Why So Much Bible on the Menu?

By: President Matt Proctor

You are what you eat.

Physically, it’s true. If all you eat are donuts, you’ll be as round as a donut. (I heard a college student say, “If you are what you eat, then I’m mostly cereal.”) Spiritually it’s true as well. What you feed your mind will shape who you become. That’s why the people of God have always nourished themselves on the Word of God:

An old proverb says, “Sow a thought, reap a deed. Sow a deed, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” What you feed your mind determines your destiny. You are what you eat. 

Out of the Norm, Even for a Bible College

At Ozark Christian College, our students consume lots of Scripture. It is our milk (1 Pet 2:2), bread (Deut 8:3) and meat (Heb 5:12). Our Bible college accrediting agency mandates 30 hours of required Bible classes in every bachelor’s degree. But at Ozark, we require 50 Bible hours. We are out of the norm, even among Bible colleges, in the amount of Bible on menu.  

Dr. Scot McKnight is a seminary professor, New Testament scholar, and award-winning author of over fifty books. After lecturing on our campus, he shared on his blog his observations about Ozark:

What impressed me most about OCC was this: it is firmly committed to the Bible. So much so that its undergraduates aren’t required to take Intro to Theology or Systematic Theology 101. OCC requires every student to take 15—count ’em folks—15 courses in the Bible, and these courses are books in the Bible like Romans, Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Isaiah.

What can we do to restore biblical book studies as central to the curriculum of the church and Christian colleges? Why do we not do this as much anymore? What do you think of the model of teaching Bible books and letting theology flow from the books of the Bible themselves?

I had lunch with a group of faculty and told them we’d love to have their students at Northern Seminary. Students with a full background in biblical studies…are more prepared for pastoral ministry. I’ll stop with this: We study too much outside the Bible and not enough Bible.

To be clear, OCC students take classes in three areas: general education, professional education, and biblical education. General education—English, history, math, science—prepares students to be well-rounded, college-educated people. Professional education equips them with practical, marketable skills in areas like preaching, worship ministry, or counseling. But why do we also require so much in the biblical area? Why feed students so much Scripture? I’ll list a few reasons:

To Shape Their Beliefs

A recent Washington Post article cited a poll showing that nearly half of younger evangelicals (born after 1964) favor gay marriage, compared with 26 percent of older evangelicals (born before 1964). Why don’t younger believers still hold the biblical view of marriage?

For the last few decades, Christian young people have had their beliefs shaped by entertainers, educators, politicians, corporate sponsors, journalists, Youtubers, and peers. Too often, however, they have not heard the voice of God. They may have done church, youth group, even mission trips, but—as polls like the one above show—they do not have a biblical worldview.

Regardless of the issue, we want our students’ first question to be: what does the Bible say? Their beliefs—on everything from human sexuality to church polity, earth’s origins to women’s roles—should be based not on personal feelings or cultural trends, but on the teaching of God’s Word. As founding Academic Dean Seth Wilson used to say, we want our students to have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). 

That’s why so much Bible.

To Form Their Character

Even more than intellectual growth, we want students to experience spiritual growth, and God uses Scripture to mature us. As Charles Spurgeon put it, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone whose life isn’t.” Ozark students memorize lots of Bible, and as they consume healthy portions of Scripture, it gets into their bloodstream and metabolizes into moral muscle fiber—goodness and joy and courage and patience and wisdom. Their lives are transformed.

One semester when Katie and I were dating, we memorized Colossians together, quoting a new paragraph each week before our Friday night dates until we finally recited the entire book. (Some couples get nostalgic when they hear “their song.” We got sappy when a professor quoted Colossians—it was “our book.”)

Here’s what happened: When I was tempted to shade the truth, the Holy Spirit would flash into my mind Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to each other.” When I was tempted to speak impatiently to Katie, Colossians 3:19 would pop up on my mental screen, “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” God was sculpting me into the image of Christ, using his Word to chisel away parts of me that didn’t look like Jesus. Colossians 3:17 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” and when it dwells in our students, their character conforms to his.

That’s why so much Bible.

To Guide Their Ministry

Our students read lots of books. (Sometimes they think the amount of reading will kill them. One said, “Have you noticed that the last letters of the word studying spell dying?”) We expose them to outstanding Christian authors—John Stott, Tim Keller, A.W. Tozer, Andy Stanley—to sharpen their thinking and their ministry skills. We want our students familiar with resources on parenting and preaching, evangelism and marriage, money and emotional maturity. 

But when students go to their bookshelf for ministry wisdom, we want them to pick up their Bible first:

There is an entire Christian bookstore between the covers of the Bible, and God gave the Scriptures “so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:17) When our graduates are in ministry, we want them to get—and give—their best guidance from God’s Word.

That’s why so much Bible.

To Color Their Communication

Ozark’s preaching classes have three goals: to teach students to preach from the Bible, through the Bible, and like the Bible. Wait—preach like the Bible? Yes. We not only want students to communicate the powerful message of Scripture, but also with the powerful methods of Scripture.

I heard a well-meaning church planter describe his approach to preaching, “I want to get my truth from the Bible and my creativity from Disney.” I understood his sentiment, but I thought, “Why not get your creativity from the Bible too?” After all, God is the greatest communicator in the universe. The Bible teems with attention-gripping stories, soul-stirring poetry, conscience-convicting commands, and imagination-shaping visions. The words of Scripture are seared into the memory of the human race, and even non-Christians talk about “David and Goliath” contests, “swords being beaten into plowshares,” and hospitals named “Good Samaritan.”

Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message, says he learned the liveliness of biblical language in the small Montana town where he grew up. The people he lived among, he says, “were poor. Few had gone past eighth grade. But they were faithful Bible readers and brilliant storytellers.” Though not well-educated, they had been so shaped by Scripture that they could tell stories with the same verve Jesus did. We want our students to learn to communicate from God himself.

That’s why so much Bible.

To Strengthen Their Soul

Our students will face trials in life and ministry. Sickness, finances, cultural hostility, church conflict, and the Enemy himself will conspire to sap their strength and steal their joy. Discouragement knocks more people out of ministry than immorality does. 

What will give our students the power to endure? What will send spiritual adrenaline surging through their weary souls? God’s Word. Romans 15:4 says, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope.”

As a missionary to China, J. Russell Morse was arrested in the 1940s for preaching Christ. He spent 15 months in a Chinese Communist prison. In telling the story of Morse, OCC Academic Dean Seth Wilson wrote, “He endured severe tortures and terrific strain supported chiefly by his memory of the Bible. He testifies that the promises and precepts of God’s Word came to him in memory and gave strength, wisdom, and hope which were sorely needed. Therefore he urges all his brethren to fill their minds with that living and powerful Word.”

That’s why so much Bible.

OCC students will keep taking general education classes and professional education classes, but biblical education will always be the biggest portion on their plate. A billboard sponsored by the cattlemen’s association read, “Eat beef. The West wasn’t won on salad.” The world won’t be won on salad either—students won’t be equipped for planet-changing ministry by nibbling on the Bible. They will only have God’s wisdom, God’s character, God’s power if they dig into the meat of God’s Word.

You are what you eat.

_

This article first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Ambassador magazine. Read the entire issue here. Read past issues at occ.edu/ambassador.

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