Graduated from Bible College: 4 Absolutely Poignant Thoughts
I finally graduated from Bible College
And so I graduated from Bible College on 17 November 2019, with a Masters of Divinity, after 7 years of theological education with ACTS College. That concludes Phase 1 of my theological education journey. I am just amazed by the journey that God has brought me through for the past 7 years. I have already talked about how much this Bible College education means to me. But here, I thought I want to take the opportunity to chronicle some thoughts about having graduated from Bible College. I will try to present the reflections chronologically as well so that it serves as a reminder on what God really brought me through.
1. You never know where God will lead you
God has perhaps prepared me for this journey since 2009 when I first graduated from my undergraduate study with NUS. Back then, I already felt a tugging in my heart to further my study, but I did not have the opportunity as I had a study loan to finance. That resulted in me ending up in the marketplace working hard to repay my debt.
But all along, I was researching for a suitable course to attend. I remembered myself looking at the courses offered by Biola University. In particular, I was hoping to enrol into their MA in Christian Apologetics, as I was interested to learn more about Christian Apologetics back then. I was looking at other seminaries as well.
On hindsight, it was perhaps really God’s leading that created the circumstances that led me to my study with Acts College. Firstly, I had the opportunity to talk to a devout Yi-Guang Tao believer who wanted to convert me with the claim that I am not betraying Christ and in fact by converting, I am actually fulfilling His will. That incident opened my eyes as I realised the sad case that a lot of apologetics we are reading catered for the western culture but not towards the context we face in places like Singapore.
Secondly, it was a chance conversation with a brother about seeking a theological education. The conversation led me to new possibilities. By taking a part time course here in Singapore, and being able to be trained in the Pentacostal tradition (the previous schools I looked at are all towards the traditional side), I will be able to obtain a formal training while continuing my full time work. That would have allowed me to gain a theological education in an Asian context.
Thirdly, my finances stabilised. It is perhaps a great blessing from God that I managed to get a promotion in 2012. It is considered fast from where I came from. That completely changed my financial situation. I found that I was able to save up a substantial amount every month, in preparation for the future commitments that I was going to undertake.
Fifthly, I had a meet up with Andrew Loke, who was trained theologically by William Lane Craig and Alister MacGrath. He is currently a faculty in Hongkong Baptist University and the author of several books such as The Origins of Divine Christology. IThe conversation was fruitful in the sense that I was able to gain greater clarity in how a further theological study can play an integral role in missions.
Lastly, God seems to be confirming everything. In 2012, I heard a series of sermon which challenged me to study the Word of God so that we could build the church on a firm foundation. It seemed to me that God is putting everything together.
Having graduated from Bible College and looking back, God was indeed paving the way for me to enrol into ACTS which kickstarted 7 years of amazing studies. But when I was going all those, I never knew where God was leading me, until everything came together.
2. You never knew what God will introduce you to
The first year of my Bible college study was an eventful one. The highlight was perhaps a mission trip with my fellow school mates to an East Asian country. This kickstarted a journey which saw me returning multiple times to do ministry in a way that I never thought I would get involved. The experience introduced me to the concept that mission needs not always be church planting. There is always the case for missionary teaching, especially in areas where the churches were not very well-equipped theologically.
Before I started my journey, I could never imagine that I would be in a position where I will be teaching in a classroom setting. However, seven years later, God seems to have confirmed the calling for teaching. The mission trip towards end 2013 was a fruitful one and this was followed by a number of them to the same area from 2014 to 2017.
It was further confirmed by 2 other lecturers. The first was a British missionary from China who commented out of the blue during one of the break time if I was teaching in some settings as I sounded like one in class. The second was after one of my presentations in my pastoral ministry class, when the lecturer made a comment about me being a teacher of teachers.
After I graduated from Bible college, I think on hindsight, this slowly emerged as a ministry that God is increasingly calling me into. Slowly, I was involved with other teaching assignments and I found myself enjoying it. Now that I have graduated from Bible college, this is not to say that I have become good or perfect in my teaching ministry, but it certainly means that there is a calling for me in this area.
And so I realised that I will never know what God will get me into, until I am into it. This was really something that I didn’t know I will get into when I first started this.
3. You never know what God will make you learn
As I was reflecting on my own journey as a Bible college student, one thing that struck me is that I never expected to learn the things that I have learned.
Initially, I expected to learn more about theology and other stuff pertaining to pastoral ministries. However, as I went along, I was learning koine Greek in order to interpret the Greek New Testament, Hebrew alphabets to read the lexicons, how to reflect theologically and hearing from missionaries on their exciting missions.
I remember attending a world mission class run by above-mentioned missionary. Through the classes and the simulations, she exposed us to the intricacies of doing mission work in a foreign land where the culture is totally different. There was another class on Asian theological issues, run by Simon Chan, which exposed me to various strands of theological thoughts surrounding Asian Christianity. His class on spiritual theology also provided me a sound theological backing on a spirituality not focused on our works but on the trinitarian God.
Over time, I found that my own theological and pastoral outlook changed as I gleaned from the wisdoms of seasoned ministers, learned theologians and experienced pastors. So as I graduated from Bible college, I am no longer the naive minister who once just believed in anything I read.
4. You never know who God will link you to
Perhaps one of the most important parts of doing the study is the friends and fellow comrades whom we get to meet along the way. It is true that in such a setting, we don’t necessarily agree with one another on our theological outlook and pastoral methods. But the fact that we are serving the Kingdom of God means that we are on the same side.
Because of the diverse backgrounds of my fellow classmates, I found that my horizon expanded a lot as I graduated from Bible college. We challenged one another and also learned from one another. This, by itself, is already an invaluable experience that we can take back.
As I look back, it has been an eventful journey. Personally, I entered this journey as a single, ended this as a father. It is a journey that I would personally recommend everyone to embark on – if you believe that it is God’s calling for you to further equip yourself for ministry.