When I stop to consider the effects that the North Carolina School of Biblical Studies has had upon my life, my thoughts immediately flash back to the two years I spent there, to the time shared with dedicated brothers and sisters in Christ. With the benefit of seven years hindsight since my first day inside those doors, and five years removed since my graduation, I can now understand that this school has a long-term mission. The goal is to slowly, deliberately mold its men into knowledgeable servants of God. The two years of intense study and practice were but the beginning; the true tests are faced after the final day of classes has concluded.
It mattered not at all that I entered the NCSBS as a fifty-four year old husband, father of four grown children, grandfather of nine, and foster-dad to an eleven year old little girl. My initial thought had been that I would be looked upon as being too old to start school again, but I quickly discovered that my age and experience as a manager and professional salesperson with a major corporation were actually great assets. The most difficult hurdle to cross was that of leaving my wife and home, moving about three hours away to Clemmons, N.C. Therefore, with little more than my clothes and a commitment to myself to become a much better Bible student and teacher, I headed west for school.
My first realization as I began my classes was that there was no introductory period; we jumped into the deep end from day one. The reading was non-stop, which was most agreeable to me. It also became quite apparent that research papers would be the norm and not the exception for nearly every class. Looking back from today’s perspective, I can appreciate the value of personal research into required topics and the transferring of gained knowledge into written words. The organization of facts and ideas into a logical progression of structured argument is one of the great teaching tools utilized by the instructors at the NCSBS. This required activity, practiced over and over again throughout the two years of classroom learning, is one of the school’s greatest strengths.
I quickly noticed during the first week of classes that the men enrolled had come from various academic backgrounds. Some twenty- five years earlier, I had been fortunate enough to gain much experience in writing term papers during my undergraduate and graduate school years in college. Conversely, there were men in my classes who had not gained such educational training. One of the great tributes that can be given to the instructors of our classes is that they were willing to work with these men as they struggled with the required research papers. These men worked exceptionally hard, and at the end of two years there was an evident mastery of the term paper displayed by all.
While I possessed an advantage in terms of writing skills, my shortcomings in Bible knowledge were glaringly evident to all, including myself. It was a long and arduous road, but with the requirement of scriptural memorization being present in nearly every class, my knowledge and understanding of God’s word slowly increased. The very process of striving to memorize blocks of verses taught all of us the necessity of hard word, dedication, and patience. During my drives home on weekends, I would find myself taping the memorization passages to my steering wheel, stealing a glance every now and then to check my progress. The mandatory use of time management became a seven day a week, twenty-four hour-per-day reality. It took but a few days to come to this understanding: If I were to complete my assignments on time, then the time in my car traveling was to be put to the best use possible. There was no reason to complain about the hours it took to complete my assignments, for as I worked, I was learning. I was being shaped into a servant for God. I had come to school to learn, and I was committed to doing so. The NCSBS provided me with the structure within which I could grow in God’s word without boundaries.
A great strength of the NCSBS is to be found in its sponsoring congregation, the Warner’s Chapel church of Christ. The school of preaching is a local mission work for this congregation and its elders. With much planning, patience, and prayer, this loving assembly of the Lord’s people has made it a congregational goal to soundly train men in God’s word. The preachers, elders, deacons, and members of Warner’s Chapel unfailingly supported me in my efforts to learn and understand the scriptures. I am not exaggerating at all in declaring that these godly people supported me, cared for me, and literally fed me for two years. Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed by the workload ahead, I could always draw strength from this congregation, knowing that it was constantly praying for my success. The backing of a congregation such as this one was of immeasurable benefit to me as I struggled with class work and with being separated from my family.
Just prior to my graduation from the NCSBS, I took a few moments to reflect upon how much I had changed as a man, and as a Christian, after two years of study. My conclusion was this: I had stretched myself farther than I thought was possible, I had grown both spiritually and in biblical knowledge, and I had developed prayer habits which had been non-existent upon my arrival. Most important of all, though, was the realization that I had learned to put my trust in God. He had provided for me during that period of time, and He is still doing so today.
It is not stretching the truth to say that I have referred to my notes taken from classes at the NCSBS nearly every week since my graduation five years ago. Having kept all class notes in individual binders, it is possible to quickly refresh my mind on topics as they now come before me in real-life situations. Additionally, I now find myself adding to these binders as classes are taught in the local congregation or during lectureships. It is now possible for me to reference literally hundreds of pages of relevant notes and nearly one hundred and fifty books I now possess as a direct result of my time at the NCSBS. Together, we share the common goal of saving lost souls, and there is no substitute for sound preparation as we meet the spiritual struggles of individuals on a daily basis.
At times, I find myself in need of further guidance as I face these challenging situations. Without hesitation, I call one of my former instructors, knowing that I can place my trust in their words. Such relationships are invaluable, and they have come about as a direct result of my time spent in Clemmons, North Carolina at the North Carolina School of Biblical Studies.
Looking back over the past seven years, there is no denying the fact that a two-year period of time in biblical study changed my life forever. Do I have any regrets for the time away from home, for the endless hours spent in reading and study, for the effort exerted in memorizing countless verses of scripture? The answer is an emphatic, “No!” James provided us with the end result of such efforts when he wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).