Why GBS?

Nothing excites me more than having the opportunity to answer the question that heads this article. Having graduated from the college and having served as president since 1995, I have a unique vantage point to answer that question. I feel so good about recommending GBS because:

  1. Track Record. For over 100 years, GBS has sent out a steady stream of deeply committed and highly effective Christian workers into every area of God’s kingdom into every area of the world. A high percentage of this number has become leaders in their field of service and has made an unusually significant impact on the kingdom.
  1. An institutional culture that is servant oriented and ministry minded. From Oswald Chambers in 1909, to our most recent camp evangelist, the comments are consistently the same. “The students here have a warm, friendly, servant spirit.” An emphasis on servant hood is a part of the GBS culture. The same can be said for ministry. I recently heard a disgruntled student remark, “All the kids here have their minds on ministry.” What a glorious criticism!

3. Whether it is in the cleanliness of our campus, the carefulness of our person, or    commitment to studies, GBS has a strong commitment to excellence in all that we do. God asks for our best, deserves our best, and here at GBS we train our students to give Him just that – their very best.

  1. Spiritual Depth. At the very core of the institution, there has been and remains both a call and a commitment to devout holy living. It is a balanced emphasis that stresses private devotion, careful living, lively corporate worship, and a public sharing of one’s faith.

God’s Bible School and College has made a significant difference in thousands of lives of young men and young women. I know that it did for me. I am also confident that it can do that for you.

Parents, Listen Up!!

According to a major consulting firm, there are approximately 370,000 Christian high school seniors in America; but only 16 percent (60,000) of them will attend a Christian/Bible college this fall! Of those who do attend, however, 98 percent will maintain their faith and stay in church. The remaining 84 percent will attend a secular university or junior college near home. It is tragic that 52 percent of these will lose their faith and drop out of church. In light of these facts, why wouldn’t Christian high school seniors—supported firmly by their parents—overwhelmingly want to attend a Christian college?

Another recent study shows that there are approximately 3000 churches that identify with the conservative values of a college like GBS or its peer colleges and institutes. (Remember, too, that there are still others who would not fully identify with GBS but who would still want the values-based education which it offers.) An observation was made in this study that denominations tend to send at least one student for every two churches to its denominational college.

There is some parallel also between church groups and the colleges they identify with. This means that there is a potential student pool for GBS and its peer colleges of approximately 1800 students. Yet enrollment records show that less than 50% of that number actually attends. Why is this true?

Our own survey shows that the key influence in students coming to GBS is their parents, as indeed it should be. However, our recruitment feedback also shows that the one reason college-bound seniors go to secular schools is also because of parents. What are the reasons parents give for this?

The most consistent reason is money. Community colleges are close to home and cheap. Secular universities are also close and reasonably priced for in state students who live at home. Scholarships abound in these state-funded schools for students who are high academic achievers. Moreover, the money which their children will earn after college graduation is also a major factor to parents. “I want my kids to have it better than I did,” they reason, “and, frankly, ministry doesn’t pay enough!” A parent pushing their kids for upward mobility is the number-one reason why Christian young people pursue secular training and jobs.

On the other hand, many parents send their sons and daughters hundreds of miles away from home to our campus because their core values place “learning how to live a life” much higher up the list of priorities than “how to make a living.” They want their children established spiritually and grounded Biblically. They know that this can happen here without sacrificing academic excellence or missing out on a solid classical education. They also know that the ministry opportunities that their children experience here impact them for life. They see the value of student residence life, discipleship groups and mentoring moments in the maturing process. They understand how important it is to have their sons and daughters around other kids who share their values and faith so that they will have appropriate choices for a life partner. GBS also provides a forum for these students to hear the most challenging preachers and missionaries from all around the world in an atmosphere where they can make themselves available for full-time Christian ministry and respond to whatever God’s will is for their life.

All this is true even for many parents who know that their children will only be here for a couple of years and then move on to a college that offers training for a career field we do not and could not offer. Such parents do not see coming to GBS as wasted time. Rather they see it as one of the best investments they can make in the future of their children.

