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Tassels or Training?

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In 1987, when I announced that I was going to fulfill a burden that God had placed on my heart and start Ambassador Baptist College, I experienced some strong opposition. The strongest opposition came from educators. One expressed that the pool for getting preacher boys was getting smaller and smaller and that I would just further dilute that pool. In my heart I thought, “The best way to combat a shrinking number of preacher boys would be to improve that study program.”

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In 1987, when I announced that I was going to fulfill a burden that God had placed on my heart and start Ambassador Baptist College, I experienced some strong opposition. The strongest opposition came from educators. One expressed that the pool for getting preacher boys was getting smaller and smaller and that I would just further dilute that pool. In my heart I thought, “The best way to combat a shrinking number of preacher boys would be to improve that study program.”

The same educator told me that if I were going to start a school that was different from the ones already in existence, it would be legitimate. For fear of sounding arrogant, I did not respond. Ambassador Baptist College is not like any school presently in existence. A young man visiting in my office at commencement last year said to me, “This college is a technical school.” He is exactly right. My ultimate goal in the establishment of Ambassador Baptist College was to have an “old-fashioned, preacher-training institution.” I have been accused of saying there were no other colleges producing preachers. Certainly there are other colleges training preachers. However, what I said was that I knew of no other college whose sole purpose was to train young men and young ladies for the ministry.

There are many things that Ambassador could do to generate income and increase our enrollment, but we will not move from our founding purpose. My primary interest is not in granting degrees but rather in giving a philosophy. Any transfer student, regardless of the credits he transfers, has to spend two years at ABC before receiving a degree. I do not feel that one can fully absorb this important ministry philosophy without being here at least two years to sit in the daily chapels and under the classroom teaching of ministry-experienced professors.

In many colleges, the chapel period is shorter than the class periods. At Ambassador our class periods are fifty minutes in length, but the daily chapel service is one hour. It is through chapel that our philosophy is enunciated. Much more income could be generated through online and correspondence studies. However, a student does not gain a philosophy of ministry through those media. He may gain a degree, but not a philosophy of ministry.

A school that is primarily interested in granting degrees is most concerned about acceptance and reputation. However, a college that puts philosophy above degrees is interested in training young people to leave the halls of academic learning with character, to base their lives on the principle, “Do right.” An institution motivated merely to give degrees teaches its students how to make a living. It is our goal to teach our students how to live.

Degrees are given for temporal achievement—get a better job, make a better salary, or accrue more material possessions. However, once a philosophy is absorbed, it will be passed on from generation to generation. It is my desire that our graduates will gain life principles that they can pass on to their children and to their children’s children.<=p>

Many times a school interested in giving degrees becomes a monument to a man. I remind our students that nowhere in the Bible are we taught to be loyal to an institution or to an individual other than Christ. Rather, our loyalty must be directed to a biblical philosophy. If Ambassador ever leaves its moorings and changes its direction, the alumni has no biblical responsibility to be loyal to this institution.

If we were primarily interested in giving degrees, we would employ various worldly means to gain an increased quantity of students. We would offer inducements, advertise our campus and physical attractions, de-emphasize preaching, and enthrone academic excellence as our top priority. However, we believe that the emphasis of the Word of God is to prioritize quality above quantity.

The student who graduated from Ambassador Baptist College with the top grade-point average in the class of 2007 told me that he came to Ambassador because I personally emphasized to him in a telephone conversation that I was more interested in the will of God for his life than in his being a student at ABC. From the outset, my motivation has been only for the will of God and never for a number of students.

While speaking in churches, I have been introduced as an educator. I am always quick to respond that I am a preacher rather than an educator. Just this week one of my faculty members told me that he was not simply a Bible teacher, but rather he was investing his life in his students. His interest in them does not diminish once they have graduated. He continues to invest in their lives as their mentor and friend. Once again this is the difference between granting degrees and giving a philosophy.