by Russ Crosswhite
Are you interested in your members being equipped, educated, and inspired? What about developing a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Bible? Do you want to grow as child of God, gain spiritual strength and encouragement, learn how to study the Bible more effectively, change your life to be more in conformity to the life of Christ, develop preachers, provide continuing education for current preachers, train church leaders, raise up future leaders, help wipe out Biblical illiteracy, and equip Christians to accurately, boldly, and knowledgeably take the Gospel of Christ to the lost? That can happen. It is happening in our area.
In the Fdll of 2005, the Fulton Church of Christ in Fulton, Mississippi started a school called Fulton Bible Institute which is a Satellite School of Sunset International Bible Institute (SIBI) in Lubbock, Texas. We use Sunset’s DVD forty course curriculum (when we began it was a 32 course curriculum, but now it has expanded to 40 courses). The content of the study material is excellent. Many of the courses were recorded years ago and several of the instructors have died, but the material has been preserved and is available on DVD. Some have been recorded in recent years by current or former teachers still living. The courses have twelve or twenty-four lessons, and there is a Study Guide that goes with each course. Students can take these courses for credit or just audit them for one’s own personal growth. There is a fee for courses taken for credit. For the audit student, the only cost is $10 for the Study Guide Workbook.
Though we partner with SIBI, the school is completely under the oversight of the Fulton church. I serve as the School Administrator and one of our members, Bob Gilliland, serves as the school’s Promotion Director. Each January, I attend the Satellite School Administrators Workshop in Lubbock with other Satellite School Administrators from throughout the United States.
Three objectives have been established for our school. First, we want to help brethren grow stronger spiritually through in-depth Bible study. The only way Christians can mature in the faith is to feed on God’s Word. Each week, approximately an hour and fifteen minutes is spent in the Book. The second objective is to promote friendship and fellow among brethren. With the brotherhood being pulled either to the right or left, we need to encourage one another of like-precious faith. Third, we use the school as an outreach tool. Several non-members of the church have taken some courses. The “seed” is being planted.
Here is the format we use. We have two terms a year (fall and spring). Classes meet on Tuesday nights for twelve weeks from 7:00-8:30 p.m. We begin each class by singing a song and having a prayer. We pick a theme song for each course that we sing each week. We then watch a 28-minute DVD lesson from an SIBI instructor. After a 15-minute break for refreshments and visiting, we’ll spend between 30 to 45 minutes going over the questions in the Study Guide plus discussing the lesson. Many times, handouts will be given to supplement the lesson. At the end of each course, we have a banquet to reward the students.
Are we accomplishing our goals? Like anything, we are not perfect in doing all we hope to do, but let me share the following with you about what God has done so far through Fulton Bible Institute. Numerous brethren have said these studies have helped them in their faith. Often, we heard students say they can’t wait until Tuesday nights. Remember, this is in addition to our regular Sunday and Wednesday Bible classes. Many are learning the Bible better and becoming stronger spiritually. Also, the friendships and fellowship that has developed has been worth it all. Brethren from several congregations throughout Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama have become great friends. Some drive an hour to two hours one-way to get here. We have a great time together. Furthermore, several non-members of the church have taken some courses. Currently, we have a man who is a member of the Methodist church taking a course. Non-Christians who will not attend a Sunday or Wednesday Bible class will come to a class offered by Fulton Bible Institute on Tuesday nights.
The first course was in the fall of 2005 and we studied “The Distinctive Nature of the Church,” a course taught by Ed Wharton. We averaged thirty students from nine congregations. Last fall (2011) we averaged 70 students from 19 congregations. Many of our students have taken every course so far, and we are always gaining new students, which is good news.
Fulton Bible Institute is a way to offer fundamental Bible instruction. Our desire is to provide Bible teaching and training classes that will help Christians grow stronger in their faith and be equipped for effective service in the church. Our motto is “Going Forward by Going Back to the Bible.” The only way to progress God’s way is to go back to His Word. Let’s keep our head in the Book, our feet with the brethren, and our hearts toward God! That’s what Fulton Bible Institute is all about. It’s an idea whose time has come!
Your congregation might consider doing something similar. If we can help or if you have any questions, you can contact me by email (below) or phone at 662-862-4549. Also, another good Satellite school you might check with is the Memorial Bible Institute at the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, TX (www.memorialbibleinstitute.org), or you can contact SIBI at www.satelliteschools.org.
Russ Crosswhite preaches for the Fulton Church of Christ in Fulton, Mississippi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.