Chuck Quarles: The Value of Christian Education to Churches

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[Editor's Note: Dr. Charles Quarles is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern, author of numerous scholarly and popular level books on the NT, and a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti SocietasHe is also an experienced pastor, missionary, and theological educator, and so an able guide on the topic of Christian education. The following is part 2 of two parts on the true value of Christian education.]

In a previous post, I discussed the value of Christian education for students and parents. Churches often invest in Christian education, too. Southern Baptists contribute through the Cooperative Program to support Baptist colleges and seminaries. Increasingly churches are asking whether this is a wise investment. How much does Christian education really contribute to the mission of the church? Should churches consider decreasing or even dropping contributions to educational institutions in order to have more for local ministries or international missions?

I would argue that Christian education is a very wise investment for local churches. Christian education is of enormous value for the kingdom of God and the mission of the church. Students who attend public universities are four times more likely to stop attending church than those who attend authentic Christian colleges. Students who attend public universities are seven times more likely to stop praying consistently than students who attend authentic Christian colleges. Churches that do not encourage their youth to attend Christian colleges will likely suffer the heartbreak of seeing a sharp decline in the numbers of educated young adults that participate in church ministries.

Even if such young adults remain in the church, they may ultimately have a negative impact on the church’s health. A March 29, 2005 Washington Post article revealed that 72% of college professors view themselves as “liberal,” 84% support abortion, and 67% view homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. (Consider how much these numbers may have increased in nine years.) One rarely sits at the feet of such instructors for four years or more without being influenced by their ideologies in overt or subtle ways. Unless the church strongly promotes Christian education, the young adults who receive this dangerous tutelage will form the primary pool of future spiritual leaders for our churches. These young adults will carry the intellectual and philosophical influences of their educational background into their Sunday school classrooms, the deacons’ meeting, and committee discussions and potentially infect others with non-Christian views.

Students who attend authentic Christian colleges typically grow in their Christian commitment at five times the rate of students who attend other schools. They have a Christian worldview and a good foundation of biblical knowledge that equips them to serve Christ through their churches as well as through their professions. One can hardly estimate the sweeping impact that a Christian physician, attorney, public school teacher, journalist, or businessman may have on the kingdom of God in a local community when these influential believers view their profession as a divine calling and mission.

One of the great concerns related to the future of several of our Southern states is the notorious “brain drain” on our population. Bright educated young professionals are abandoning struggling states in unprecedented numbers as they seek higher salaries and greater potential for advancement in other states. However, the feared brain drain can also have a devastating effect on local churches. If Christian parents and churches entrust our best and brightest students to secular universities and they are schooled in unbiblical ideologies, the church risks losing its rich intellectual tradition. The church will be poorly equipped to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith to a culture that is increasingly hostile toward our deeply cherished Christian convictions.

It may surprise many to discover that education is such a vital part of our Baptist heritage that one entire article of the Baptist Faith and Message is actually devoted to discussing the importance of this endeavor. Article XII. Education states:

Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. . . . [T]he cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence.

Christian schools prepare outstanding Christian leaders for a variety of professions in which they have unique opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who better to share the gospel with a teacher or attorney than a respected colleague who views his vocation as his calling and seeks to use it to glorify Christ at every opportunity? Christian education is thus a helpful strategy for assisting the church in fulfilling the Great Commission. That’s why our confession insists that just as the church supports the causes of local and international missions, education “should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches.”

When our churches affirm this historic Baptist confession, we are also acknowledging the value of Christian education and pledging our commitment to support this cause with generous gifts and fervent prayers. The need has never been greater and the ministry more strategic than now.

The College at Southeastern seeks to provide the sort of high-quality Christian education about which Dr. Quarles writes. For more info on the programs, faculty, and tuition costs for The College, check out the website and/or contact admissions

 

One Effort To Prevent Failure In Ministry

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Every fall and spring I have the joy and responsibility of addressing new students as they enter the College of Southeastern and Southeastern Seminary. I am always excited to do this, but I also have a real sense of burden. Why? Because I know some will never see graduation and some will not last in ministry. Almost all begin with great hopes, dreams and aspirations. “I am going to change the world for Christ.” “My life in vocational ministry is going to make an impact for eternity.” Tragically along the way they get sidelined, fall by the wayside, drop out of the race. The older I get the more acutely aware I am of the fact: it is one thing to start well, but it is another thing to finish well. So, each fall and spring I share the following with our new students. I hope you will be encouraged. I hope together, we finish our race well for the glory of God and the good of His Church.

Being Faithful To The High Calling Of Christ

(“How to Survive Seminary and Make it in the Ministry”)

 Philippians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 10:31

1. Maintain your quiet time, and be active in a local church. Southeastern is not a substitute for community life in the Body of Christ.

