by Waldie Neufeld, Ph.D.
“The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith” (1 Tm 4:1a). Sounds as though Paul wrote about our times, with the huge church exodus of our youth. How do we reach our youth in particular, who are vacating church in alarming numbers? How do
we prepare them for the challenges they will face in university, the work place, or their questions on morality, ethics, etc.?
How do we help our young people find their footing in our fast-paced world? All would agree that some sort of faith training is important. Christian parents willingly fund secular work training, knowing their children need to earn a living, yet handling life and fulfilling God’s command to make disciples far surpass the challenge of making a living. How much are we prepared to invest in those endeavors? If abiding in God’s Word brings freedom (Jn 8:32), and eternal life equals knowing God (Jn 17:3), let’s invest in our young people’s lives to help them grow in their relationship with God so they can impact their world for Him.
Though we cannot find the words “Bible school” in God’s Word, there are similar ventures within Scripture that evidence deep faith training. In the Old Testament, the author of 2 Kings wrote about a group called “the sons of the prophets,” fifty in number (2 Ki 2:16-17), and their need for better accommodations (2 Ki 6:1). What exactly they did here is unknown, but it would seem Bible training is a possibility, since the Old Testament prophets were quite conversant in the Torah. Even Paul spent three years of in- depth Bible study in Arabia (Ga 1:17-18). Better yet, Jesus Christ set a prime example of training the twelve. He involved them in a three-year process of teaching and application (Lk 9:1-6), of letting them try what He was doing, and He also addressed their earthly thinking patterns (Lk 9:12-13).
In both of the last two cases, three years were set aside for intense Bible study and in Jesus’ case, an intense study coupled with a strong relational-mentoring component. Richards stated, “Most studies agree that people will never sustain lasting change unless they are ‘resocialized.’”1 He further clarified that “we need new relationships with different kinds of people in order to grow and break out of past patterns.” This is how Jesus accomplished life-change in His disciples through an intense personal relationship over a period of time. Note, the disciples then freely engaged in their world and turned it upside down.
“Jesus School of the Bible” guided students and called disciples through various spiritual stages over three years. Though the stages do not fall into four unique school years, many of the stages do follow patterns that one would find in most Bible colleges. Jesus’ various spiritual training patterns compare with the many things that occur around PRBI. Note the following comparisons between Jesus’ ministry and Bible school.
If one takes a look at Jesus’ early ministry, before He actually appointed His disciples, He spent considerable time teaching, healing (Mk 1:21-45), forgiving, partying, and even threshing grain on the Sabbath (Mk 2). Each sequence introduced considerable tension into the minds of His listeners, whether antagonist or follower. These tensions had some effect on the disciples, which gives us an indication of what needs to take place early in a disciple’s life. Since we know plucking grain on the Sabbath bothered the Pharisees, we may safely deduce the disciples must have wondered as well. Ironically, freshmen students face a similar tension in classrooms, sports, and the dorm as they engage with others, prompting an openness to God and a willingness to explore exactly what they do believe.
In the following Bible school years, the trail goes deeper into a student’s life. In second year, PRBI focuses on their commitment to God and their need to adopt an eternal perspective, which follows Christ’s example of discipleship. After appointing the twelve as His apostles, He worked on their followership muscle (the one who does the will of God – Mk 3:35) and then attempted to move the disciples from an earthbound perspective to an eternal one (i.e. the feeding of the 5000). Jesus’ success, or lack thereof, in this area always gives me hope in my discipling and in my own life. Growing in Christ-likeness is a journey. Year three at PRBI focuses more on learning to deny oneself and to serve others. Sound familiar to the Gospels? Jesus put forth that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Mk 8:34). And then year four focuses on learning to be a servant-leader (Mk 10:45).
PRBI has become a training school for all who come, even those who end up in ministry. The majority of our students end up in the workaday world, serving our Lord Jesus in their communities. They often speak of the job value of their PRBI training.
If Jesus modeled years of building very specifically into the lives of others, then we should follow suit. PRBI seeks to emulate Jesus’ model of discipling, helping young people navigate life’s challenges and messages. I’m not saying it’s the only way, just one way. It has and does provide students with an excellent opportunity for spiritual growth, gaining direction for life, leadership training, etc. Further, it also comes alongside or reinforces what parents have accomplished, since it does take the village of God to raise a child. As parents, we all live East of Eden and therefore need help in training up our children. Is that not why we call the church alongside us when we dedicate our children?
We still have time to redeem the next generation by getting them back to the basics, connecting them with the living God through relationships, and by giving them a solid foundation in their faith through His Word. We can encourage young people to try a year or two of Bible college. We can invest in colleges like PRBI who provide a sound biblical foundation for our future leaders. Come alongside PRBI’s spiritual mentoring by investing in one life at a time!
Originally published in Fall 2015 issue of Trumpet magazine.
Waldie has been at PRBI for 25 years. He especially enjoys teaching the Gospel of Mark on disciple-making. He and his wife, Sharon, have four children and 13 grandchildren.
 Richards, James, How to Stop the Pain, 76-77.