I have just returned from the TBS student-faculty retreat which was held this year at Millstream Bible Camp. Not only did we enjoy wonderful weather and mealtimes together but it was great to get to know the new students and to be challenged by the ministry of Pastor David Daniels. At TBS our goal and reason for existence is to prepare people for local church ministry. We believe the local church is at the heart of what God is going in the world through the preaching of the gospel that is centered in his Son. And we know from talking to people and leaders in local churches that there is a dearth of biblically qualified and divinely gifted individuals to preach and teach the Bible and to shepherd the congregation. This is not to say that there is a shortage of 'pastoral wannabees' or people whose skewed interpretation of 'the plurality of elders' encourages them to think they are pastors when they are not. Unfortunately too many churches are plagued with such individuals. But those with the necessary gifts and graces to shepherd the flock of God are few and far between.
On one level we are completely dependent on God. The Lord of the harvest must send workers into his field. We must pray that God would call men to serve as pastors, and men and women to serve in many other capacities within the church and related ministries. Without his work, what we are trying to do is a complete waste of time. But our understanding of the priority of God's call and our dependence upon it must be balanced by our belief that Jesus will build his church, that he has a people whom he will save, and that he will raise up from among his people those who will provide leadership in this hour. Therefore, we pray and work to that end. We strive to pass on to our students the burden we have for the church, and to equip them to serve in the most demanding and challenging ministry situations.
Given all of that, the retreat got us off on the right foot. It was a time of bonding, of developing community, of encouraging all of us to see again the greatness of our God and the many ways he is at work in the world. David's ministry was particularly timely as he spoke to us about the need for forgiveness and the difference between forgiveness and forbearance. Without an experimental knowledge of these things we are doomed before we start. As important as theological education is, unless our character is moulded by the word of God applied to us by the Holy Spirit, it will only make us arrogant. Truth that is not acted upon hardens the heart. And a hard heart leads to disaster. At one level all of this is very simple, but at another, it is deeply profound. It means that the implications of the gospel must be impacting our lives before we can do anyone any good. It is my prayer that God will help us to remember these lessons as the school year unfolds, and beyond this year, that he will write these truths on our hearts forever.