“They’re a blessing!”
There was a time in years gone by, now fondly recalled by those who were fortunate enough to experience those days, when the classes at the Bible School were quite lively. The teachers seemed, by all accounts, to place a high premium upon the spirituality of the class itself. The ministry of teaching was prized for its own sake, and the students were treated to material that was prepared in the prayer closet rather than from a stale outline.
This fact by itself is in no way a qualifying criterion, for Pentecostalism in all its many forms can be deceptive, and noise level does not correlate to spiritual blessings. Indeed, the anti-intellectual stance of the school’s founder and staff have produced dreadful consequences; giving little priority to scriptural preparation and sound doctrine, and preferring instead the promotion of “results through busy-ness” and “momentum through enthusiasm”.
Evidently, the “Old Days” were fated to fade away when the founder and president of the college took stock of the carryings on in class. The teachers had set a standard that they felt compelled always to reach, and class was not class without a little “preaching”. Students would feel underprivileged if they did not “have church” in the classroom, and the learning environment suffered. Word came down that the teachers were to simply “teach”, which means; to present the material, which means; to calm down, which leads us to the present state of affairs.
The Pentecostal mentality that underlies NTCC lends itself to polarities. Church services are either explosive or outright boring. Preaching is where it’s at; while teaching is a necessary evil. Classes must either produce waves of tears or administer narcotic bliss. Currently, the Bible School of NTCC boasts a student body population that insists almost universally that their “classes are a blessing!” When they speak candidly, however, they will admit (to anyone they think they can trust) that they are in fact bored, and that the seminary is simply “not what I thought it was going to be”. As a “Boot Camp for the Ministry”, NTCS fulfills its mission by continual testing of the loyalty and constancy of the students. One of the unintended manifestations of this testing is the dryness of the classroom environment. In a typical class, the teacher has procured a previously prepared outline from the school office, which he will then “verbalize” for the class, filling in the spaces with “applications”. These applications ordinarily consist of paragraphs lifted from commentaries available at any bookstore, World War II illustrations from Reader’s Digest, and personal anecdotes from dormitory life. Christian virtues are ceaselessly exemplified (or not) by the proverbial “brother in the dorm”. Even the noblest personage is not exempt from this ignominious parallel. King Ahab’s pouting is narrated, followed by, “It’s like that brother in the dorm…” Married students who live off-campus are wont to daydream about now. Students are lulled to sleep on a nightly basis by the rocking of this academic cradle.
Rather than deem themselves responsible to earn the attentive ears of their disciples, certain teachers claim unswerving attention as if by right, simply because they are “Men of God”. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but these only serve to amplify the severity of the general condition. Many resort to the repetition of hackneyed phraseology, reading a passage of scripture and challenging their hearers with, “And that’s how it should be in our lives.” They like to spice things up by raising their voices for no apparent reason, recounting the comic sorry-ness of a failed individual either real or hypothetical, and then zinging the class with, “What about YOUR life?!” Also commonly heard is, “Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What am I doing for God?’ “. It is difficult to imagine a student who has not asked himself this question, since he is placed under the burden of never “doing enough for God” from the time he first becomes involved with this group, and is
asked each week whether he has asked himself this question. The scripture will be read aloud concerning the entry of Jesus into Samaria, followed by the teacher’s profound insight: “Hear we find Jesus entering into Samaria”, or perhaps, “Here we find Paul preaching at Athens” or “Here we find Jehoshaphat…” doing whatever he does (the teachers tend to “find” a lot of things). Citizens of Graham, Washington need never fear that a superabundance of imagination will burst forth from NTCC, smash through the chain-link fence, and gobble up the town.
A normal day in the life of a seminary student includes an early morning wake-up, a long day of hard manual labor, a quick dinner, speedy shower, hurried trip to the baby-sitter, and a rush to class. The first time the student has had an opportunity to sit and rest since arising in the morning is upon arrival in the Education Building at seven-thirty PM. The brain thinks it’s time for bed, and responds accordingly. The teacher does little to counteract this, and there follow ninety hard-fought minutes of pure tedium. After a fifteen-minute break, another hour-and-a-half of agony ensues, followed (one hour shy of midnight) by a sleepy journey back to the babysitter’s house, then the return voyage home. After the kids are in bed, it is time to sit down in front of the computer with a cup of raging black scud and transcribe every word uttered by the teacher. This is done for no other reason than the oft-repeated maxim: “Repetition is a good teacher”. Four hours after falling asleep at the keyboard, perched precariously atop a thin column of saliva, it is time to awaken and do it all over again.
This article is a part of a series entitled “What Can I Expect From New Testament Christian Seminary?“