Churches Raising Up Pastors – Bethlehem College and Seminary


9Marks wants to see more churches and pastors taking responsibility for raising up the next generation of pastors. To help our readers catch a vision for what that might look like, we asked several organizations closely tied to one or several local churches how they fulfill this mission. With one exception, each of the following organization answers the same 18 questions.

Here are the Bethlehem College and Seminary’s answers (submitted by Tom Steller). BCS is based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

  1. Organization name
    Bethlehem College and Seminary (formally called The Bethlehem Institute)
  2. Year began
    TBI began in 1998; BCS, Lord willing will matriculate its first master of divinity class in August, 2009; and its first bachelor of arts class in 2010.
  3. What’s the relationship between the organization and a local church?
    TBI has been a ministry department of Bethlehem Baptist Church; BCS is a church-based college and seminary, a 501 (c) (3) under the direction and authority of the council of elders.
  4. How many students per semester or year?
    We have 24 apprentices this year (seminary level), anticipating growth to about 50 to 60 apprentices spread out over the four years of the M.Div.
  5. What’s the length of the program?
    The seminary level apprenticeship program has been a two year program, but aims to become a four year program beginning in 2009.
  6. Does the program cost? How much?
    Our seminary level apprenticeship program has been earning up to 50 credits from various seminaries and costs $5800 for the entire program; the M.Div. program will cost $14,000 for just over 100 credits.
  7. Is it full time? Are students allowed/required to be doing something else (work, study) at the same time?
    Yes and yes. Students are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week, but hopefully less. As part of their mentored ministry training they are required to volunteer at least 5 hours a week; most choose to do more. Some get paid internships for up to 20 hours per week.
  8. Is housing made available for students? Cost?
    We help connect students with housing opportunities—some in pastors or elders homes; others are just good deals near the church. For singles, most of the guys can find housing for about $300/mo. Married couples will pay anywhere from $500-$1200. Some find caretaking jobs with free or reduced rents.
  9. What are the program’s goals?
    Our sincere prayer and aim is that students who complete the M.Div. program of Bethlehem Seminary will be launched from Bethlehem Seminary with a(n):

    • Maturing love for God himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    • Multi-skilled competency for a lifetime of fruitful exegesis of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, being confident that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible foundation for faith and practice.
    • Increasing understanding of and delight in God’s good and sovereign purpose in creation and redemption grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    • Refined ability to recount the biblical story as it unfolds on the timeline of redemptive history in terms that ordinary people can understand.
    • Refined ability to recount the whole counsel of God through the time-proven categories of systematic theology in terms that ordinary people can understand.
    • Informed, heart-felt desire to champion the reformed faith, deliciously seasoned with the God-glorifying insights of Christian hedonism.
    • Growing love for the church of Jesus Christ both in its universal and local expressions.
    • Appreciation of the rich history of the church, inspired by its successes, influenced by its greatest teachers, grieved and made wiser by its failures, and engaged in addressing its contemporary challenges with earnestness and winsomeness.
    • Emerging skillfulness in and passion for the expository exultation over the Word of God in preaching and teaching, depending on the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
    • Deepening insight into the practical application of the Bible’s unchanging truth to an ever-changing culture wherever God may call a man.
    • Humble confidence to do effective pastoral level soul care, with an awareness of one’s own brokenness, pain, and continuing need for repentance.
    • Expanding heart for evangelism of the lost in one’s own locality and a zeal for the global glory of Christ among every tribe and tongue and people and nation, especially where Christ is least known.
    • Sincere desire to promote and/or engage in teaching the Word of God in cross-cultural contexts where theological training is sparse or non-existent.
    • Gospel-motivated resolve to glorify God as a single person, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a grandfather, a pastor, a missionary, a neighbor, a citizen, or whatever combination of roles God may have ordained for a man.
    • Network of enduring Christ-filled relationships of love with fellow students and alumni from Bethlehem Seminary, and also with mentors, pastors, missionaries, and members of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
    • Authentic Christ-likeness of character, an appropriate transparency with others and a fitness for the office of elder in the church of Jesus Christ.
  10. What’s involved in the application process?
    Application form filled out and sent in by Dec 1 (to matriculate the following August); transcripts, references from pastor, professor, friend; statement of support from spouse; written essay; writing sample. Once all of this is completed then we conduct two interviews by phone or in person. Then the BCS Board makes their decision.
  11. Can you give a brief overview of how the program works from the student’s standpoint?
    Student attends 9 to 11 hours of classes per week, plus about 20 hours of academic work outside of class.
  12. What responsibilities does the student have in a typical week?
    Students are involved in a minimum of 5 hours per week of mentored ministry; they meet with their mentor every other week.
  13. Any further opportunities or responsibilities for the student?
    Students are welcome to attend any elder meetings or pastoral staff meetings, accompany pastors on ministry outings, participate in short-term cross-cultural teaching trips, etc.
  14. How many pastors are involved, how are they involved, and what’s the cost on their time?
    The entire pastoral staff is involved. Pastor John Piper teaches preaching and practical theology courses and meets weekly with the students for a lunch hour of informal “Table Talk.” The rest of the pastoral staff mentors between 1-3 students; each gives a two hour lecture in the mentored ministry course. They are involved in various other ways as well.
  15. How many non-pastoral staff involved and what do they do?
    BCS currently has a staff of the following people: executive director, dean, associate dean, admissions and registrar, graduate assistant, Old Testament instructor, adjunct professors, etc.
  16. What is this program good for accomplishing?
    The program is good for preparing men for elder level ministry in the local church or on the mission field. It prepares them well to seriously handle the Scriptures in their original languages, it imparts a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. It is designed to help bring the head and heart together in fervent commitment to the Bride of Christ and the ingathering of the elect from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. TBI/BCS has also been committed to preparing the wives of our students to serve as co-laborers in the great work. They meet twice a month for instruction, support and interaction. They are also invited to take English Bible courses that mirrors the courses their husbands are taking
  17. What is it not good for accomplishing?
    Up until this coming year, we have left the preparation of the students in systematic theology and church history to the seminary to which the TBI graduate would complete his M.Div. Beginning next fall we are committing ourselves to provide the entire M.Div. curriculum.
  18. Where are your graduated students now? What are they doing?
    TBI has graduated 8 classes from its seminary level program since the year 2000 (75 graduates). While some of these men are pursuing further education elsewhere, many of our graduates are now serving as pastors, church planters, missionaries, college or seminary professors, and para-church workers on university campuses and in the inner city. Several of our graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs at Cambridge, Durham, Oxford, St. Andrews, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Harvard, Boston University, and Wheaton.
Tom Steller

Tom Steller is the Academic Dean of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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