19 Aug Please Don’t Go To A Bible College!

The other day I got a message on Facebook from an old Bible College student of mine, Jeremy.

“Hey ProfeShah (that’s what my students used to call me), do you remember the advice you gave me 5 years ago? It was one of the best words of advice I’ve ever received in my life,” he said.

Shoot, if you know me, you know I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone a piece of advice I gave someone over five years ago. So, being a good shame-based culture person that I am, I faked it and said, “Yes, of course!”

In my Middle Eastern culture, by admitting to not knowing something, you’ve committed two sins: not knowing something and admitting to not knowing something.

I responded, “I told you to get the heck out  of the Bible College and get yourself a           degree that you can make a living with”.

To my amazement, he wrote back saying, “Yes, and thank you. I’m an engineer today making a living and taking care of my family.”

I know some of my evangelical friends get upset when they hear me taking such a stance, but I had my reasons, of which the most important was the welfare of my students.

It was within the second year of teaching at that college when I noticed a good number of my students were graduating college with $20-30K debt and ending up working behind a counter, asking customers, “Would you like a tall, grande or venti?”

“If that’s going to be the case, you don’t need a four-year college degree to pump syrup in a coffee cup or work as a bank teller,” I used to tell them.

Most these kids were being trained to be one thing and one thing only: pastors. The problem was that the denomination the college belonged to couldn’t provide enough churches for these graduates to pastor. On the other hand, the available churches were usually 20-30 member churches not able to support the new pastor fulltime, which again, put my students behind the same coffee or bank teller counter. Knowing how difficult it is to pastor in general, I knew we (the college) were setting many of my students up for failure.

If you haven’t thought about it already, someone has and is ready to write me about it: “Aren’t you taking these kids away from their godly calling to be pastors?” To believe that is to believe the only way to serve God is to stand behind a pulpit, which in and of itself is a false assumption that has been shoved down our throats for many years. I don’t need a pulpit to serve Christ.

Read: I Love My Church, Starbucks

For the first 10 years after starting the first Iranian Christian organization in the United States, I was a civil engineer during the day and a house-church planter at night, driving all over LA County preaching the Gospel to a newly-arrived group of Iranian immigrants. Even if I had wanted them to, these Iranians would have never been able to support my family and me for what I was doing.

For 10 years, it was my engineering degree that put a roof over my family’s head, food on our table and gas in my ‘69 VW Bug.  Maybe even more important, I own my home today – not because of the 30 years I pastored, but because of the 10 years I engineered. My salary as an Iranian pastor would have never been able to purchase my family a house.

It took me 10 years to build a solid enough base of supporters before I was able to leave my engineering job. By then, I was also convinced that was something I was called to do.

Maybe 40-50 years ago, a church of 40 members was able to support her pastor fulltime, but those days are over. Today, to be fully supported, the same pastor needs a church that is four to five times larger than that. That was a reality that most of my students faced. Since, right off the bat, pastoring a large church was out of the question, they needed to have a job that would put a roof over their heads and food on their tables while trying to pastor a small church.

That is why I encouraged many of my students to get out of the Bible College and first get a degree that would give them a solid base of financial support. Meanwhile, they could do what I did for ten years: serve God where they were.  If they never get into a “fulltime ministry,” they have not wasted four years of college and thousands of dollars getting an education they never needed. But, if they do, and feel they need more Biblical education, they can always go back to Bible College and get their Biblical degrees with the money they saved from their well-paying jobs.

That’s what I did.




  • Please Do Not Go To A Bible College 2 | ShahShankedRedemption
    Posted at 10:56h, 04 July Reply

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  • Please Do Not Go To A Bible College 2 - shahzam factor
    Posted at 10:01h, 04 July Reply

    […] few years ago, I posted a blog, Please Don’t Go To A Bible College. I wrote the article after teaching at a small Bible college for five years and noticing many […]

  • Michael
    Posted at 10:32h, 13 February Reply

    web site Bible study on the topic of "Sunday" It took me 2 years to compile and from there it grew.

