At Bethlehem College & Seminary, my alma mater and the place where I currently have the privilege of serving vocationally, we believe that under the authority of God’s inerrant word, we exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by equipping men and women to treasure Christ above all things, to grow in wisdom and knowledge over a lifetime, and to glorify God in every sphere of life.
The mission statement above incorporates the mission statement of Bethlehem Baptist Church. We simply add words to the end in order to specify precisely how we aim to accomplish the mission. “Spreading a passion for the supremacy of God” is generic enough to leave plenty of room for individuals and institutions to adopt it and flesh it out in their own unique ways. Our unique way of carrying out the mission is to equip men and women. And we do this through both undergraduate and graduate programs in an intentionally small school that is academically rigorous and led by godly and humble professors who give their lives to unpacking the wonders of the word and the world.
In other words, at Bethlehem College & Seminary, in order to accomplish the mission we believe God has given us, we teach students. And we hope and believe that if we are successful in teaching these students the most important things in the universe, God will launch a movement of Christian hedonists who make a disproportionate Christ-exalting impact in the world. That’s our goal and the reason we have both a fully accredited college and seminary.
In this short letter, I want to tell you more about our seminary, where we are laboring to help men prepare for pastoral ministry.
Our Seminary Promise
One reason we believe you should consider studying at Bethlehem is because of our promise to help prepare pastors. We offer a pastorally-focused education. Our stated aim is to help men graduate as mature leaders who are ready to shepherd (i.e., pastor) God’s people with biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection for the rest of their lives.
First, notice that we want to help “men” graduate as mature leaders. Why “men” rather than men and women? It is not because we believe men are more important or of greater value than women. The focus on training men in our seminary is because Bethlehem Seminary is designed as a pastoral training center. Given our complementarian convictions, which include the belief that the office of elder is reserved for men (1 Tim 2:12; 3:1–8; Titus 1:1–5), it follows that we would only train men for eldership (in our college and evening programs, however, including our traditional MA degree, we educate both men and women and want to prepare them for service in Christ’s church and this fallen world).
As we serve the church by investing in men, we hope to do so in a way that produces mature leaders. By the power of the Spirit and through the rigors of the four-year program, hopefully these men will move from milk to solid food. They will grow into a more robust picture of biblical manhood. They will acquire the habits of head needed to engage thoughtfully with the fallen world and are able to rightly apply what they know (i.e., wisdom). They will have learned the habits of heart that help them discern and love what is true and good and beautiful. In other words, mature men have full heads, walk wisely by rightly applying what they know, and love what they ought to love and hate what they ought to hate.
Though imperfect and not yet who they will be when Christ returns, these mature men are nonetheless ready to shepherd God’s people. God sent his Son, Jesus, to purchase a people for his own possession (1 Pet 2:9), and Jesus gives his blood-bought people a plurality of Spirit-filled earthly shepherds who are called to “shepherd” the flock of God that is among them (1 Pet 5:2). It is these future shepherds whom we are excited to raise up into maturity for the sake of the bride of Christ and the joy of the world.
And how do these mature leaders lead? With biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection.
Shepherds lead, protect, and feed the flock from the Word of God. They are men in whom the Word dwells richly (Col 3:16) and are thus “apt to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). So the Bible is central to our training. This flows out of our conviction concerning the ontology of the Bible—namely, that the Bible is the very words of God (2 Tim 3:16; cf 2 Pet 1:21).
Yet we are not merely concerned with producing men who will simply preach in pulpits. We want to help train men who will “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) and make penetratingly helpful and precise applications of the Bible in multiple settings. Whether they wield the Word from the pulpit on Sunday, in the small group on Monday, or in the living room of a struggling family on a Friday night, the man of God should shepherd with biblical clarity.
In addition to equipping men to shepherd with biblical clarity, we also want to engage the affections of our seminarians. It is our hope that the men who graduate from our school have habits of heart that complement their newly formed habits of mind. Head and heart. Thinking and feeling. The shepherd of God’s people must be able to think critically and feel rightly in a fallen world. Additionally, this man must have affections that are trained to love what God loves and hate what God hates. The people of God should see their leaders thinking and feeling in God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led, and Bible-saturated ways.
Finally, how long do we want our seminarians to lead God’s people? They should lead, either in vocational or non-vocational capacities, till Christ returns or calls them home. In other words, they should shepherd God’s people with biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection for the rest of their [earthly] lives.
That’s the vision, and I am excited to be a part of seeing it come to fruition.
How might you link arms with us and help train such men? First, if you know of men who are looking for a place to prepare, point them toward Bethlehem. Second, consider becoming a financial partner by giving to Bethlehem College & Seminary. Third and finally, pray for us. We need the help of Jesus, apart from whom we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Jonathon Woodyard, ThM
Dean of Admission & Assistant Professor of Theology and History
- Pray for the Lord’s continued blessing in sending us men and women who desire to know him intimately and serve him in faithfulness and humility.
- Pray for continued provision of scholarships that will allow us to graduate students who are ready to launch into life and ministry without the financial burden of student debt.
- Pray that the Lord will use Bethlehem College & Seminary to equip a new generation of theologians and scholars who will handle the Word with reverence, skill, and joy.
- Pray for Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, which we will be relaunching in February 2022. Pray for both our preparation and the pastors who will be joining us.