Thirty Years Later: A Personal Testimony
by Pam Nolde
Believe it or not, others have walked where you now are. Their questions decades ago were the same ones you are asking yourself today. The specifics might be different, but the debate, it seems, remains. Should you go to college? Should you get a job? Should you go to a Bible college? Should you or should you not?Regretfully, there is not a standard answer to these questions. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world, just as the Kingdom of God is not a one-an¬swer-fits-all kind of life. Some of you are being called to higher education at world-class universities. Others of you are being called directly to the marketplace. Still others are being called to a Bible college experience. All you have to do is figure out what He is calling you to do, and do it.In 1975, having graduated with hon¬ors from an east coast high school, I had been accepted to two secular colleges and one Bible college. I was exploring my options. Summer days clicked past and the time came when a decision had to be made. Where would I go? After a Youth Corps trip to the Philippines, it turned out that “none of the above” was the answer. The first part of August I found my¬self on the phone with the registrar at a college I hadn’t considered. Two weeks later my dear parents were unpacking my things on an out-of¬state campground that had been “converted” to house a Bible college.
Three years later with more thousands of dollars than I or my parents want to remember, I graduated with a “degree” in music. Somewhere in my garage is a nice piece of parch¬ment that, along with $3.72, will get me a tall white chocolate mocha at our neighborhood Starbuck’s.
Bible school did not equip me for the “real world.” It allowed me to check a box on a job application that would indicate I had completed a 3-year college program. Other than that, my “degree” was paper and ink. It did not get me a better job or qualify me in some way for a unique position in the career of a lifetime. As a result of my time there, I did not find myself climbing up the prover¬bial ladder of success in corporate America.
If I had it to do all over again, would I? Absolutely! In my experience, Bible college allowed me the opportunity to discover Jesus Christ in a new and unique dimension of commitment and service. Peter wrote, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (II Peter 1:10). It was around Bible school altars, in Bible school prayer meetings and chapel services, and maybe even in a class or two, that my calling and election became clear to me.
James said, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Among the gifts of my Bible school years was the opportunity to have time in an “up close and per¬sonal setting” with men and women of the Spirit that were the passionate voices of our movement then, and some still even now. While it is now my privilege to see Vesta Mangun on an almost daily basis, the impact of—as a young person seeking God’s direction for my life—hearing her say, “There’s never been a day like this day!” and talk to us about prayer and personal evangelism cannot be mea¬sured. The voice of a prophet like T. W. Barnes was an awesome thing in a church service or at a camp meeting, but to have the opportunity to sit at a table with him and have a small group discussion cannot be given a price tag.
The other “good and perfect” gifts of my Bible school days were the friendships that were formed there that have been my “friends for life” relationships. The best days of my life, my highest moments, have been shared with those I shared Bible col¬lege days with. In the darkest days of my life, it was those Bible school friends that stayed close to share my grief and help carry my sorrow. I’ve celebrated the births of their chil¬dren and grandchildren as if they are my own. When there is a tragedy, my tears mix with theirs. When there is triumph, the celebration rings in my heart as well! At conferences and camps, it’s almost like having a membership in an exclusive club be¬cause “when we all get together . . . what a day!”
The question is, though, is Bible school right for you? No one can answer that but you. It is not the right choice for everyone. It was the right choice for me. As you face the challenge of determining what you will do with your life, set your course carefullyand prayerfully.Paul wrote, “I beseech you there¬fore, brethren,by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Eu¬gene Petersen, in The Message, restated that this way:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God
does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that
you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside
out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, al¬ways dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
It’s not a difficult thing to do unless you make it so. There’s not a war between a Bible college and secular college. The battle comes in mak¬ing the decision to do what God has called you to do, regardless of what it is. Sometimes we think that some¬how that is an elusive, difficult, op¬posite-of-what-I-want-to-do thing. It’s not. T. F. Tenney says that if you want to know the will of God for your life it is actually a simple process: “Get as close to Jesus as you can; then do what you feel like doing.”
In seeking first the kingdom of God, it doesn’t always wind up being the Bible over the textbook. Not every¬one is called to pulpit ministry. We are not all destined to be pastors. We are all called to be ministers. For some of us our place of ministry will be the marketplace not the sanctuary.
The story is told of a man named Jeremiah Lanphier. His pastor asked him to be a city missionary. He worked on Wall Street in New York City. He asked business men to join him at noon for prayer, from 12:00¬1:00. He passed out handbills. He posted signs. He invited people in the workplaces around that city to the first prayer meeting: September 23, 1857. No one showed up. He prayed alone for 35 minutes; then four people came in. The next week there were fourteen; the next week there were twenty-three. Then there were one hundred, then one thou¬sand. Soon they added a 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM prayer meeting. There were twen-typrayer meet¬ings in New York City by spring of 1858. Theaters that seated twenty five hundred were full for thirty minutes for prayer. Thousands gathered. Then it started happening in Philadelphia, Pitts¬burgh. Prayer broke out in Washing¬ton, Chicago, and Boston. There was no e-mail, no cell phones. Revival swept through Harvard University. Churches were packed for prayer. It all started with one business man with a burden.
Max Lucado, in his book Cure for the Common Life, shared an inter¬esting perspective on finding your calling. He wrote: “DaVinci painted one Mona Lisa. Beethoven composed one Fifth Sym¬phony. And God made one version of you. He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment. Mine like a gold digger the unique¬to-you nuggets from your life . . . Look at you. Your uncanny ease with numbers… your quenchless curios¬ity about chemistry. Others stare at blueprints and yawn; you read them and drool. ‘I was made to do this…’ you say.
Our Maker gives assignments to people, to each according to each one’s unique ability. As He calls, He equips. Look back over your life. What have you consistently done well? What have you loved to do? Stand at the intersection of your affections and successes and find your uniqueness.”
Someone reading this article is be¬ing called to attend Bible college. Someone else is being called to Harvard. All you have to do is answer with a simple, three-letter word you learned to spell in kindergarten.Yes.