Review of Books on Bible Colleges

Osamagbe Lesley Egharevba | Lagos, Nigeria

Of Bible schools and/or colleges, countless works and scholarly materials exist wherein writers devoted their scholarship towards expounding their take on the issue to the best of their ability. Several views and positions have been taken on this issue. Particularly, concerning the training of Gospel preachers, many think that men must attend Bible schools for them to be effective or qualified to serve as evangelists in the church of the Lord. In order words, they think that the church is not sufficient to train men but that the church must depend on some other institution, separate and apart from her, to train men that will work for her. Little wonder why one would see several congregations today, when requesting the service of a gospel preacher will include in their announcement that the interested candidate must have attended a Bible college or posses some Bible school certificate.

Undoubtedly, human institutions in general whose aim is to carry out some or all of the works of the church for her are acting without divine authority and have done more harm than good to the Lord’s cause. However, the aim of this writing is not to give a detailed explanation on whether Bible schools are scriptural or not; rather the focus of the writing is to review certain works of brethren on the subject matter, especially those who have advocated for human institutions as aids or replacement to the church in doing her God-given work.

For the purpose of this writing, the following works will be reviewed:

  1. Ministers’ Training and Church Growth by Usim Solomon Ifeanyichukwu (2016);
  2. Are WBS and Church Supported Colleges Scriptural? By Makinde E.O. (not dated);
  3. An Appraisal Of Selected Teachings And Practices Of The Church Of Christ In South-Western Nigeria by Owolabi Sunday Abiodun (2014);
  4. Relationship Between Church And Training Institutions by Hilary Johnson Chukwuma Chukwurah (2016).

It is interesting to note that some of these writers are directors of Bible training institutions in Nigeria while others are products of Bible schools in Nigeria. Hence, one would not doubt the reliability of their scholarships when it comes to issues about Bible colleges for they have been deeply involved in its activities. Meanwhile, since the Bible is the absolute authority for any Christian practice – a fact that all of these writers concede – we shall juxtapose their claims as presented in their works with what the New Testament teaches.

Issues Arising From the Books

A perusal of the materials referenced above reveals certain issues that need to be addressed. It becomes particularly curious since these claims are mere sophistry – errors presented as truth and intended to confuse the unwary. Let us take a look at these issues and unmask the sophistry behind them one after the other.

Is Bible College Authorized in the New Testament?

By Bible College, we do not mean a Bible study class of members of a congregation which is usually under the oversight of a local church. Rather, we mean a training institution established which is separate and apart from the church devoted to the training of individuals on Bible knowledge. According to Solomon Usim, “Leaving a legacy for the church’s posterity entails that the church must be futuristic in her plans and programs by strategically empowering her training institutions to continue to serve the theological and spiritual needs of the church” (p.111, emphasis L.E).

In the first place, this statement suggests that the spiritual needs of the church cannot be served by the church itself but must depend on an external, separate training institution to get them – implying that the church, as God made it is not all sufficient. This is false and contrary to what the scriptures teach. Is it not ridiculous to aver that the church which is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Timothy 3:15) and which has been in the mind of God before creation, is incapable of equipping her members with this truth and must now depend on some other institution to get this? Paul made it very clear in Ephesians 4:16 and Colossians 2:19 that the church is to grow and carry out its work by itself.

“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Emphasis L.E)

The above scripture clearly shows that the church is to “edify itself.” Church edification is NOT to be done by another body, separate and apart from the church. How and where did Solomon Usim got the idea that the spiritual needs of the church must be served by some training institution that is separate and apart from the church? Surely, it is not from the scriptures.

Secondly, what scriptures authorize the church to establish and empower “her” training institutions as hinted in Usim’s statement above? Interestingly, Hilary Johnson Chukwuma Chukwurah seems to have a scripture for it. In his words; “Acts 19:9 tells us that Apostle Paul established a training institution, which he operated for about two years” (p.113). On this same text, he posits; “The school may have operated for two years and closed shop or may have operated a two-year curriculum of training, which today serves as model for two years program of schools. Whatever may have happened, training occurred: churches were involved and preachers were trained!” (p.114)

The attempt to use Acts 19:9 as authority for the church to establish a separate institution – a Bible college devoted to the training of men for the church is a straw man and it resembles the argument of those folks who want to defend infant baptism and then run to passages where “households” were baptized and conclude that they have got the authority for infant baptism. Because these men found the word “school” used in Acts 19:9 by some translations of the Bible, and they find Paul reasoning there, they conclude that he established a Bible college. However, a simple reading of Acts 19:9 proves that the “school of Tyrannus” was a “lecture hall,” as indicated by some translations. This was not a Bible college built by Paul, as some would have you believe, but only a place used by Paul to teach the gospel for a while. And not a single thing in the text shows that Paul established a Bible training institution, separate and apart from the church. The text reads; “But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”

