing that helps me a lot in these type of circumstances are what I call J&J (Joseph and Job). Is God greater than???

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    1. Petros jaan, You’re absolutely correct about Joseph and Job. We should learn from the biblical examples of their sufferings, but we should not always expect the same outcome. A few years ago, after my second surgery in less than 3 months, a friend asked me why I was in pain. Once I explained to him, he said, “I don’t know why you’re complaining (He considered being doubled over in pain complaining.). Joseph never complaint.” That’s when I told him, “If you promise that by me hiding my pain and not talking about it, I will one day become the president of Egypt, then I’ll never speak a word about having pains.” This is where the church has gone so wrong—creating a false metanarrative…One size fits all.

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  2. I also think more people should be made aware of these two articles as well as the fundamental cause of such misunderstandings about God, His will and direction and His ways. So it would be good to see an article that addresses the root causes of such misguided lives of faith. You already refered to it by mentioning the God, computer, algorithm metaphor, but it probably needs further development. You should write a PhD thesis on this!!!

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    1. Thank you, Peter jaan! I can always rely on your faithfulness for replies to my posts. The way to make this known to more people is to repost the blog.
      Years ago, during my first Ph.D. orientation class, I approached the Prof who was going to be my mentor and told him, “I’ve read some of these thesis papers handed to us as examples, and frankly, I have no idea what these authors are saying. The language is foreign to me and it is NOT the way I write or speak. I write for street people and not a bunch of talking heads who sit in their offices writing books that only their peers understand.” He said, “If you want to get your Ph.D., you need to spend the next several years learning how to talk and write this language and once you get your Ph.D., then speak however you want to.” That’s when I said what they can do with their Ph.D. and left not to ever look back.

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  3. Most bible Colleges and Universities offering degrees in theology spend most of their time studying man-made doctrines and philosophical writings. Not so much time is spend at really studying the language of the Bible and the intent of the words of the Holy Scriptures.

    To study the Word of God, according to the Scriptures we may not ask money, though people may left free to offer money or goods to support the preaching and teaching work.

    Those who want really to get to know the Bible more best go to institutions were no money is demanded for studying the Bible and where no pressure is put on it to have the same belief as the institution or to become converted to the same faith as the givers of the course.

    To have a good degree people should go to a good university getting a Master or higher in a worldly subject. The subject of religion is something separate and those going for God should become workers of God by listening more to the Words of God instead of the words of humans.

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    1. Belgische, thank you so much for your reply.
      I don’t know if I agree with the first part of your statement. More than anything else, I believe, a Bible college student should be taught how to share his/her faith in a proper context with an unbeliever. I’ve spent a lifetime sharing my faith with Muslims, and never saw one challenging my Greek or Hebrew because they, more than anything else, wanted peace with God and not a lesson on biblical languages.
      Second, the Bible says that a laborer is worthy of his labor. In other words, we need to get paid for our labor. How am I going to provide food and shelter for myself and my family if I don’t get paid as a teacher? Do you work for free? If you do, how do you eat? And if you do work for free and can eat, then who’s supporting you? Someone who doesn’t work for free?
      Finally, yes, I completely agree with your last statement. Get a good degree that provides you a well-paying job, so you can support those who are serving for free.

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      1. The work for God, preaching, taking care of the church-service is all done for free. All our brethren have a day or weekend job to provide for their living.

        People are always welcome to give gifts but in service we never ask for money. A gift box somewhere in the room may be used to put money in so that nobody sees it.

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      2. Belgische, I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe this is the future of the church—bivocational servants, even pastors. Yes, if you have teachers who are self-supporting and don’t need to make a living through their teaching abilities, then let them teach for free. However, we always need to have those who can support the church financially. If I remember correctly, even Jesus had women who supported him financially.

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      3. Yes, and as you know, but too many forget, keeping church can be a costly business. By not having paid ministers and ministries it is sometimes not easy to make the ends meet and having a good balance between job, family and church. But we count on the Most High and with hard work we come to do our work properly giving to all the best we can.

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      4. Great! I’m glad we agree on this issue. I’m sorry I’ve been calling you Belgian. I wanted to make sure you knew I was replying to you. By the way, if you’re interested, yo can go to Shahzamfactor.com/blogs to see a much deeper discussion on this post.

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      5. Thank you very much for the link to your blog of the “former Muslim” where the Iranian voice brings wisdom noticing that God provides not one parachute for each of us, not two parachutes, but He will provide us with three parachutes to make sure we land safely. as such we should also dare to go to do the job we feel right for and just go for it with all our heart, as long as it it not against the Will and ordinances of God.

        when I wanted to subscribe to your blog I noticed there is only a subscription possibility to the comments but not for the blog articles.
        Perhaps that would be an interesting feature to add as well as “like” buttons.

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  4. My advice for Dave would be:

    See your future how God sees it. Meaning to say do not limit what you can see because of past or present failures or shortcomings. As a person who intends to go thru a Bible school but failed 5 times, as I remember, it brought me to realization with close friends beside me that you always have to look on the bigger picture.

    If you would accept this as a cliche go, but for me, this was a reality. Seeing present things as not the end of your and God’s story you’ll gain peace and hope that all these things must take place. Whatever happens bad or good, disaster or even calamity you will know that there are reasons why these things need to happen. In that way, I manage to accept things, move on and continue to hope.

    And for me, as far as I learned about life. There is no such thing as late in life. Like for example marrying at the age of 20 or 30. You are not late if you marry on your 30s or even 40s just because others marry in their 20s. We all have our own pace of life and then again, things happen for a reason. One great example or a possible reason is that probably you need to go thru that experience to be able to understand others who will go thru the same process of life. Or you are late in marriage because of your partner is probably requires a longer time to fulfill her single life responsibilities.

    One more thing is comparing yourself to others. It is not directly bad but if you cling too much to it that seeing yourself as a loser because they are going thru a different process. We are all unique and different. As a futuristic person like me, people see me as a foolish big-mouthed one but to see things which others can’t see is a good thing if you’re going to put yourself in the right place. And that is to give hope or warning.

    Base on Dave’s story, I know for sure that all those things that had to happen to him have their purposes. Remember that even the Death of the Precious Son of the Lord Most High is necessary in order to save the world or the chosen people (which we do not know). Don’t lose hope instead get excited about how God will unveil His plans for your life and if you die without knowing those, I would still believe that there is still a reason. Again there is no late in God’s eye and nothing had gone wasted even those years you spend during your Pastoral experiences.

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  5. Dear Jordan,

    It’s been almost 2 years since I posted the above, so I had to go back and read it again before replying to you.

    Thank you for your heartfelt reply. I’m always honored when people such as yourself, not only read my blogs but also reply to it.

    In principle, I agree with what you say. But the issue is trusting the sovereignty of the Lord who is always in charge. However, when you’ve been taught and told over and over again that if you do A and B, the Creator is bound to do C and D for you, then it is very difficult not to blame yourself for failure. I think the guilt Dave is facing, stems out of that kind of teaching.

    Another important thing to realize is that contrary to what we’re often told, serving God is not limited to being a pastor or working out of a church building. Not all of us are called to be pastors. Many of us, like David, are called to be engineers and serve the Master in that capacity.

    Again, thank you for your reply.

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