Psalm 46:10; Mark 1:35

2. Guard your marriage/family. This is one of Satan’s favorite areas to launch an attack.

Psalm 127; 128; Song of Solomon 2:15; Ephesians 5:21-6:4

3. Pursue holiness by a) protecting your thought life, b) maintaining your integrity, and c) avoiding the places of temptation and evil.

Proverbs 23:7; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Philippians 2:5; Ephesians 4:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:22

4. Remember we are a covenant community that takes seriously our covenant commitments.   Honor your word and keep your promises.

Matthew 5:33-37; 1 John 2:5

5. Watch your finances and always act responsibly and with integrity. This is the number one killer of most students who have to drop out of school.

Romans 13:8

6. Remember you are here primarily to learn, not to teach. However, at SEBTS, we all believe we can learn from one another.

II Timothy 2:1-2

  • Few things are more valuable than a teachable spirit.
  • Study now what you will find difficult to study later.
  • Commit now to continue to study what you are studying now. (Greek, Hebrew, Theology, Philosophy, History, Apologetics)

7. Learn to work with, and get along with, people (develop your “people skills”). In other words, seek to balance both what you believe and how you live.

Ephesians 4:1-6

8. Be responsible and wise in your ministry service for the Lord, following the biblical model of a “shepherd” or “servant” leader.

Mark 8:31-38; 10:32-45; 1 Peter 5:1-4

9. Put no limitations on how and where our King might use you. Ask the Lord to give you the ability to truly pray, “Lord, why should I stay?”

Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 2:20

10. Find a passion for the Great Commission. This is, after all, the final marching orders of King Jesus.

Matthew 28:16-20

Chuck Quarles: The Value of Christian Education to Students and Parents

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[Editor's Note: Dr. Charles Quarles is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern, author of numerous scholarly and popular level books on the NT, and a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas. He is also an experienced pastor, missionary, and theological educator, and so an able guide on the topic of Christian education. The following is part 1 of two parts on the true value of Christian education.]

I once overheard a money-savvy parent advise some other Christian parents about how to select a college for their children. He offered what sounded like some very practical advice: “Before you invest in education, first calculate the effect of the education on future potential earnings. An expensive education doesn’t make sense if the education cannot eventually lead to a significantly higher income.” He went on to give an example:

It makes sense to go to a private Christian college to prepare for some fields since this can give you a competitive edge for getting into certain grad schools and can offer graduates greater opportunity for success. But a public school teacher, for example, makes the same salary no matter where she earned her degree. If you plan on becoming a teacher, don’t waste your money on a degree at a private college. Go to a less expensive public institution.

Certainly it is wise to value-shop when searching for a college. I would argue, however, that the value of a Christian education often greatly exceeds the mere potential for higher salaries and faster promotions. I also fear that a less expensive education at a secular institution may cost far more than is evident from a slick, polished recruiting brochure. Researcher Steve Henderson discovered that 52 percent of the students at non-Christian colleges who identify themselves as “born-again Christians” during their freshman year will no longer identify themselves as born-again four years later or will not have attended a religious service in more than a year.[1] Those are frightening odds.

Let me hasten to say that I attended a public university and I graduated among that 48 percent who persevered in their faith. My faith took some hard hits in the university classrooms. However, my faith was strengthened as I carefully investigated the attacks of my professors on my Christian faith and discovered the many fallacies and inaccuracies of their assaults as well as the compelling evidence for the crucial claims of Christianity. Sadly, some of my friends and classmates did not fare so well. The question that churches and parents must ask is whether they are willing to gamble with those 52-48 odds.

Imagine an airline that slashed ticket costs for passengers who were willing to fly on old and poorly maintained aircraft. Passengers could purchase a ticket for 52% of the normal fee. The catch was that the planes had a 52% chance of crashing. I seriously doubt that you would have to wait in long lines at that ticket counter. Does it make sense to purchase a discounted education at such a great risk that students may discount the Christian faith?

I recently saw a graduate of a Christian college weep as he thanked his parents for the enormous sacrifices that they had made in order to enable him to attend that school. I could not help but wonder if these painful financial sacrifices had spared them even more heart-wrenching spiritual and emotional sacrifices such as hearing their son renounce his faith or watching him embrace a sinful and self-destructive lifestyle. Jesus asked “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” This question must be kept in mind as we weigh the value of a Christian education.

When you shop for a college, shop for a real value. But make sure that you consider all the costs and advantages, both financial and spiritual, of a particular school. Remember to consider not only what the education will do for the student, but also what the education will do to the student. Remember that smart shopping is not just a matter of dollars and cents, but also a matter of souls, minds, and the kingdom of our Lord.

The College at Southeastern seeks to provide the sort of high-quality Christian education about which Dr. Quarles writes. For more info on the programs, faculty, and tuition costs for The College, check out the website and/or contact admissions

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[1] Steve Henderson, “A Question of Price Versus Cost,” Christianity Today (March 2006).