We’ve just completed our twenty-fourth fall semester opening at West Coast Baptist College. We are humbled by the response of pastors and parents who desire a quality education under a local Baptist church for their students, and we’re grateful for the tremendous number of students coming in for their freshman year.
Of course, our ultimate goal at WCBC is not students, but graduates. We exist to train laborers for His harvest. I am so proud of the many graduates serving in local church, gospel ministry around the world.
Periodically, I am asked about various WCBC alumni in ministry who seem to follow a different ministry method or philosophy than they were taught here at Lancaster Baptist Church. And I’m not alone. I’ve spoken with other college presidents and discovered they are asked similar questions.
It’s interesting to me that, while I may get repeated questions about just a few alumni or former staff, there are many alumni about whom I have never—not even one time—been questioned about. Take, for instance, our graduate serving with his wife and children among the Miskito people of Nicaragua. They have no phone service, no electricity, and no running water. They are seeing God raise up a church as well as future church leaders. Also, I have never been asked about our graduate who is church planting in northern Russia, a place of both spiritual and, many months of the year, physical darkness. Neither have I been asked about our graduate who planted a church in rural Kansas, faithfully reaching people with the gospel, discipling them, and laboring with God to raise up a church.
It’s what I call the “dot syndrome.” If I hold up a large piece of white paper with one dot on it—of any color or size—and ask you what you see, you’ll most likely mention the dot. The truth is, there is far more white paper than there is ink, but the ink is what stands out.
So if there is a church or college that is primarily asked about a few graduates who seem to have a different ministry philosophy, that could actually be a confirmation that those few are anomalies against the backdrop of the majority. The Lord has allowed us to see over 2,400 graduates in ministry and 25 former staff in the pastorate. It seems worth asking whether those who inquire are seeing fruit in training men and if their fruit is remaining. Even if the questioner has sent, say ten, people to full time ministry, are all ten functioning exactly in robotic fashion to this day in accordance with their training? Jesus Himself had one student who wasn’t even a believer!
Ultimately, as Baptists, we believe in individual soul liberty and certainly can’t (and don’t try to) control our graduates or their ministries. Romans 14:10 cautions us all, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
In any case, for those who wonder about some graduates from good Bible colleges like WCBC, I thought it may be helpful to give a few thoughts of perspective:
- We do not agree with every method others use either. Not all of our graduates do things the way we taught them. In some cases, an alumnus has so changed his ministry philosophy that he no longer wants to be associated with us. Other times, an alumnus embraces the same doctrine and some of the same ministry philosophy but uses different methods than he learned here. While they will not be asked to teach their methodology at WCBC, we will pray for them and keep a right spirit toward them.
- We have not tried to teach conformity to ourselves or even our style. We’ve tried to emphasize doctrine and give an example, as Philippians 4:9 teaches. We, like other Bible colleges, hope they will take the things they have seen and heard and that they will do likewise. In most cases, they have.
- Bible college is a part of a person’s life journey—not the whole of it. Every student arrives with the influence of his background, family, and home church. When he leaves, he chooses who influences him going forward as well. The reality is that there are other sources of input in someone’s life than their college.
- Every institution has those who go another way. If you are a graduate of any Bible college, you have fellow alumni who have deviated. Several Christian universities, for example, have gay alumni groups. They certainly didn’t learn that where they went to school. Others have changed their doctrinal persuasion. Again, they didn’t learn that in their college classrooms.
- We have been blessed with larger student bodies over the last decade or so, hence we will, proportionately, have a few more alumni who vary from what we have taught.
- It’s not our habit to openly rebuke our alumni or fellow pastors unless there is a doctrinal or moral deviation that calls for it. I believe it’s okay to be kind and to be a good Christian.
- We are not a part of a denomination, group, or fellowship where some might conform simply for group approval or the ability to remain within the denomination or convention. Only time will tell what someone’s real convictions are.
- We are a ministry in a day when many college graduates are restless, not expressively thankful for their past training, and seek direction from many sources, including influencers from other groups or denominations on social media. Many are highly influenced by their own peers.
- There are several influences on social media influencers who are left-leaning independent Baptists or Southern Baptists heralding their freedom and celebrating their change from their heritage. Some actively seek to pull in those who are young in ministry away from their moorings.
- We genuinely rejoice in every soul that is saved, even if it is through the ministry of an alumnus who doesn’t fellowship with us (Philippians 1:18).
- When we are ill treated by alumni or others, we have chosen to continue reaching souls and laboring to train the next generation.
- The vast majority of our alumni are faithfully preaching the gospel and serving the Lord with the same doctrine, practice, and spirit with which they were taught here.
West Coast Baptist College is an independent Baptist college focused on training laborers for Christ’s harvest through the ministry of the local church. Our doctrine and practice continues with the model and distinctiveness that we began Lancaster Baptist Church with thirty-two years ago and that we started the college with twenty-four years ago.
Hopefully these thoughts are helpful to some who wonder. Of course, if questions come up simply to marginalize, no answers will be helpful.
My greatest concern about questions asked to marginalize is that, often, the unforeseen result of this type of competition or jealousy is that it pushes young men away from any Bible college.
I have strong convictions in doctrine and ministry philosophy as well as some strong preferences which I practice willingly. But I don’t want to get to the place where I need to analyze every other ministry, institution, or situation with a critical spirit. I’m settled in my doctrine and practice and am thankful for every student here at WCBC seeking to learn biblical ministry practices. But I don’t need to offer unasked for comments or insert myself into every other college or church, even those who have at some point learned from or been affiliated with our church. When I am invited to give counsel or admonition, it is my privilege. Otherwise, I have plenty to do in the church and ministries where God has placed me.
In the end, I rejoice in souls that are saved and hope to be part of encouraging more laborers to join in the work of the harvest!
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