Nothing is more important to parents than their children. Nothing is more important to Christian parents than the spiritual welfare of their children. All of us here at GBS understand that and work incredibly hard to respond to that sacred trust with the highest standards of spiritual and academic excellence. God has honored that hard work and placed our graduates in positions of ministry, influence and responsibility all over the world.

It is natural for every parent to want their children to succeed. But for them to succeed without being in the center of God’s will – will be the most miserable failure of all!

It’s A Wonderful Life

The Greatest Gift, written by Philip Van Doren Stern, is a story about a man who wants to accomplish something in his own life but is so busy helping others that life seems to pass him by. Despondent over what appears to be a very ordinary—if not a wasted—life, he wishes he had never been born. He gets his wish, and through the help of a guardian angel he sees the world as it would have been had he never lived. After viewing life from such a unique perspective, he concludes that life is indeed a wonderful gift. Though Stern never found anyone willing to publish the story, it finally found its way into the hands of filmmaker Frank Capra, who turned it into the all-time Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

I have not had any life-changing visits from a guardian angel, but I have had my perspective on this life altered in recent months. I am one of those Christians who truly believes the best is yet to come! It has not been tempting for me to spend any time or money collecting the trinkets and toys of this present world. I have not craved houses and lands. I have had a good life, a happy marriage, and wonderful children, who are now grown and established; and so any time God is ready for me to go, I am ready. There are no sad stories, no regrets about leaving, and no struggle to grasp a few more fleeting moments of time here on earth. It’s been a great journey! (For those who are shocked by this, no, I am not depressed; and, yes, I would like to know my grandchildren.) After all, earnest Christians live with a very loose grip on this present world. Right? Right!

We are only pilgrims passing through the temporal headed for the eternal. Right? Right! This life is inferior at best, and the sooner we slip the bonds of mortal existence and are clothed with the eternal, the better. Right? Not quite! Some months ago God began to speak to me about the wonderful gift He has given us in our earthly physical life. It should not be minimized or demeaned because it is not as blissful a state as the life to come, nor should one just endure it until liberated by heaven. Rather, it should be lived with deep gratitude and respect as a wonderful gift from God. It is good, not because I make it so, but because He has made it so.

God created life and declared it good. God gave Adam and Eve each other and the created world around them to enjoy richly. He considers this physical life sacred and reserves the severest penalties for those who destroy it. The first promise attached to a commandment was the promise of a long life. God often promised length of days as a way of honoring His faithful servants in the Old Testament. All of this is still true, despite the fall of man and the curse of sin.

Obviously, God sees the life He gives us as very good! Don’t confuse God’s gift of life that is good with what the world calls the “good life.” The two are polar opposites.  The citizens of this present world chase after the “good life,” grabbing all they can get and holding it as tightly-fisted as possible. They generally succeed in keeping it long enough to make themselves thoroughly miserable before losing it all. Christians, however, have given up the “good life” so that they may enjoy a life that is truly good.

They do not grab for what they can get but rather hold everything they possess in an open palm. They clutch nothing to themselves but God. Thereby they can enjoy all things without those things affecting their joy.

If God views our earthly life as good, then His perspective ought to become our perspective. We should see every moment of our life here as a blessed gift to be richly enjoyed, life as a glorious journey marked by His grace. I don’t need health or wealth or popularity or beauty or anything else to make my life good. All I need is to walk with Him and remain in Him moment by moment. Such a view of life is neither a shallow optimism nor a refusal to acknowledge the deep darkness that life can bring. It isn’t ignoring the curse of sin and its awful physical consequences. But it is refusing to let those things blind us to the ultimate goodness of this life. It is acknowledging that every day is a gift from God—a gift that when received gratefully can transform the most common and ordinary moment into joyful living. It is a statement of faith that says pain, sorrow and trouble do not define my existence, determine my happiness or have the last word!