Will the advocate of this teaching say that every member of the church must be trained at the Bible school to become gospel preachers since the text says Paul withdrew all the disciples and not some of them? In the training of evangelists, not all members are to be trained (II Tim.2:2). God gave SOME to be evangelists (Eph. 4:11) and not all are teachers (I Cor.12:29). If Acts 19:9 is taken as a template for Bible colleges to train gospel preachers, it means that all members of the church MUST of necessity be taught at a Bible school to be effective since Paul moved “the disciples” and not some of them. Indeed, we can plainly see that our brethren have only forced the text to mean what is not there and there is absolutely no justification for their affirmation.

In Acts 18:24-26, we find the couple, Pricilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos on a matter that he was oblivious of and some have said that such could be called a Bible school. There is no indication that this was a permanent arrangement that was carried out by this couple; rather it is a personal effort that could be done by any faithful couple today. Passages of the Scriptures like these are easy to cite when people only desire to force the Scriptures to say what they practice that is questionable.

Should Churches Support Bible Colleges?

Another issue worthy of note is the support of Bible Colleges by churches. Usim (2016, p.70) lists several colleges in the United States which according to him are “heavily sponsored by congregations of the Lord’s church all across America.” He noted that some of these colleges were purely for preaching purposes while others combined ministerial training with secular education. Corroborating this, Hilary Johnson Chukwuma Chukwurah says;

“Congregations MUST as a matter of necessity SUPPORT our training schools. We must empower our Bible training schools as individuals and body corporate with our financial resources and expertise in different areas of life to ensure that our present is consolidated and our future guaranteed…Paul did that at Tyrannus supported by congregations and the result was tremendous.” (p.119)

“Training institutions exist for the church. Therefore, the church should support these institutions. It is in her best interests to do so. To do this, congregations should send their men to be trained and support them fully; they should make occasional as well as regular donations of money and materials; take lead in securing lands and construction of permanent structures for these institutions.” (p.117)

While the American brethren are not our standards in determining what is scriptural, it is sad that not a single scripture is cited by Usim to show the authority of the church to support Bible colleges. It seems that we must only accept it because the American churches are doing it and not because God’s word authorizes it. The Bible gives no authorization to the church of the Lord to support any human organization to teach anything at all. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). What it should teach is the gospel of Christ and not secular education. And then, by what authority should the church support an institution that combines both secular and religious education together? It should be noted that the statements of Hilary regarding Acts 19:9 is a crass error and fatuous claim. We have no NT record where a church ever supported a human institution whether the institution is doing a good work or not. Paul always emphasized that he, as an individual and gospel preacher received support from the churches (II Cor. 11:8-9; Phil. 1:5; 4:15-17). Not one example shows that a local church supported a human institution. When money was sent from Antioch in Acts 11:27-30 by the disciples, it was sent to the elders of the churches in Judea. These funds were sent for benevolent work and it was never sent to a human institution. We find a similar thing in the case of Romans 15:25-26 when those of Macedonia and Achaia sent to the Jerusalem church, they sent to relieve the needy in the Jerusalem church and they never sent to a human institution. Averring that churches should support Bible colleges to train preachers without showing the scriptures that authorize such is rebellious. The only people that the Lord has commanded to receive funds to preach the gospel are the gospel preachers (I Cor. 9:14).

Some have brought up arguments in an attempt to defend the existence of Bible colleges and church support of them. Makinde E.O. made some quibble about this in his article when he said:

“Let us assume that the church of Christ at Otonko Calabar are not financially buoyant to continue supporting the programme of preachers training under the oversight of their elders…can they seek for financial assistance from other sister congregations? The Bible shows that congregations acted concurrently (cooperated) in meeting the needs of the Jerusalem church (Read Rom.15:25-28; I Cor.16:1-4; II Cor.8 & 9). Despite that the work to be done here was of the Otonko church, but it was greater than what they alone could do, therefore, it is scriptural to seek for assistance. Likewise, when a group of ministers came together to start a bible school or preachers training program and seek financial assistance from both individual Christian and churches, they acted in the scope of the scriptures II Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-18…It isscriptural for the church to support the WBS program and Bible School”

It is interesting to note that none of the scriptures above actually teach or suggest that a church or churches sent funds to support a human institution or Bible college as hinted by the writer. The first set of scriptures refers to aid sent to relieve the poor saints in Jerusalem while the second set of scriptures refers to Paul (an individual preacher) receiving support from churches to preach the gospel. What this brother has done is to draw unnecessary and assumed inferences from these texts to give credence to the church supporting a human institution.

