80 Years and Looking Ahead!
by Waldie Neufeld, Ph.D.
With the decline and restructuring of many Bible colleges in Canada, the question gets raised, “Is there still a place for PRBI today?” Yet recent studies regarding the spiritual state of Canada and our Christian youth answer the question with a resounding yes! Over the last 24 years, Barry Bowater, who is with the Adizes group, noted a 24% decline in church attendance.1 Some paint a far bleaker picture. Further, one in every three youth raised in Christian homes leaves the church.2 That is a startling revelation. Young people perceive church as more of a social club their parents attend but not a necessity for their lives. They want to matter, they want to know they have something to contribute, and that their lives have meaning and purpose. They look for impact between God’s Word and their lives.
Reflecting on these stats, we surely must acknowledge the gravity of Christendom in North America. The transitions young people experience when moving away from home, along with establishing life on their own, are factors in furthering their disconnect with the church.3 Young people search for something more than simply, “That’s the way we do it around here.” The need for spiritual training becomes self-evident and very reminiscent of the beginnings of many Bible schools in the 1930s.
Mrs. Hattie Monge, sister to Fergus Kirk a founder of Prairie Bible Institute, planted the seeds of a Peace Country Bible School in one Walter McNaughton in 1933. She listed the lack of Bible education and the need to study the Bible in the Peace Country, as reasons for starting a Bible school.4 Need and opportunity always leads the way in starting a new adventure. We of course stand some 81 years after Hattie’s letters and Walter’s bike ride to the Peace Country and celebrate their obedience and achievement, but must look to the future to what we must do.
Bible colleges were introduced because there was a need for young people to learn about God and the Bible. But along with learning about God, we need to be connected to Him and His community. That need still exists today. The reality is we all long for community, we need community, because we are created for community (Gen 2:18). We need a relationship with God and others to thrive. We can only thrive and grow as individuals when we participate in authentic connections with God and others. Knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ is eternal life and Bible school offers a great opportunity to grow together in faith, where both of these needs converge and for faith to flourish.
Berard and company suggested we will re-engage our Christian youth through the power of conversation. They need to be connected with people who have a vibrant faith.5 Jesus spoke of this faith in John 17:3, where He stated, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” This type of knowing does not just mean knowing intellectual facts about God, but a knowing that is integrated into our lives, transforming us from the inside out. As we allow who He is and what He says to alter our perceptual universe, it will change our hearts, our thinking, and ultimately the way we live.
PRBI remains committed to providing young people with the opportunity to learn about God, but more importantly to know God and through Him to know others (John 17:3, 21). Their world encourages them to create their own identity (watch facebook) or to look within to find their identity.6 But Scripture plainly lays out the fact that we are created by God to live with Him and each other, so identity arises out of His creation (Gen 2). Knowing God becomes an intellectual and spiritual journey, but also an emotional one. I may know that God loves me (John 3:16), the intellectual side, but until I had experienced total acceptance by others, I was not aware of the depth of God’s acceptance of me. We discover who we are (identity) as we connect with God, His Word, and others. The Word and relationships expose the real us! Therefore we are committed to His Word and relationships, in order to grow to be more like Him!
Community provides an excellent environment for spiritual growth. We can mature when we share our lives with others, being authentic about who we are and our needs, and receiving from them grace and truth. Our growth also requires speaking truth to others in grace, sharing in their pain, and bringing God’s Word and His Spirit in to the healing process.
Even though our world is in a constant state of flux, PRBI affirms the importance of establishing an integral relationship with God, growing in character and commitment. Young people will change jobs a multitude of times, lessening the value of degrees, but heightening the importance of character and a relationship with God. Thus, PRBI remains committed to a college environment with classrooms, sports, missional activities, student work, and dorm life, which provide an excellent opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth to take place. Classes continue to provide the talking points, the first steps of discipleship, and student work and sports continue to provide the exposure points. Yes, student work and sports tend to reveal what we are living by, providing opportunities to speak to one another in grace and truth. Our dorms remain one of the better places for grace and truth to be exercised, because of the relational friction and the corresponding opportunity to speak grace and truth or receive it.
PRBI remains committed to its disciple-making vision for everyone, whether serving Jesus on the job or in the church. Disciple-making provides, and will provide, incredible opportunities for spiritual and emotional growth, but also endless opportunities to serve our Lord whenever and wherever. As we focus on disciple-making, with its emphasis on spiritual and emotional growth in Christ, we have seen a remarkable number of students head into ministry at home and abroad and a remarkable number who serve in their churches or openly serve Jesus in their jobs. For this reason, many mission reps, denominational superintendents, and business leaders make PRBI a frequent stop in their recruitment travels. We have had mission reps send their candidates here for a two-year stint because of what God does in their lives while here and non-Christian business people say they want our students.
Under God’s vision, PRBI’s mission gathers momentum and strength through the various voices of alumni and friends. We want to thank you! Your conversations encourage young people to come to PRBI and your financial investments afford them the opportunity to study and grow in Christ. I have appreciated so much the overwhelming willingness to contribute when I have called alumni and friends to invest in student lives here at PRBI. Thank you!
Would you consider investing in PRBI’s students again this year or maybe investing for the first time, in changing lives for Jesus Christ? The investment happens in a moment but changes a life forever, and that life impacts another, and on, and on! God’s investment dividends are beyond comprehension. Thank you for your consideration.
Originally published in Fall 2014 issue of Trumpet magazine.
Waldie has been at PRBI for 24 years. He especially enjoys teaching the Gospel of Mark on disciple-making. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children and 13 grandchildren.
 Bowater, “Introduction to Adizes Methodology,” Lecture, February 12, 2012.
 Berard, Penner, & Bartlett, Consuming Youth, 29.
 Ibid, p. 14.
 Thiessen, With Sails on His Bike, 71-72.
 Berard, Penner, and Bartlett, 96, 121.
 Kuehne, Sex and the i World, 140.