A friend of mine who knew him well told me how Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that doyen of twentieth century preachers, once quipped,
“If 90% of the country’s preachers didn’t bother to appear in their pulpits the next week it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference.”
Of course, he was referring to the churches in the United Kingdom thirty years ago. But still, I have never been able to dislodge that statement from my mind since the day I heard it. It has come to me when I have listened to preaching, or read about the state of the churches, or put the phone down after talking to another brother or sister in the faith who is being systematically starved in his or her local church.
Every one knows the Church is ailing. There are many reasons for this: the pragmatism which governs the decision-making of those who select ministers and ministry programs; the overly genteel attitude towards false teaching of many who ought to know better;
I have never been able to dislodge that statement from my mind since the day I heard it.
At Telos Biblical Institute, we have tried to think through this crucial matter of theological and ministerial training. We believe that following the established pattern of seminary education is not a good idea. We do not claim to be better than anybody else, but we are different, and we believe that the differences are important ones. For starters, TBI is a totally online degree-granting theological school. Yes, we will offer residential intensives, seminars and conferences, but the overwhelming bulk of the work is done via the internet. The rationale behind this is basically twofold:
Firstly, we believe that society’s move to online education is actually a good thing (providing the content is carefully adapted and monitored). If I may insert a personal note just here: when I taught theology and apologetics my former seminary I soon began to notice that many of my best students, academically and spiritually, were extension and online learners. Their work was generally better thought out, their Christian service more involved, and their Christian walk more mature. I’m speaking from my own experience, but these students had careers or ministries or families or other situations that prevented them from attending traditional campuses. But that did not affect their schoolwork! Why was that? Well, I’m sure there are a number of reasons, but I believe that two are especially noteworthy: They are, a). motivation and, b). reflection. The former needs little explanation. You have to be motivated and self-disciplined to study this way. By “reflection” I mean that many of these students were able to apply what they were being taught to their own personal situations in the place where the Lord had placed them. They reflected on the material and incorporated it into their personal interactions with their neighbors.
The second reason for TBI being an online venue is because we hold that there is something not quite right with a Christian (usually a young person) leaving a church where God wants them and going off to seminary in another part of the country, and not unusually incurring debt in the process. While we are not against the traditional model for some believers, we believe that it has encouraged many churches to opt-out of their responsibility to equip men and women for the service of Christ. We also feel that accreditation from the world is unnecessary and has come at a high price - literally, for the student. We want to redress the balance a little.
We are excited about the work which God has called us to, and we believe absolutely that what we are doing is valuable and that it will, under God, do much good both to those saints who study with us, and to the ministries and other life-situations they impact.
Paul Martin Henebury, Ph.D