Is Bible School Necessary For Effective Preachers?

Is attending Bible school necessary for one to be an effective preacher in the Lord’s church? In chapters 4 and 5, Usim (2016) discusses the effects of ministers’ training on congregations with informally trained preachers and the effects of ministers’ training on congregations with trained preachers. In his view, preachers who are trained in Bible schools are better than those who are trained in the Divine institution, the church. In his words, while giving some recommendations towards the end of his book, Usim said “…as against the antiquated idea of training preachers in congregations, this author recommends in strong terms, that congregations in their quest to train their ministers should send them to notable Christian Colleges in Nigeria such as School of Biblical Studies, SBS Jos…, et cetera” (p.110). In Page 73, he said “Although, it is possible to have ministers informally trained in congregations, it is still very necessary that Bible Schools, which are the largest educational ministry of the church, be attended for elaborate and systematic training, especially in Biblical languages.”

Usim referred to the training of gospel preachers in congregations as an “antiquated idea.” The word antiquated, when looked up in the dictionary means “old” or “obsolete.” And so, the God-given plan of training men in the pillar and the ground of the truth is, in the view of Usim an obsolete idea. And so, in order for men to be trained as preachers, they must be sent to a separate college established by men. One wonders what Bible school Timothy, Titus, Silas, and even Paul attended before they were qualified to preach the gospel. It leaves much to be desired when men conjure up their own ideas and would like to circulate it as if it is what the Lord has said. So, shall we conclude that these NT preachers received some antiquated training and were not so effective? Apollos was a preacher that everyone would desire yet we never read of him being trained by any human institution. If it is VERY NECESSARY for Bible schools to be attended by men in order to have the elaborate training, then these men we have mentioned never received elaborate training. That is questionable.

Great preachers that I have known in Nigeria today are men who never received Bible training at any human institution but were taught in the Lord’s church. On the other hand, the so-called Bible school graduates have done much havoc in the brotherhood so much that one wonders what is special about their training. Some of them have turned out to be mere inspirational speakers, sermonizers, counselors, etc. When you ask them to teach basic Bible principles, they goof. Some of them have written bad reports and thesis about the church and wreaked havoc on the Lord’s church. Some of these negative effects of Bible schools established by men will be examined in a moment. Besides, from which Bible passage comes the idea that Bible schools are the largest educational ministry of the church? Not a single Bible passage was cited for that. Sometimes, it is worrisome when men give their opinions on Biblical issues and pass it on as if it is a “thus says the Lord.”

Bible Training Assisting The Church In Her Work

According to Hillary Chukwurah,

“Our Lord is depending on His church to take the Message of Salvation to the world, because the Church of Christ is His Divine Orientation Agency (Ephesians 3:10). Bible training institutions are willing to assist congregations of our Lord’s church achieve this objective. Therefore, let congregations partner with our schools to ensure that this is realized. (p.121)

Also, according to Ekanam (2008, p. 143) cited in Usim (2016, p.71), Christian institutions help develop leadership for the church.” Usim corroborated this by saying; “Of great importance is the fact that these institutions do not only train students to preach, but also award degrees (Usim, p.71).

If the Lord is depending on “His church” to take the message of salvation to the world, what business does a human institution have in that? Why must they give unauthorized assistance to the Divine institution that God has made to do the work? These men need to understand that one cannot help God (Job 22:2) and when Uzzah gave an unauthorized assistance to prevent the ark of God from falling in the Old Testament, he received instant Divine judgment – death (I Sam. 6:6-7; II Chro. 13:7-14). This example was written for our learning (I Cor. 10:6-11; Rom. 15:4). Our dear brethren who foster and operate Bible college for preachers’ training in order to “help” the church will do well to learn from this example and put things in proper order.

Unfortunately, Hilary Johnson Chukwurah tries to create the idea of mutual helpfulness between churches and human institutions with his opinionated sophistry when he said; “While congregations financially support preachers’ training schools, these institutions will in turn become feeders of congregations because the people they train will at the end serve with existing congregations as well as many who will chart new paths by going to virgin areas to plant new congregations (Romans 15:20)” (page 117). The truth is that the Lord did not make any such arrangement that there should be mutual helpfulness between the church and human institutions in carrying out His work.

