Some say he was a doctor of the law, knowledgeable above all his peers. He is now an old preacher and missionary confined as a prisoner to live out his last days. His medical chart is several pages long documenting his numerous injuries. He has given his best years to the preaching of the Gospel. Death appears to be close at hand. In his flesh and emotional state he had every right to be bitter, disappointed, and resentful. Not this old warrior. Here is what he wrote to one of the young preachers he trained: “…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry…Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the BOOKS, especially the PARCHMENTS” (2 Timothy 4:11-13).
Notice what the aged preacher asked the younger preacher to do:
Paul was still engaged in ministry. Therefore, he needed more help: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” He was a team builder to the end.
Paul was still mindful of his health: “Bring the cloak.” This was protection from the cold and damp weather. Perhaps he wanted to give it to a needy person (cf. Gal. 6:10).
Paul wanted his BOOKS. What would an aged apostle who knew the law, Gospel, and doctrine, want with books? Notice he didn’t say “a book” but BOOKS. Even, as some claim, with poor eyesight he still wanted to read—to learn—to reaffirm, etc.
Paul especially wanted the PARCHMENTS. This was a thin skin used for writing. Paul was not a “has-been” writer, resting on his previous works given to him by the Holy Spirit. No! He needed to write personal letters and be ready just in case God has some additional epistles for him to write.
Paul is an amazing example for every Christian and especially for every preacher and leader in the church. He not only spent time in educating himself but obviously he believed in and practiced continuing education. Which is clear from the above Scriptures. How contrasting was Paul’s dedication to the practice of continuing to study and write to that of some preachers and leaders today. Sadly, many are trying to lead the 21st century church with an antiquated model learned in past decades. (I went back in my 50s and completed my doctorate).
I remember as if it had been yesterday. However, it was over 50 years ago. I was in my second month as a full-time associate minister working with a preacher who had been in the ministry for over 30 years. When I asked him a question about a controversial teaching on the Holy Spirit, desiring to get his views, he replied, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I handled that 30 years ago and don’t need to spend time on it. I haven’t changed my views on that subject and won’t either.” In the weeks and months following that event I discovered he was preaching and ministering with methods, traditions, etc. he’d learned decades ago. Members were complaining.
In over 50 years of full-time ministry I have noticed an amazing neglect of continuing education engaged in my preachers and church leaders. A typical scenario I have witnessed goes something like this. A man goes to an institution to prepare himself to preach. In some cases he is taught by men who haven’t been engaged in full-time church ministry as a preacher; thus they are teaching theory and arguments related to issues that no longer exist. Some are teaching ministry methods for evangelism, Bible classes, etc. that worked years ago but no longer communicate in the 21st century. Some are only conduits for the works and books of others; nothing original.
The church of today is facing issues that no other generation has faced. To name one—the powerful influence of the social media. How sad it is for some preachers and leaders to brag about how they don’t used a computer or any of the social media programs. Add to this the need for biblical counseling related to marriage issues, financial and money problems, poor leadership training, church growth, burnout, aging challenges, youth problems, etc.
Think about it! Almost all major professions, institutions, and businesses require members to complete a specific number of continuing education units during a prescribed time period. As an emphasis the need for continuing education by professionals, etc. was begun in America in the 1870s. It is estimated that over 90 million people are engaged in some form of continuing education each year in the USA. Guess which profession isn’t found in these numbers? Preaching!
An auto mechanic must continue his education to keep up with the technology. Nurses, physician, accountants, teachers, real estate persons, insurance salespersons, etc. are required to complete so many continuing education units to keep their jobs. Don’t you find it a bit ironic that professions and businesses that deal with temporal issues require continuing education while preachers who deal with eternal issues aren’t encouraged or required to participate in structured continuing education?
The closes most churches come to encouraging the preacher to participate in continuing education is sending him to a lectureship. While these lectureships expose him to numerous topics and speakers, there isn’t an organized methodology and requirements to document whether he has learned anything. A lot of his time is spent in chit-chat sessions and browsing displays and thumbing through books. How do I know? Been there done that, don’t have a T-shirt yet. No! There’s nothing wrong with attending a lectureship for the exposure and fellowship. But let’s not confuse this with continuing education where learning takes place and skills are enhanced and developed. Back home it is ministry in the same old ruts and traditions.
While there are numerous continuing education opportunities in our fellowship, I want to share with you one that is available through the World Bible Institute (WBI). These programs are delivered through (1) extension schools—local and foreign, and (2) through online courses that are completed without leaving home. You may also earn credit through documentation of life experiences. Another major feature is the cost of each course is very affordable. Besides taking a courses for personal enrichment and education, you can earn a certificate, associate degree, bachelor degree, and master’s degree. In a WBI course you practice what you learn and learn what you practice. It is a result and skills based approach to learning. It is not theory or wasting time chasing rabbits. You are a DOER of the word (cf. Jas. 1:22-26).
Let’s be honest. I’m like you, I want to know the answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?” before I say yes to an opportunity or, in this case, enroll in a continuing education course through WBI. Here are just a few of the obvious benefits and blessing from taking a WBI course:
First, you would be “studying to show yourself approved to God” (2 Tim. 2:15, KJV).
Second, you would be following the example of the apostle Paul.
Third, you would be refreshing and remembering things you already know (2 Pet. 1:12).
Fourth, you will improve, enhance, and develop skills relate to sermon and teaching preparations and delivery. You will be a better communicator.
Fifth, you will improve, enhance, and develop counseling and communication skills that will bless you personally as well as your congregation.
Sixth, let’s be honest. You will be better “qualified” to work with larger and more challenging congregations in the brotherhood. Many now require degrees and specific skills.
Seventh, you will go deeper into the Scriptures through new hermeneutic skills and be better equipped to teach on a “deeper level.”
Eighth, you will be a blessing, inspiration, and example to the congregation.
Ninth, you will be able to explore and teach new subjects you are interested in, as well as add to those you are already interested in.
Tenth, you will glorify God in the church as a continuing student of His word, “growing in grace and knowledge” (Eph. 3:21; 2 Pet.1:5-7). It will contribute to your maturing in Christ.
By being involved in continuing education you are affirming that you are educated but you want to continue. You want to add skills and be on the cutting edge relative to meeting the challenges in a sinful world and in the church that is losing ground relative to growth and stability.
Check out WBI. You may be just a click from earning your degree.