If God sees life as good, then His perspective should be reflected in the way we live it. God has given me some real-life object lessons to illustrate this point. Oscar Johnson, a dear friend, died recently after battling cancer for several years. Oscar’s life taught me so much about how one should truly enjoy each and every day. Oscar knew for over two years that he was dying. The joy and optimism with which he lived those years was a powerful witness to hundreds of people. During his last hospitalization, I was alone with him and took the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to my family and me and to say goodbye. That opened the door to talk about dying. He said to me, “Brother Avery, I have never walked this way before. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you’re dying.” And then with a big smile he said, “So I’m just going to enjoy my family, witness to my doctor, and take a nap.” Oscar was holding life in an open palm. He was rejoicing in every moment he had, and others were incredibly impacted by that joy.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of alumnus John Case, Jr. John died suddenly from a rare form of cancer at the age of forty-two. Hundreds came to the viewing and the funeral. His life had impacted so many people for what appears to be one primary reason—he loved life, and it showed! From the twinkle in his eye, to the lilt in his voice, to the humor in his words, John left those around him with the feeling that life is good and that he was enjoying it! A simple phone call from John could be the bright spot in a person’s day. What a great way to live!

It is doubtful that anyone was ever influenced toward the life to come by someone who despised the one he or she was living now. Life is good, and as Christians we should demonstrate that goodness to those with whom we interact.

As we celebrate God’s unspeakable gift in Christ this Christmas season, it would be good also to celebrate another of His wonderful gifts—the gift of life. Important celebrations require planning and thought. Last year on Christmas morning, before my family and I opened our gifts, we read the Christmas story, prayed together, and then I read some prepared remarks about how good God had been to our family and how grateful I was for each of them. I then mentioned some specific things about each one that I deeply appreciated. After I finished, each family member did the same. At times we were so overcome with emotion we couldn’t speak. When it was over, we embraced each other and realized anew how wonderful life really is! If you’re alone, read a prepared letter to God and thank Him for the life He has given you. You will not be alone for long! Whatever your circumstance, don’t miss an opportunity this year to celebrate all of life. Because it really is wonderful!

The Light of the World

Light is one of the great Johannine words that occurs no fewer that twenty-one times in the fourth gospel. It is one of the two key words upon which John builds his testimony of Jesus. John describes Jesus as a light that has come into the world to light the life of every man (John1:9). Another one of John’s key words is darkness. John saw a darkness in the world that was very real and very hostile to the light. This darkness represents evil. Sinning man loves the darkness and hates the light, because the light exposes their wickedness. John takes these two themes and shows their natural opposition. He portrays a universal battleground where the forces of dark and light are arrayed in an eternal conflict. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot extinguish it (John1:5). The darkness seeks to eliminate the light of Christ—to banish it from life, but the light will not go out!

This conflict is played out in the pages of sacred history. The Old Testament lets us witness everything from individual struggles with evil for the soul of a man to heavenly warfare for the soul of a Nation. In the New Testament this conflict emerges with intensity around the cradle of the incarnate Christ as the forces of darkness unleash Herod’s sword in a futile attempt to eliminate the light. The ultimate battle, however, would unfold at Calvary. The rulers of this age and the powers of darkness thought if they could only nail Christ to the cross that darkness would win once and for all. They thought the crucifixion of Christ would be the ultimate defeat and their final triumph. In fact, it proved to be just the reverse. Out of the darkness of his death came the blinding light of His resurrection victory. The light of this good news exploded out of the confines of Palestine and across the known world like a quickly spreading flame until, in a few decades, the gospel had impacted every major population center of the Roman world.

The powers of darkness responded with persecution and torture. But wild beasts and boiling oil couldn’t put out the light and the blood of the martyrs only fueled the flame. When persecution from without did not succeed, the forces of darkness turned inward and awful darkness settled down over the church. But out of the heart of that darkness, reformation fires began to burn and the light prevailed. Every counter move by the forces of darkness to extinguish the light only brought revival fires that would break out and save lives, transform nations, and change the course of history.

The darkness has used all sorts of political ideologies, human philosophies, and false religions to advance its cause. But the light always breaks through to enlighten the mind and liberate the hearts of men. As you gather with friends this Christmas season, light a candle and lift your voice in praise for light has come into the world and the darkness has not and will not overcome it!

Echoes of Eden ~ Reflections on walking with God

If there is one person mentioned in the Bible who has always intrigued Christians, it is Enoch. His biblical importance is such that he is mentioned by four of the inspired writers, yet the personal information given about him is scant. What is given can be summed up in just four simple words – “Enoch walked with God”. One might be tempted to overlook such a brief simple biography but, in the estimation of heaven, these four words speak more completely of a greater life and character than could ever be ascribed to the most renowned warrior or statesman by the whole voice of history.

