International Biblical Learning Center
John Merritt and Barry Skidmore, founders of Friends of the Sabbath (FOS), along with Dr. Don Ward, former President of Ambassador University, John Robinson, Publisher of In Transition, and Dale Stogner announce the founding of the International Biblical Learning Center (IBLC). They wanted to start an institution of higher learning where a high quality of Biblical education and training can be made available to every member of the spiritual body of Christ and at a price that most can afford. Dr. Ward is the President of IBLC. The others mentioned comprise the initial Board of Directors. Dr. Ward is not a Board member.
While a number of (primarily young) people did benefit from Ambassador University/College, it was probably on the average of 500 - 1,000 people per year. There were no correspondence courses of an in-depth nature that could benefit the brethren at large. The old Ambassador College Correspondence Course was good for what it did, but it is not the same as taking classes covering the different books of the Bible in depth. While training our young people was and is important, think of the benefits to the spiritual body of Christ, at large, if tens of thousands had been so trained. It goes without saying that an in depth knowledge of the Bible is immensely valuable to a Christian engaged in doing God's work. The days of the Greyhound Church of God (get on and leave the driving to us) are over. With 20/20 hindsight it did not make sense to only train an "elite" few.
By getting started with courses covering the entire Bible, IBLC will enable students to select those courses of particular interest to them: courses that will enable them to round out their personal character development and better prepare them to serve God.
IBLC is a virtual university, a place of learning where the faculty members, the students, and the Directors are all widely dispersed. They are not planning on having a physical campus. The courses will be either audio or video cassettes, with workbooks, and tests, where the students can use the Internet or a fax machine (or some other means) to contact the faculty members to get their questions answered. The audio cassette based courses will likely feature about 18 hours of audio tapes. The audio cassette version of courses will probably sell for $99, plus shipping and handling. This is very inexpensive for a college level course.
This is not a course of study designed to create ordained ministers. However, the average age of the ministry in the Churches of God probably exceeds 50 years. Because of the splintering of the old WCG, it is not likely that any of the splinter groups, even the larger ones, have the funds to start a traditional college. This is an effort to use the talent of the spiritual body of Christ and modern technology to genuinely serve the spiritual body of Christ. "We are not starting a Church," says Dale Stogner, a founding member, "but are continuing in our existing fellowships. We do not want to control people. We love God's people and are simply trying to set up the best possible way (under the circumstances) to genuinely serve God's people and to empower them to help each and every one of them to become the best that they can be. We intend to serve across the different Sabbatarian denominations and are hopeful that we can be of service to the different splinter groups who cannot afford to start a college of their own. When there are multiple doctrinal opinions held by Sabbath-keepers on a subject, we hope to explain the varied viewpoints and not condemn others for seriously held beliefs." Nevertheless, instructors will be free to state which view they believe is correct and why.
Stogner continues, "When I was first called into the spiritual body of Christ, I was just completing my B.S. degree from a California State College. I immediately enrolled into Ambassador College and took, over a two year time period, various classes covering the entire Bible. Some of the classes were surveys, e.g., a panorama of the old testament. And some of the classes were a very detailed coverage of specific books of the Bible, e.g., the General Epistles, i.e., James, I & II Peter, I & II & III John, and Jude. All of these Bible oriented classes were immensely valuable to me. And, I must tell you, that the in-depth study of the Bible, for these two years, was one of the happiest times of my life. I personally needed the teaching that was available at Ambassador College to help me learn more in a shorter period of time. And I know from personal experience that I may never have learned some of what I learned at Ambassador College had I not had skilled teachers."
Some of the initial classes that IBLC hopes to offer are as follows:
w Introduction and Origin of the Bible
w Introduction to the Old Testament
w Introduction to the New Testament
w History of Ancient Israel
w Hebrew I
w Harmony of the Gospels
w Epistles of Paul
w General Epistles
w History of Biblical Festivals
w Typology of Biblical Festivals
w Biblical Prophecy
w Minor Prophets
w Sabbath & the Early Church
w Israel in Prophecy
w Modern Sabbatarian History
w Marriage & Family Relations
Some of you may ask, "What about making classes available to those who would like to learn, but cannot afford to pay the modest fee per class?" They are immediately setting up a scholarship fund where those wishing to help pay all or part of the cost of a course for another less fortunate can do so. As the funds come in, they will be earmarked into a separate bank account to be used to pay the course cost of those requesting to take a course, but who cannot pay all of the costs.
If the average member of the spiritual body of Christ took even one course each six months, over a ten year time period, they would have received the benefit of in-depth teaching covering the entire Bible. In other words, even a modest study schedule of two courses per year, over time, (in my example ten years), would add up to a total of 20 courses taken. This would represent a significant amount of Biblical teaching and training. The total cost to a Bible student would be less than $20 per month.
IBLC is structured to be a nonprofit corporation and is applying for tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Any contributions to it will be tax deductible and you will receive the appropriate contribution receipt.
The Board of Directors are serving without pay, at least for the foreseeable future. In fact, the initial Directors, have already pledged almost $50,000 of support to IBLC, should that become necessary. And, several of the Directors will be making actual cash contributions of about $12,000 just to get it started. Will IBLC succeed or fail? Stogner answers, "This largely depends on how well we actually serve God's people. We are trying to structure IBLC in such a way so it will achieve maximum results for minimum overhead. We will not need an $8 million per year subsidy in order to teach only 500 to 1,000 students. For the first year, if we are fortunate enough to attract even $250,000 in donations, we can probably do the rest through course sales. This is even though the price per course is very modest. We are hoping that we can eventually teach thousands upon ten thousands of students."
Starting such an effort is a daunting task. However, the upside is great. "We have faith that Christ is the head of the spiritual body of Christ. We have faith in God's Spirit working through the average church member. We have faith in freedom. We believe in the free market approach to this endeavor. If we do not deliver the services promised, then we deserve to go out of 'business'. We do not have, nor do we want, control over God's people," says Dale Stogner.
They have started a charter donor program for any of you who might be interested in supporting IBLC. Each donor who contributes at least $250 in the next 90 days will receive a certificate of appreciation designating them as a charter donor of IBLC. (Of course contributions of any kind are valued and welcome especially in this start up phase). If any would like to make a tax deductible donation, you may send it to the below address:
27068 La Paz, #488
Laguna Hills, CA 92656
They intend to have an annual audit of IBLC's books and records and offer to publish the results in In Transition. The financial reports will also be made available, on a periodic basis, to any donors or students who request them. Board meetings are open to the public, and minutes will be made available to those who request them.
More details will follow later. Stogner adds, "We will do the best that we can, with what we have to work with, in order to provide a heritage of training for God's people all of them! It is a college-level learning center for the people of God. Please be patient with us and please pray for our humble efforts that some good might come of them."
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