    I'd love feedback



  • francene young
    Posted at 09:50h, 30 October Reply

    what wisdom!!!! i have seen so many pastors go to bible college and quit good paying jobs to start full time ministries. or even without degrees, they quit great employment for pastoring. now i dont knock anyone's calling, but you have be sure the voice thats heard is God's. most of these pastors i just mentioned have hard working good spirited wives. the wives are still in the work place while the husbands are either at home studying/meditating or at church cutting the grass. meanwhile, they may have 20 members that cant meet a pastoral full time salary. so what do they do?, they ask the 20 members for a considerable percentage of donation above the tithe/offering.

    this puts a strain on the members, and on the wife if members cant meet these obligations, or some members may leave. i believe that the above advice is one of great wisdom, now i know Father God deals with ministers/pastors differently according to their purpose/destiny He has planned for them. i have seen churches grow from 20 to 2000. but i believe its all up to the Father, what's meant for one pastor, may not be meant for another. and just because you are called of God in 2012, doesnt mean you are meant to pastor in 2016, the manifestion may not take place until 2026. He may allow other experiences to occur first, so the prayer life along with patience during the early years seems important

  • Eric Stevens
    Posted at 13:23h, 21 August Reply

    Wow, good advice for some people. I went to the university, was convicted to go to Bible college, and then God called me to ministry. The issue is not where CAN you serve the Lord, but WHERE does the Lord want you to serve. God provided in the lean years and blessed us to learn how to be content. Now I am a part-time preacher and my day job is teaching in a Bible College!

  • Ken Parks
    Posted at 07:41h, 21 August Reply

    One never knows how things will work out. I was fortunate to work while in college and preach and lead music on weekends. I knew some people who went to bible college AND seminary and never even taught Sunday School and are working for large Christian churches and ministries. Even with experience, I couldn't get a full-time church position. I would go to my mentors who said no church will call you unless you have that degree, then go to church interviews and they would say, well we want someone with X-number years of pastoring. It was a wild circle.

  • Brien Sims
    Posted at 07:18h, 21 August Reply

    I deeply appreciate this article. I went to Bible college and became a pastor of a church for seven years. I do not regret the learning I have received but I am now having to train for another field so I can go and take care of my sickly mother. Thank you for putting to words part of what I have felt for years. I have also decided that part time ministry for many churches would be best. They would no longer depend on the minister to be the Christian who lives out the faith and runs the church. They would have to develop their faith and grow as a people.

  • Bob Bae
    Posted at 08:03h, 10 May Reply

    Love this post Shah. I like your wisdom and practical advice to your students. I have always been "bivocational" by choice and believe that it has helped me be a better "minister" of the gospel simply because I'm living my life among those that need Christ. Those who are leaders/ministers who are working outside of the church are no less a minister /leader as those who are "full time" and getting paid by the church.

    Btw. Good meeting you at SB today.

  • Harry
    Posted at 00:38h, 22 January Reply

    I agree completely. Pastors need to work in a secular job first to understand what we in the pews go through. I graduated with an economics degree and thought I wanted to be a pastor. After one semester at Bible college and working a year in ministry I realized it wasn't for me. Now I am a CPA with hundreds of churches as clients.

    Business experience will also help the pastor to be able to manage the church and its finances.

  • Marilyn
    Posted at 01:53h, 11 January Reply

    This is wonderfully practical and very biblical advise. I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus not starting his recorded ministry until around the age of 30… was he perhaps honing his skills as a carpenter…providing for his earthly family? What about Paul, educated by the highest "schools" had a job as a tent-maker.

    Thank you for encouraging young people to work in the real world they will be someday perhaps serving as a "full time" minister.

    We heard you on Janet Parshall show yesterday, and were so encouraged by your news, and will continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran.

  • Lisa Pileggi
    Posted at 02:56h, 26 August Reply

    I always felt like a fish-out-of-water, while attending Bible college, when speaking about wanting to do ministry "outside of the church". Finding work out in the "real world" is hard enough with a liberal arts 4-year degree, let alone a degree from a Bible college. I am not one to crush someone's dreams or call into ministry, but you make some great points above. The close friends that I made in Bible college are not in "full-time ministry"; unless you have a major connection in the mega-church world, it is very difficult to survive out there in the confines of 4 church walls.

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