Nehemiah Coxe Study Center (Continuing Education Program)
Nehemiah Coxe Study Center
With great hope for its usefulness, The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies has developed a continuing education program for pastors or men being mentored by pastors. We have developed a curriculum that will deepen an understanding of Scripture and usefulness in the church. These are studies intended to help pastors and potential church leaders, taught by skilled men.
We believe that at this moment in the history of the church, there is a great need and a great opportunity. The need is for skilled men, the opportunity is the means to provide such training. This program is structured to do both. And likewise, there are two classes of men we may be able to help. Pastors must always be increasing in godliness and giftedness, and alongside of them, most churches will have men who have good and helpful gifts to aid them in their work. We hope that both pastors and their men will join our program.
The Scriptures teach us that ministers must actively cultivate their graces and gifts. They are not passive subjects, made into ministers by strikes of holy lightning. Rather, part of their task is to seek to identify and expand grace and gift in our lives.
Consider the following very important text, 1 Timothy 4:12-16.
12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Here, Paul focuses upon both giftedness and grace, and urges upon Timothy a kind of holy discontentedness, not in the reception of these things, but in their status. Paul wants Timothy to understand that he ought to be actively pursuing the increase of both as his ministry progresses, and it should be done in such a way that others are able to make note of the growth. Notice several things on the surface of the text:
1. Paul says that Timothy is young. While somewhat undefined, it is assumed that this probably refers to the 30s. Youthfulness was generally considered to last until about 40.
2. Timothy, despite his youth, must be an example to the flock. There must be an advanced state of maturity in speech, conduct, love, spirit, faith and purity. Because of his age, it might be assumed that his character was not yet fully developed. But Paul tells him that he must ensure that all of these graces reflect a maturity beyond his years. This is the increase of grace, and Timothy must look after it.
3. In the same context, Paul speaks about the need to increase his gift. The three activities of verse 13 all have to do with public ministry: public reading of Scripture, exhortation, teaching. Timothy is to give attention to them. They don’t just happen, but they grow as a result of concerted effort.
4. In verse 14, the gift is something that can be neglected. What is the gift? It is probably the privilege of serving in the office that he occupies, since it comes by way of ordination. Cf. 2 Timothy 1:6. There Paul reminds Timothy to “stir it up.” He must focus his efforts on the increase of his office.
5. In verse 15, Paul urges two things upon Timothy: careful reflection on these things, i.e. his growth in the ministry; and single-minded devotion to them. This is his task—to seek, with the blessing of God, to grow as a minister of the Gospel.
6. The result is at the end of vs. 15. Progress is to be seen by all. Now we must remember that this is the same man of whom Paul had said earlier:
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. Phil. 2:19-22.
And yet, even with this testimony, there was further work to be done. Timothy was not to rest content.
7. Verse 16 summarizes it all: Watch your life closely—see that grace is maintained and increased; watch your teaching closely—see that it increases in usefulness to the brothers and sisters.
8. The end of verse 16 provides the reason—the success of the minister’s task is measured in eternal life, for himself and his hearers. Is this an important task? Should we treat it lightly?
Even Paul, near the end of his ministry was not satisfied with himself and his level of knowledge. When writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:13), he asks his friend to bring his books and parchments to him. The apostle knew that there was always more work to do in this life.
In light of these words, we must view the increase and maintenance of our gifts and graces as a very important part of our ministerial tasks. We cannot and must not rest content in our attainments, but always seek to pursue these things with much vigor.
But these courses are not just for pastors. They are for men identified by their pastors as potential servants in the church, encouraged to develop their skills for service in their assemblies. We hope that pastors will use these courses to help their men grow and develop.
Over the years, many pastors both of ARBCA churches as well as others have said that they wished they could profit from the courses offered at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies. In July 2009, Pastor Ron Baines forwarded to the IRBS Trustees the results of the annual ARBCA Survey. Among the comments made concerning IRBS was this one: “Many men would like to see the creation of electronic and distance learning options for men already in the pastorate who might benefit from further training.” The Trustees and Dean of IRBS have been working to put together a response to these requests, and are pleased to bring you the Nehemiah Coxe Study Center.
