Daniel Smitley, Senior Cross-Cultural Major
I'm sitting in a very small apartment living room, jam-packed with about 25 people for a Sunday evening service in the city of Manila, Philippines. I've never been to this church before, and I am enjoying being able to meet and worship with them. Then the missionary hands me his phone with these words written, “Can you preach?" In less than five minutes, with basically no time to prepare, I was up preaching. I wish I could say this experience was the exception to the rule, but I learned to always be prepared for anything. In fact, when people usually think of missions or internships, these kinds of experiences are the reason they go. The purpose is to minister to others and to gain the experience of teaching, preaching, and jumping into any ministry you can. While I enjoyed many of these kinds of experiences, the greatest blessing I received was not the ministry I was able to have, but the ministry that I saw and personally experienced from those on the field.
While interning in the Philippines this summer, I was able to experience an up-close look into the life of a missionary. I was privileged to learn from and be mentored by a man deeply devoted to his ministry. But to me, what might have been the most influential part of his ministry was his personal life. His walk with the Lord and love for His Word was evident and personally convicting. It was also clear that his “ministry” was not separate from other areas of his life. A major part of his ministry is teaching Bible classes at a Bible college. He himself practiced what he taught in the classroom. The truths he was teaching were clearly being played out in various areas of his life. It’s so easy to act one way while you’re ministering in church or at a Bible club but live differently at home or around family. The missionary I was with exemplified what it looks like to live the same way both in ministry and in family/personal life. Sure, I went as an intern seeking to be able to minister and be a blessing, but I believe it was me who received the greater blessing!
During my internship I was also able to spend some time with local pastors, both in the Philippines and in Singapore. During my time with them I was able to preach in their churches, sing special music, work around the church buildings, and lead Bible studies. But by far the most memorable experience I had with them was observing their ministry and not my own. With one particular pastor in the Philippines, his love for people was obvious. Ministry was not just on Sunday for this man—it was every day! One evening, he traveled out to another city to meet with two separate groups and lead Bible studies, and he even made another stop just to pray with a church member whose relative had cancer. This made for a very late night, but if there was an opportunity for the Gospel and ministry, he took it. He was always looking for a chance to share the Good News, even while in the local hospital waiting room or on a dirt road on the side of a mountain buying fruits. Another big influence was a pastor in Singapore. The church he was pastoring was a joy to worship with. It was neat being able to see how this body of believers applied the biblical role of the church into their specific context and culture. But his ministry wasn’t just limited to a couple days of the week either. I was thrilled to be able to see other aspects of his ministry, whether that was visiting with church members who had recently lost a loved one or taking a day off to bring the teens to a Bible seminar. Being able to talk about ministry and gain wisdom from a faithful man of God was great in shaping my own philosophy of ministry! Too often I see ministry as an event, such as singing in the choir or leading a Bible club. But what these men displayed was that ministry is people, and that should be happening all the time, not just at church. Again, I got the better end of this deal—the encouragement I received far outweighed anything I could have given!
Lastly, I had the awesome opportunity to live in the dorms of a Bible college for most of the summer. This meant I was able get to know and build good relationships with many of the students. As I grew to know them more, their testimonies and desire for ministry were inspiring and rebuking to my own life. As college students, it’s easy to focus on training now, ministry later. Maybe you’ve caught yourself saying, “I’ll start ministering after I graduate!” This is folly, and I was shown this by many of the students who were not waiting to minister. A number of the guys would travel for hours each weekend in order to preach in various churches. Other students would travel eight hours every other week in order to help with the music at their home church. But the weekend is to rest and get recharged! No, not for many of them. They had a chance to minister, and they took it. It was an encouragement to see many who were really on fire for the Lord’s work. This is something I hope I brought home with me!
Traveling and doing missions overseas is an awesome opportunity. The need for the Gospel is great, and many still need to hear it! The ministry possibilities in these places are almost endless as well. There will always be a Bible study to lead, a sermon to preach, or a kid’s club to help with. When we go on such a trip, we should most definitely jump into ministry and service. But the next time you get the opportunity to go minister overseas, don’t get so caught up in what you’re doing and miss the blessing and wisdom around you. Take a step back and learn from those who are there, and you may be surprised at the wisdom and help you will receive. But don’t take my word for it, go experience it for yourself!