Enoch’s story is remarkable for not only what is said about him but also for what is not said about him! This bit of silent but important information is tucked away in a genealogical list found in Genesis 5. This list is composed of the descendants of Adam through his son Seth. The scantest of information is provided on each firstborn male and then each descendant’s life is concluded with the same three words, “and he died.” The writer uses the technique of repetition to remind the reader that the dire judgment pronounced in Eden “you will surely die” did indeed come to pass with unfailing certainty on every son of Adam. Every one, that is, but one – Enoch! The sobering phrase “and he died” is never used of Enoch. The writer says it like this, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”.

His story is even more remarkable when one remembers that he lived his life and raised his family in the antediluvian world. Genesis 6:5 tells us that during this time the wickedness of the human race had become so great on the earth that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. Yet it was in this setting that Enoch walked in such harmonious fellowship with God that he was graciously exempted from diluvian judgement as well as the universal end of all men – death. Enoch’s life proves to us that a man can live pleasing to God in whatever circumstance he may find himself. This has been true of all the saints. They have shown us that the Christian life can be lived!

Echoes of Eden

Enoch’s wonderful account of walking with God tells us as much about God as it does about Enoch. Enoch’s story repeats for us what we learned in Eden that God desires man’s fellowship. He desires a “walking relationship” with man that involves companionship, dialogue, intimacy, joint decision-making, mutual delight, and shared dominion. This is clearly stated in the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) and beautifully illustrated by the walks God took with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Further on in Genesis we learn that God walked with Noah and Abraham. It is in these two accounts that we learn something else about God. We learn that God needs to walk with us before he can work through us. Or to say it another way, God works with his friends. When God can establish a friendship with us, then His divine activity can and will accelerate in our lives.

Reflections on Walking

Enoch’s life models for us the three simple components that are crucial to walking with God.

Faith
This is, in fact, the basic requirement for walking with God. The Hebrew writer informs us that Enoch had this level of friendship with God by faith and faith alone. “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6). Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that faith embraces two basic convictions: First, that faith holds the firm belief that God is and that He is who He says He is. Second, that faith is confident that God will reward those who seek Him. (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17)

Fellowship
Enoch’s walk of faith was one of fellowship God. When two friends walk together, they do so to enjoy each other’s company. But they are only able to enjoy the fellowship because they are in agreement one with another. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The word used for “together” gives the idea of two people moving in rhythm together, as in riding a tandem bicycle. Enoch was in perfect harmony with God’s will and way.

Obedience
The apostle John tells us “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6). One cannot walk with God and live in rebellion against Him. The overall pattern of Enoch’s life was one of obedience toward God while staying away from sin. Such obedience left Enoch with the commendation that “he pleased God.”

Enoch a Model for Today

Someone has said that if there is a crooked stick, and you want to show how crooked it is, you need not waste words in describing it, just place a straight one by the side of it. This is what Enoch did. His simple daily walk with God spoke powerfully to the world around him (Jude 14-15). We also know that such a walk has generational implications. It was his great-grandson Noah that also walked with God. Oh, let it be said of you and I that we “walked with God!”

It’s Been Great!

