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Spring 1995 · Vol. 24 No. 1 · pp. 104–6 

Teaching the Bible in Bible Schools

Doug Berg

“For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10 NIV)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all, nations, . . . and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely 1 am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt, 28:19-20 NIV)


Bible schools have somewhat of a unique flavor compared to other post-secondary institutions. The students do not come primarily because of academics, nor to obtain tools for ministry; instead, their focus is on the personal experience within the school. They come because they anticipated a certain kind of life experience at a particular school. Central elements in choosing a school are the potential friendships, the involvements (music, athletics, etc.), the self-understanding, and the spiritual challenge which the school affords.

Given the mindset of students, new teaching aims and approaches are necessary.

Other dynamics also shape the Bible school environment. Most Bible schools are relatively small, with a student population made up principally of youth eighteen to twenty years of age living on campus. They are seeking relationships with people and with God, probably in that order. Many come seeking direction in life. These factors make for a certain ethos within a school.

All of this would comprise an interesting sociological study, but that is not my purpose {105} here. These realities, however, guide our discussion of two aspects relating to the Bible school: What is the role of the instructor within the Bible school? How is the Bible to be taught in this setting?


Ezra had set his heart not only to study the law, but also to do it. It is critical to “observe the law” in a setting where life is lived together. In Bible schools, where the instructor interacts with many young lives under the Word of God, it is important that the student can see the word personified. The effectiveness of teaching the Bible in a Bible school is based on the integrity of character of the instructor. Students look for honesty; the instructor needs to be genuine.

In addition to integrity, the personableness of the instructor is important. In an environment that emphasizes the experience of the student, can the student personally relate to the instructor? Is the instructor interested in the student? Does the instructor care? Is the instructor willing to enter into relationships with students that will help them mature in Christ? Such questions and their answers play into the effectiveness of instruction.


From the generalizations regarding the Bible school environment, I have personally come to hold that the primary goal of instructing the Bible within the Bible school is disciple-making. At this critical age in the life of the students, the school has the opportunity of shaping their decisions toward Christian discipleship.

Disciple-making needs to focus on the student. It is not enough to have fifty minutes worth of content in hand before entering the Bible school classroom. Instructors need to be asking another question: What is the appropriate methodology of learning for the students? Frankly, I am bothered by the approach which equates the preparation of lectures with teaching. Bible school teachers need to enlarge their repertoire of strategies for teaching the Bible. Students must be involved in the process. A variety of teaching strategies which incorporate an interactive style with the student is needed.

Focusing on the student also implies taking into account the students’ societal context. What issues are they coping with? What are the characteristics of “Generation X” that they exemplify? These factors need to inform the teaching of the Bible. Fostering the concept of biblical irrelevance is hardly something the church can afford. The Bible needs to be relevant in their situation now. The Bible school has the role of rooting students in the Word of God within the context of present society. {106}

Disciple-making will focus on a practical application of the Bible. If teaching is not pragmatic and focused on obedience, teachers have missed the mark. The Bible school has a role within the ministry of the church of teaching the students to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

How does one fulfill such a lofty ideal? Part of the answer is the promise of the presence of the risen Christ in one’s person and teaching. Surely He is with us as we trust Him.

Many students come to Bible school to get to know God better. The Bible school instructor can either bemoan the fact that students are not more concerned about academic matters, or he or she can utilize the student’s desire. A fellow instructor stated, “My goal as a teacher is to study and teach the Bible in such a way as to be encountered by the Author of the text. It is this encounter that we seek.”

My experience is that students are thankful for instructors who are genuine and caring; they also appreciate instruction that focuses on a discipleship that is student-centered and practical. Not only are students thankful, but in some instances a visible change in lives occurs. It is the passion to see this happen that motivates instruction in the Bible school.

Doug Berg is Dean of Faculty at Bethany Bible Institute, Hepburn, Saskatchewan.

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