Dr. Lesa Seibert--Faculty, School of Education at BJU
Every educator has her own personal teaching philosophy. She demonstrates this teaching philosophy in ways such as choosing to use a group round-table discussion (instead of a lecture) or choosing to suspend the teaching of her content (even though it may make her a little behind in her lessons) so that the whole class can pray for Timmy because his favorite dog died last night and he is really upset. Sometimes she may take extra time to answer a student’s question, involving other students in the answer, so that everyone can learn that particular content. All of these situations are examples of choices made based on a teaching philosophy. In its simplest form, a teaching philosophy means the underlying reason the educator makes the teaching decisions she does (i.e., putting her beliefs into practice).
Many of my teaching philosophy choices focus on what teaching strategies or what specific assignments (project or exam) I choose for my students. In teaching, I don’t choose randomly. I choose based on what I know about how my particular group of students learn. The more I know about the nature of students, the better choices I make for those students—and the better learners they become.
A basic “rule of the learner” involves making active learning choices specifically when the students (1) are younger or (2) are not native English speakers or (3) have weaker educational backgrounds or (4) need more time to process the information. These students need to be doing something in order to learn (NOT merely listening to something). For example, I may have a group of students to whom I’m trying to teach good sentence writing. I already know that these students have not done well so far on their previous grammar assignments; so I determine they need more processing time and more involvement in the learning (i.e., active learning). Therefore, I would choose not to lecture about the seven types of sentences for most of my 50-minute class period. Instead I choose to demonstrate one type for a shorter period of time and then have the students practice using that one type. They will demonstrate their learning before I move on to the second type, and then the third type, etc.
To extend my ministry even further, not only do I need to know about my learners as a group, but I need to know specifics about each of my learners. I may discover, for example, that one of my learners has a reading disability. This reading disability may affect his ability to choose the correct subject and verb in sentences only because he struggles to read the words (not because he doesn’t know how to make the correct choice). This type of student would profit from some adjustment in my teaching. If I (or his parents) read the sentences to him, he can make correct choices--because he is hearing them and not having to struggle to read them. (By the way, as a teacher, I have the legal [and ethical] right to research the records of each of my learners to determine if there is some specific information which would help me make even better teaching choices.)
I make good choices, as a teacher, when I know about my learners. And the more information I have about my learners, the better choices I make, which, of course, means the better learners they become. For me, personally, my most deliberate and important teaching philosophy choice is that each student with whom I work means more to God (and, therefore, to me) than the content I teach.
I have taught English to high school students and now teach educational methods to university students. (And yea for teaching!) No amount of educational content, however, is more important than any other need my student has. I am as concerned about the spiritual, physical, and social well-being of each image bearer with whom I work (Luke 2:52) as I am with his educational well-being. So, it makes logical sense that the more I know about the spiritual, physical, and social aspects of my students, the better choices I will make in meeting their needs.
For several years, I have taken seminary courses here at BJU. I began taking them as part of my doctoral work, and just last year I took another. In that one course, I obtained a better understanding of image bearers who are ethnically and culturally different from me. And, I am excited about being able to fellowship and worship and learn with “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9, ESV).
In my classroom, I have students who are different from me. And many have different problems than I do, and different plans, different goals, different dreams. It is a great joy to be able to minister to them and to fellowship with them spiritually. The more I learn; the better choices I make—and the better I can minister.
You and I matter to God. Students—people—matter to God. It is a blessing to know how to minister to those God for whom places in our path.
Dr. Ted Miller Jr., Bible Faculty at BJU
It was in middle school that I first began to think that God wanted me to serve him in some kind of ministry. I had no specific idea regarding how to pursue this sense, and the idea of preparing in a formal sense certainly wasn’t on my mind.
By the time I graduated from high school, I had given far more thought to where I would study than what I would study (my dad sent me to visit five different colleges). Once I decided to enroll at BJU, choosing a major was almost an afterthought. I didn’t know what to choose, and I wanted to sample a lot of options, so I majored in Humanities.
