Outside mainstream evangelicalism and fundamentalism, the Bible-college movement is little known. And even in these circles, it is often little understood. Bible colleges tend to suffer from an image problem. Many perceive them as extended Bible conferences—or, at best, “junior” Christian liberal-arts colleges. Neither is true.

Bible colleges are similar to seminaries in that they are professional schools whose primary purpose is to train students for vocations in Christian ministry. This focus of purpose influences all aspects of these institutions. Training is provided for a number of roles, including the pastorate, Christian education, youth work, music, missions, and other church-related vocations. Christian liberal-arts colleges have a valuable role to play, but it is a much less-focused one than for Bible colleges.

Workers For The Harvest

The 1880s witnessed the emergence of the Bible-college movement in the United States. A. B. Simpson founded the Missionary Training Institute (now Nyack College) in 1882 in New York City; Dwight L. Moody established the Training School of the Chicago Evangelization Society (now Moody Bible Institute) in 1886 in Chicago; and A. J. Gordon began the Boston Missionary Training School (now Gordon College) in 1889 in Boston. (Of these, only Moody remains today a traditional Bible school.)

The primary motivation behind all these institutions and their kin was a renewed vision for evangelism in their local communities and in the world at large. These early visionaries recognized that the established seminaries of the day would never be able to provide sufficient numbers of clergy to cope with the challenges of world evangelization. They viewed lay men and women as a legitimate resource for recruits ...

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