In this issue of the God’s Revivalist you will read about my decision to step down as president when my term ends in 2017. This information is not completely new for a lot of people since I have freely shared it with the campus family, alumni groups and some friends of the school. Almost invariably when I talk about it there are three responses: First, why are you leaving? Second, who will ever take your place? Three, what do you plan to do next?
Why are you leaving?
For twenty years I have always asked myself a group of questions before making any administrative decision of consequence, “Is it in harmony with God’s will and Word and is it good for GBS?” Those are the same questions I have asked about this decision and the answer that I have come to is YES. It is time to step aside and allow fresh leadership at the top. No one is asking or even wanting me to leave – not the Board, not the faculty, not the students. I don’t really want to leave! But I am leaving because I know it is the right thing to do. The average tenure for a college president is 8.5 years. There is a reason why the tenure is relatively short in comparison to other positions of equal significance. To succeed as the president of a small Bible college like GBS, you must be willing to invest large amounts of time in both the people and the processes that make a school great. You must willingly give huge amounts of physical, emotional and spiritual energy – this is doubly true if you are concerned about the spiritual development of your students. Your creativity and vision must be fresh, relevant and forward looking. You must be willing to live with a constant eye toward friend making and donor development. We have made wonderful progress on all fronts in the last 20 years and I do not want the pace to slacken so I know it is time for a fresh set of hands on the wheel.
Who will take your place?
When people ask me this question I smile both outwardly and inwardly. I know it is a way of passing on a subtle compliment to me and I really appreciate their kindness. However, I know that God already has His hand upon the next person that will follow me. God is forward looking. He is not contemplating the last twenty years but rather is looking toward the development of the next twenty and He already has someone in mind to do the job! And in my opinion, it will be someone who can lead GBS in the fulfillment of its mission in ways that I never could! As a matter of fact, I am quite excited about the future of our school!
The school has an outstanding Board that is well equipped and well prepared for the task of selecting the next president. The entire Board has been praying and fasting and will continue to do so over the next two years. I am anticipating a smooth transition and a great future for GBS!
What do you plan to do next?
Great question! I just don’t know the answer to it yet! But I do know that the God who has led me in every major decision of my life will lead me as to what I am to do next. I do know that I am not retiring (I will only be a young 60 when I leave). I want to give the remaining years of my life to Kingdom work of some sort. I love preaching, teaching, solving problems, helping people with strategic thinking and planning and mentoring. I hope that God will allow me a chance to influence another generation of Christian workers and leaders. The Kingdom needs leaders desperately and those developing leaders need a mentor and a life coach like no other time in the history of the church.
As the clock ticks down to 2017, I will be sharing things with the Revivalist family that I hope we can accomplish together before my departure. I will also be sharing articles that reflect my thoughts and burdens for the church and the holiness movement of which we are all a part. The days head are exciting and filled with promise. I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for GBS!

A Tribute to Wingrove Taylor

This past May, the Board of Trustees of God’s Bible School and College gave a sad farewell to its longest serving member Dr. A. Wingrove Taylor. At age 92, Dr. Taylor felt that he did not have the physical strength necessary to continue his role as a Trustee – a role that he filled with distinction for 44 years.   His interaction with the board was always professional, his contributions profound and his influence powerful. No man alive, who has not actually been an employee of the school, has had more impact on the life of this institution than Wingrove Taylor.

The Taylor connection to GBS began in 1905 with the arrival to campus of Irene Blyden (Dr. Taylor’s mother).   She was from the Caribbean Island of Sabba. It was at GBS that she met another student from the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts, Richard Taylor, who came to GBS to prepare for the ministry. Some years later they married and gave a lifetime of service to the development and expansion of the Pilgrim Holiness Church on the Caribbean Island of Nevis.

Wingrove came to GBS in 1948. He enrolled in the Christian Workers Course but eventually moved to the college where he completed two diplomas in music, a ThB degree and a BA degree. He graduated with honors in 1953. He returned to the Caribbean where he gave 41 years of service as a pastor, District Superintendent, College President, Field Superintendent and finally as the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Holiness Church of the Caribbean. Dr. Taylor served as an annual camp evangelist for the GBS Camp meeting for almost 40 years.

Dr. Taylor had a remarkable influence on thousands of GBS Alumni and friends through his pulpit ministry and personal counsel. His influence on me personally was profound. Immediately after I became President Elect in December of 1994, he asked me to accompany him to the “old” men’s prayer room. We sat down in a couple of chairs and he talked to me about the value of prayer in the life of a leader and then prayed for me. In the following 20 years, I have turned to him again and again for wisdom and advice.

Dr. Taylor was gifted in so many ways. He was a musician, singer, scholar, author, preacher and administrator. He was peerless; he was fearless; he was orderly (he once told me that next to his Bible Roberts Rules or Order was his most treasured book); he was saintly; he was professional; he was careful; he was logical; he was Biblical; he was sensitive; he was sensible; he was authentic. However, the greatest gift he has given to me and to all who know him, is not what he has done in ministry, but what he has become while doing ministry.

The people I have put on a pedestal and felt they were worthy of emulation have been very few indeed, but Wingrove Taylor is one of them!