Interestingly, even the world recognizes the importance of this principle. Most professions have some form of on-going educational curriculum. In some cases, it is simply for career advancement (e.g designations such as CLU [Chartered Life Underwriter] or PE [Professional Engineer]); in other cases it is a requirement for continued licensing (e.g. most levels of medical profession). In these cases, programs are developed to meet the needs of the individual. For example, after someone is certified as a Professional Engineer, in order to maintain his license status over the years, he will have to complete certain total-hour study requirements. Similarly, most medical professionals, after receiving their degrees and licenses, must continue to participate in formal training. One Physician Assistant I know must complete 100 hours of formal study every two years in order to maintain her license. Likewise, Medical Doctors must participate in continuing education or their licenses will be revoked.
Our culture recognizes the benefits as well as the necessity of ongoing training. Men and women with skills cannot rely on their previous preparation, but must supplement it in order to be more and more useful in their professions. The mind of each is stretched, expertise is honed, and abilities are expanded. Basically, these people are better at their jobs as the years pass.
And, as Paul teaches us, pastors need something like this also. The ministry is a difficult vocation. It involves multiple skills. As we saw above, men must study and continue to grow in gifts and graces. The point is very simple: Scripture, as well as the light of nature and Christian prudence teach us that there are some circumstances of the government of the church (2LCF1:6) to which we ought to give heed. In this case, the Trustees of IRBS are convinced that we can provide a valuable service to our churches by developing and making available courses for men in pastoral ministry.
With the generous support of the Foundation for the Advancement of Reformed Baptist Causes and the Lord’s blessing, IRBS hopes to offer an extensive program in support of pastors as a means of continuing education.
The standard label for professional education of this type is the “Continuing Education Unit,” or CEU. Most professions encourage or require regular achievement of CEUs; in many cases a certain total of CEUs will qualify an individual for a certificate or professional designation. According to the website of the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (which seems to be the recognized authority on such matters) a CEU “is defined as ten contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.” This definition makes the standard CEU similar to though not exactly the same as the academic credit hour. For our purposes, we will offer CEUs based on the academic hour, and actually strengthen the requirements above those of the standard CEU.
Not only will we make Dr. Renihan’s Escondido classes available, but we will also offer classes from a wide variety of highly qualified men. In total, we expect to have about 25 courses available. In the cases of the engineer and the Physician Assistant (and there are many more) the requirements may be met in a variety of ways, including participation in internet based learning experiences. For this reason, we will be offering these courses primarily through a secure website dedicated to this cause. The lectures will not be accessible to the general public, but only to those specifically registered to participate. Each course will include a minimum of 20 hours of lecture, some reading assignments, a project or paper, and an exam. Upon completion of all classes, IRBS will issue a certificate.
Our hope is to offer these courses:
Principles of Bible Interpretation
The Pastor and his Greek Testament
Old Testament Biblical Theology
New Testament Biblical Theology
Foundations of Christian Theology
Our Great and Glorious God
Christ the God-Man
The Ordo Salutis
Doctrine of the Church
Distinctives of RB Theology
Theology of Ministry
Preaching Christ from all of Scripture
Church History Survey
Puritanism in Context
Science and Scripture
In Defense of the Faith
The Nehemiah Coxe Study Center has a wide selection of courses what will lead to a Certificate. Ranging from exegetical courses to systematic theology and from church history to pastoral theology, every course will be available in both video and audio format. Each is appropriately resourced to support learning and knowledge. Our program provides not only an ideal environment for continuing education, but also a superb opportunity to grow in usefulness. Pastors, will you join us? And will you cultivate men in your church to study with us? And will you please pray that the Lord will bless our efforts to be an encouragement to men in the Gospel ministry.