Negative Effects Of Bible College

Usim (2016) made several efforts to show that training received from Bible colleges is better than the one received from the church. However, looking at the experiences of some of the Bible school products in Nigeria, one wonders if such is really true. Let us be practical a little bit; Biodun Owolabi, the long-standing and incumbent Director of West Nigerian Christian College & School of Biblical Studies (WNCC & SBS – a Bible training institution) in 2014 wrote a Ph.D thesis. This thesis was so damaging to the church that one wonders what he had in mind while writing it. Thankfully, with the effort of one of the brothers who is neither a Bible college graduate nor a gospel preacher, the thesis was masterfully reviewed and its errors exposed.

In page 220 of his thesis, Owolabi made the following statements about the church of Christ that he is a member of;

“the Church of Christ prides itself as the true church with exclusive historical connection with the early church. Since this claim cannot be substantiated with significant evidence in history, it is recommended that the Church of Christ should own up to her history by accepting that the church actually started in the 19th century out of the desire to restore primitive Christianity and unite Christians on the basis of the Bible.”

You can imagine the director of a Bible college making this statement about the church of Christ. This is the same school that Usim (2016, p.110) advised that churches must send their men to, in order for them to be trained as gospel preachers if they must be effective. What would they learn from such a school when their director is even making such statements? On page 221, he said that the belief of the church of Christ that miracles have ceased is not correct and that they should have a rethink about it. He even went ahead to cite men who believes that miracles still exist. This is the same man who churns out Bible College graduates every time and sends them out to preach. If he is like this, what should we expect from the graduates?

Owolabi (2014, p.223) recommends the “need for the Church of Christ to abandon her sectarian exclusivism and embrace Christian ecumenical movement aimed at advancing and defending the cause of Christianity.” And in page 224, he says “This realization of how the Church of Christ began and where it is today should engender ecumenical spirit to seek and pursue peace with other Christian denominations without necessarily compromising the faith but fostering unity within the body of Christ and extend the frontiers of the kingdom.” This is the same place we have been told to go in order to be more effective in preaching. How inexpedient even if they could prove it is lawful! I am willing to affirm scripturally that these Bible schools are a bad influence and hindrance to the gospel of Christ.

In the school of Biblical Studies, Jos it is said by one of the students that his project supervisor is not a member of the church of Christ. This is the same school that is expected to train men for the church of Christ. Men from the denominational churches are deployed to supervise supposed Christians who will go and work in the churches of Christ. How unfortunate!

Besides, who determines when a Bible school has gone astray in its teaching? And who calls them to order? When the director did something as grave as that and worthy of discipline, nothing was done, rather some were even supporting his actions. This is one great negative effect of the school. There is discipline in the church as designed by God but these colleges are run by men’s idea and lack discipline.

Another negative effect of Bible colleges is that these schools train men and women as well as Christians and non-Christians. Some of these unbelievers attend the school because they wish to get a degree in theology so that they can become pastors in their denominational churches. These Bible schools train them to achieve their aim. What is the purpose of training women in the Bible school since they claim that it is to train preachers for the churches of Christ? Are there women preachers there? The command is for the preacher and the church to train “faithful men” (II Tim.2:2). The Greek word for men in this verse is “anthropos;” and we find the word used in I Cor. 7:1 referring to the male individual, excluding female. So, the fact that anthropos is used in II Timothy 2:2 does not mean Paul is saying Timothy should train female preachers. Training of unbelievers and female preachers in these schools is a complete aberration.


The church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is all-sufficient to carry out the work that God wants it to carry out and so men should not introduce gimmicks by setting up parallel institutions that would do the work of the church for her. An attempt to help God is to incur his wrath.


Chukwurah, H.J.C. (2016). Relationship Between Church And Training Institutions. In:                           Ministers’ Training and Church Growth (by Usim, S.I) Enugu: Grand-Heritage Global                     Communications

Makinde E.O. (not dated). Are WBS and Church Supported Colleges Scriptural? In: Lawmakers and             Judges (n.d.) Waddey, J. Ibadan: Southwest School of Evangelism

Owolabi, S.A. (2014). An Appraisal Of Selected Teachings And Practices Of The Church Of Christ In                South-Western Nigeria Usim, S.I. (2016). Ministers’ Training and Church Growth. Enugu: Grand-Heritage Global                           Communications

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