In my honest opinion, Christian colleges, Seminaries, and universities are an excellent idea if they are run and organized as they should be (although unfortunately many if not most of them have been getting worse over the years). Christian education would have greater possibilities and potential if the church were not in a lukewarm state (Revelation 3:14-22). Despite this reality, there are many venues for Christian fellowship, academic training, preparation for ministry, spiritual growth, and community bonding within these Bible institutions. It sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? These things do exist in every Christian educational organization, but not to the level they should. This fact doesn’t mean every believer attending these colleges or universities carries a poor attitude toward the truth. And, of course, college, or any other form of formal higher education, is not necessarily for everyone.
We don’t need to say much here about the lukewarm issue rampant within the church today. Since most believers aren’t serious about the truth, is there any wonder that most Bible institutions aren’t as well? The academic side is not the problem but the mentality of those attending and running these organizations. Even though many people come out of them going into ministry, most churches and ministries they serve in are too comfortable with their old (or new) false traditions and beliefs. In other words, many of their attendees carry their poor frame of mind with them into their ministry. The academic training provided has many benefits (and may be required) depending on what ministry a person pursues. However, Christian education systems represent the church and need to stress serious Bible study based on what God’s Word actually says. In essence, Christian colleges and universities aren’t much different in their approach than most churches today, which is not a compliment. However, like seminaries, it is possible for them to have a lot going for them too, and they are, in many ways, what you make of them.
Given what we have just said about lukewarmness, a student should not approach a Bible college or university with high expectations for finding a solid teaching ministry. Some do exist, but they are few and far between. However, relationships and serious Bible studies with other students open to the truth are a definite possibility. The Lord can use moments like these to bring people together for the better. Many house churches have begun this way!
For those who feel led to this path, I hope that the points below will be of some help.
On the spiritual side
Some people are in fact called to preparation in this way
Christian colleges and universities have their benefits and may be necessary for those who are actually called by God to attend in order to prepare for some ministry He has called them to. God calls many believers with specific spiritual gifts to undergo formal training before entering into the service He has for them to carry out.
However, compromising on the truth to fit in is not something to aspire to
A serious believer pursuing formal education for their ministry should not allow the institution to change what they know to be true from Scripture. They must think and choose based on where their study of the Bible leads them – where the indwelling Holy Spirit prompts. Of course, we assume they are already learning under a trusted teaching ministry elsewhere.
The truth is not based on a popularity contest and should be prized and esteemed over other people’s opinions. Attending a Christian college or university should not be a cause of stumbling for a person if they legitimately care about their relationship with God more than abiding by the sometimes misguided beliefs and standards of those around them. It is OK to make friends, and there will be plenty of things to learn. But the truth still needs to come first. We must think for ourselves and orient our minds and actions toward how the Lord would have us behave.
In essence, the idea is to take advantage of all the benefits you can get while leaving all the negative things behind, never letting circumstances or the opinions of others take your eyes off the truth.
Encouraging “diversity of thought” is counterproductive when the diverse thoughts are all false doctrine
As expected, many Christian colleges and universities are inconsistent and confused about their doctrinal beliefs. There are many organizations that don’t take a stand on multiple issues but are “open to various perspectives,” an approach that throws many into confusion. These education systems need to pick sides and stick with them! Failing to take a stand for the sake of “inclusion” and “fellowship” is not only unbiblical but harmful and destructive. This is why every individual’s job is to put the Lord first through proper spiritual growth. We trust in God, not men (Psalm 118:8).
…But taking firm positions on the wrong side of things is no good either
On the other side of this are organizations that stand firm and strong in their doctrinal beliefs. One would think this would be a decidedly good thing (compared to the disturbing lack of doctrinal firmness discussed just above)… but it becomes unfortunate when the things that they choose to defend down to the last man are wrong and unbiblical. So what you have there is a prototypical case of unrighteous zeal without knowledge (Proverbs 19:2).
Lukewarmness and doctrine aside, legalism and a preponderance of rules can be problematic
In addition to the lukewarmness issue and tendency to either be squishy on doctrinal positions on the one hand, or incredibly stalwart in holding false positions on the other – in addition to these issues, there exists much legalism and hypocrisy in many Christian education systems. Anyone considering this type of biblical training needs to contemplate whether it is worth attending any place that puts a very large emphasis on rules, regulations, and restrictions. There are times we can “grin and bear it,” but some things are simply intolerable. The prospective student must choose wisely. Although ground rules need to exist in every school, they should never push unbiblical beliefs and agendas designed to control and manipulate people.
On the practical side
Not every Christian college or university is accredited, although this doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker per se. However, for many people, it is. So that is something crucial to consider.
Many formal Christian education systems cost a lot of money. Therefore, the prospective student needs to “count the cost” before choosing a path.
…Is made worse by junk classes and pointless requirements
Unfortunately, like most secular institutions, many Christian colleges and universities throw many “junk classes” into their curriculum. Suppose a student goes to a school for training in a particular area. In that case, the organization needs to make their pupils study what is necessary and pertains to the work they will commit to after they graduate. In other words, it is not right to cram subjects that are irrelevant to a believer’s calling down their throat when much of what they learn will be of no use. As one former seminary student said, “you’re going to learn a lot of crap.” Not only is this wasting people’s time and energy, but it is a big scam. The more needless and non-essential courses a person has to study, the more money they pay. In other words, it is a way of cheating people whether the institution realizes that or not. Even if there are well-meaning reasons behind this system, that still doesn’t make it right. In fact, “add ons” should be optional, not mandatory.
Imagine going to a grocery store and purchasing a candy bar; the clerk then shoves a loaf of bread into your bag, which bumps your total up. Education is already expensive enough; we don’t want to make it harder for our brothers and sisters to prepare for the service God calls them to. This type of behavior does not make Christian institutions look any different than the world’s. And much of what Christian colleges and universities force their students to learn is unnecessary and may have no bearing whatsoever on the ministry they are called to. So making rules about what one has to and needs to learn (except for obvious requirements) to carry out their service to the Lord is only a disfavor and a waste of time. It is a bad judgment call that assumes the Lord wants and requires said person to learn this or that for the work He has for them (that is in fact going to be completely unknowable to those on the outside). But these are things that are between the attendee and the Lord so that it is not anyone else’s business to dictate to them what they think they should do. That is not a biblical approach in the least.
Secular schools are another valid preparation option for believers to consider, in fact
Despite the propaganda coming out of certain (obviously biased) Christian educational institutions – propaganda that would have one think that simply setting foot on a secular college campus will doom one to apostasy and irresponsible drunken revelry or what have you – it may in fact be wiser for a believer to attend a secular university for specific academic preparations (such as Greek, Hebrew, and ancient history) for many of the reasons we have mentioned above. It is sad to say this, but, like most churches, the Christian education system (while still serving the Lord in many ways) does a lot of harm. Going into a secular school might be better than a Bible college to avoid all the legalism, lack of credentials, poor doctrine, and problematic agendas. At least when attending a secular school, you aren’t even tempted to look around for spiritual guidance (only to get negatively influenced due to lukewarmness, doctrinal laxness, and so on), since you already know secular schools won’t push any spiritual agenda that looks good on the outside, but is rotten on the inside. (On the other hand, one does have to take more care in secular schools to avoid undue negative moral influence from one’s peers/the environment itself).
But in any case, as we have already stated, one’s educational experience is largely dependent on you – what will you make of it? The Lord does call at least some serious believers to attend Christian educational institutions. But we must consider all other options too. In the end, everyone must make their own decisions based on what the Lord wants them to do (Proverbs 3:4-5).