Educational Philosophy of Austin Bible Institute

Renown Christian leader, recipient of the  Order of the British Empire for Christian service and theological writing, J. Oswald Sanders gave a beautiful description of the teaching style of Jesus that succinctly expresses the educational philosophy of Austin Bible Institute. He wrote:

“Jesus trained His disciples superbly for their future roles. He taught by example and by precept; His teaching was done “on the road.” Jesus did not ask the twelve to sit down and take notes in a formal classroom. Jesus’ classrooms were the highways of life; His principles and values came across in the midst of daily experience. Jesus placed disciples into internships (Luke 10:17-24) that enabled them to learn through failure and success (Mark 9:14-29). He delegated authority and responsibility to them as they were able to bear it. Jesus’ wonderful teaching in John 13-16 was their graduation address.

God prepares leaders with a specific place and task in mind. Training methods are adapted to the mission, and natural and spiritual gifts are given with clear purpose. An example is Paul, who never could have accomplished so much without directed training and divine endowment.”

Many professions today still teach their students through apprenticeship and internships. For example, medical schools in the United States and around the world are fashioned around this principle. Students spend a lot of their time in medical school working under senior physicians and learning from them. After graduating from medical school, these young doctors spend at least three years doing a residency program during which they serve under senior doctors as apprentices. This philosophy of practical, hands-on, on-the-job, relational teaching is the educational philosophy of Austin Bible Institute.

At Austin Bible Institute we value reason and an intellectually rigorous pursuit of biblical truth. However, we major in application of truth. Using a medical metaphor:

  1. We (the faculty) are like medical doctors, not research scientists.
  2. We are like a medical school, not a medical research institute.
  3. We want to produce practitioners, not theorists and researchers.
  4. We like to show how to do things, not simply tell them how to do it.
  5. We are coaches first, then teachers second.
  6. We value relational teaching. We value Jesus’ style of teaching his disciples where he lived with them and spent much of his time with them. Much of what is important is caught, not taught.

Comparing medical doctors vs. research scientist is a good way to metaphorically view our training.

Research scientists dig out the truths of sciences and discover them, but they don’t necessarily apply them to real life. Medical doctors are capable scientists but, unlike research scientists, their focus is patient care (application of scientific knowledge to solve peoples pressing health needs), they are practitioners. Physicians use the medical discoveries of research scientists and apply them to patient care.

There is a lot of biblical truth out there. For example, there are tons of Bible commentaries and theological encyclopedias written by numerous scholars over the last 2000 years. Much of the lack among Christians today is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of application of that knowledge.  As a ‘medical school and medical residency’, our goal is to teach our students to take truth, live it out, and help others live it out as well.  Our favored approach to learning will be to show them how to walk, not merely tell them. The learn one, do one, teach one approach.

Much of our focus at Austin Bible Institute is on practical application: showing students how and encouraging them to apply it to their lives and ministry. We emphasize an integrated education. Knowledge imparted during lectures is a preparation, not the end. More thorough learning occurs as that knowledge is applied in the real world and the consequences (positive and negative) managed. The classroom is not separate from actual ministry work but is a continuation of it.

At Austin Bible Institute, each course is designed to inspire students to have an exalted view of God’s word and develop platforms to actually do the work of ministry. Austin Bible Institute places great emphasis on teaching students how to fish rather than giving them fish. We teach students how to think biblically and show them how to do ministry.

Our online students are encouraged to immerse themselves within vibrant communities of believers where they work on developing strong relationships that enable them to put what they learn into practice. Local churches are the best places to find these communities. Community is crucial because life-change only happens within the right kind of environment. That environment is a small community of believers.

Find out more about learning online with ABI.