Recently a group of Bible-college students and graduates visited our family on the mission field. During their stay they attended several of our church services, and I asked each one of them to give their testimony to our people. Besides telling how they were saved, each of them also shared how they had surrendered their life to Christ to serve Him. Every one of the young people were either heading for Bible college, in the middle of Bible college, recently graduated from Bible college, or taking online Bible courses.
This made a huge impact on some of our young people. One of our really faithful young ladies came to my wife and asked, "Are there any Bible colleges in Cambodia? I want to go to Bible college so bad!!!" In the few days following, several more came to me with similar sentiments. There is certainly no shortage of colleges, universities, and vocational schools in Cambodia. In fact, several of these young people are currently attending school; however, the schools (both faculty and student body alike) are generally anti-Christian. They put up with a lot. Just the mere thought of attending a school to study the Bible in a place where the teachers and students love the Lord...it seems to good to be true! We have opportunities here for people to study the Bible in an institute setting, but what these young people are enthralled by is the whole package deal - the dorms, the friendships, the daily classes, chapel services, etc. In a country where they are often ridiculed and mocked by friends, neighbors, and even family members for their stand for Christ, their dress standards, and their desire to live holy lives, to them Bible college sounds like an oasis in the desert.
Perhaps these young people have an over-idealistic view of Bible college; nevertheless, their spirit is both refreshing and sad to me at the same time. It is refreshing to see young people who think there could be nothing better than to give their lives lock-stock-and-barrel to prepare for the service of the Lord. And it is refreshing to see young people (both the young people who visited from the US as well as the young people in our church) who have not yet been bitten by the "cynicism bug" which is ravaging great swaths of America's youth. But I was sad because we do not yet have a full-time Bible college for them to attend. Hopefully God will open some doors in the future regarding Bible training for these precious young people who are so excited about the Lord.
But this brings me to the main point of this letter. As my wife and I were discussing the desires of our young people, we began to discuss how many young people in America are so "turned off" to going to Bible college and preparing for a life of service to the Lord. The sad thing is - the opportunity is there, but often the desire is not. I don't mean to criticize all the youth of America with a broad brush. I know of many great families who are raising many great young people to have a heart for God. I know many wonderful churches and Bible colleges that are doing a wonderful job of training men and women for the ministry. But it would be quite naive to pretend that this is the norm. In fact, any more when you see a young man or young woman living for God, it is usually the exception to the rule. Sadly it seems that more and more young people are not even considering Bible college training or the Lord's work for their lives. Many don't want the rules and accountability. Many can't give up the fun and games of their teen years to get serious about life. Many choose a career based entirely on its financial potential. Many have no interest in the Lord's work, because frankly they have no interest in the Lord Himself.
Ironically, all of this is happening in a time when there are probably more good Bible colleges than at any other time in our nation's history. There are great Bible colleges spread all across our country, from the west coast to the east coast and many in between. In my heart, I wish I could put several of our young people in our suitcases, bring them to America, and enroll them in a Bible college. But since that might get me in a little trouble, I'll do the next best thing by encouraging the young people in America not to waste the tremendous privilege and opportunity that is yours. Don't let a little rule annoy you to the point of quitting. Don't let a hypocrite in the dorm sour your spirit. Don't let a boring teacher turn you into a cynic, and don't let some minor disagreement with the administration turn you into a critic. There are no perfect Bible colleges. But many of the independent Baptist Bible colleges in America have a lot of good to offer to one who is excited about learning the Bible and serving the Lord.
I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to ministry training. Your pastor may have a Bible college or two to which he likes to send students for training. On the other hand, he may be more inclined to keep his people close and conduct their training himself. There may even be some pastors who use a variety of methods for training their young people, depending on the individual's needs and God's leading. This letter isn't about the specifics, but rather to encourage you to consider God's claim on your life and His calling for your life. There's not a long line of folks waiting to get into God's service. Actually, the road is wide open ahead of you. Yes, it will take some twists and turns that you were not expecting. Yes, it will go through some valleys too. But there is no better, happier, or more fulfilling road to travel than the road that God has for you.