However, I always felt like I was leaving “money on the table” if I didn’t take as many credits as possible (without increasing my tuition bill), so I regularly enrolled in a variety of extra electives, among them additional Bible and speech classes: Poetic Books, I Corinthians, Persuasion, and even Pulpit Speech.
I don’t think I could have realized it at the time, but the Lord was shaping my interests and guiding my opportunities in ways that I could never have orchestrated. I didn’t know where I was going, but between classes, sports, music, and a jumble of other activities, I had a great (and somewhat chaotic) undergraduate experience.
Through a sequence of events too involved to rehearse, in the Spring of 1994 I enrolled in the MDiv program in the seminary. After that one term, I was out of money and options for continuing, but I applied for and was hired to teach En 101 and 102 as a Graduate Assistant. This job made it possible for me to finish the next four years of graduate work at the seminary.
Looking back, my path to the ministry was not as direct as others. I certainly had no flow chart of possible professions. However, I am amazed at how God guided my education—in all its stages and forms—to make it possible to do what He has called me to do for the last 20 years, both here at BJU and in my local church.
I believe that the Lord calls people to the ministry in a wide variety of ways and through a wide variety of paths. And although God wants your heart above all things, it’s easy—and not uncommon—to wonder: If what God wants most is a willing heart, isn’t that enough? Why spend time on education?
One of Paul’s best-known instructions to Timothy dealt with his personal discipline and effort in correctly understanding God’s word: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).
The fact that God’s word is truth doesn’t mean that everyone who handles it does so correctly. Paul knew this personally—he was extremely well-trained in the Scriptures before his conversion, and yet he had been entirely ignorant of his own Scriptures and of the Messiah they pointed to. After his conversion, he did more than just evangelize. In Ephesus—one of the few places where he settled for any length of time—he established a school.
For a young person entering the ministry, the skills, content mastery, and discipline to study and to teach God’s Word are essential. And very often, a formal education—going to school—can make it possible to develop in those areas in ways that would be difficult otherwise.
For me, the two greatest values that I gained from my formal education in Bible (in both undergraduate and graduate school) have been the ability to study the Bible in the original languages, and the ability to read the Bible.
This value of latter ability—reading the Bible—may seem odd at first. (Why study to do something that I’ve been able to do since the first grade?) However, as I continue to teach, I’ve learned that I need the ability to read Scripture both for its microscopic as well as its macroscopic meaning.
By the microscopic reading of Scripture, I mean the kind of analysis that is made possible by the study of the Bible’s original languages: Understanding the usage of Greek tenses, the forms of Hebrew verbs, and how to do a word study in the original languages. The ability to use these skills and others shed important light on the study of God’s word, and I learned these skills in classes. It would have been difficult if not impossible for me to learn them otherwise, I believe, even with all the excellent study tools that are available today.
By the macroscopic reading of Scripture, I mean the kind of understanding that comes from reading the Bible as it was intended to be read: Finding the theme within a narrative, following the flow of thought in a theological discourse, or enjoying the beauty and power of divinely-inspired poetry. There were specific courses—both undergraduate and graduate—that contributed to my ability to see the whole of a line of thought, even as I was reading only one part. The work required in courses such as Old and New Testament Theology, Prophets, Systematic Theology, and History of Doctrine put ideas and concepts on my radar screen as I read. I was able to make more connections and notice more in Scripture because of the unique value I got from studying for those courses.
Both of these methods build on each other, and I believe that they are one of the ways that God provides the wisdom that makes it possible to follow Paul’s next statement to Timothy: “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:16).
For a young person entering the ministry, the skills and discipline to study God’s Word are essential. The practice of these nurture the wisdom we need to know when God’s word is being used correctly or incorrectly.
Gaining the skills and knowledge to serve the Great Shepherd by being a good shepherd can involve hard work and significant time. The diligence associated with careful study often excludes other good activities. But the calling is high, the rewards are great, and the privilege of serving as ambassadors for Christ requires us to give nothing less than our best efforts to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ.
*If RSS feed is not working for you, please add it to your app or software manually by adding this url:
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.