Maranatha is Ministry

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By Brian Trainer [1. Brian Trainer is the Chairman of the Department of Bible and Church Ministries at Maranatha and Adjunct Faculty of Missions at Maranatha Baptist Seminary.]

The mission statement of Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary declares that we exist to develop leaders for ministry in the local church and the world “To the Praise of His Glory.” This maxim summarizes well our intended goal. First, we are student-oriented. Our primary intention is the development of people, not the growth of properties, the manufacturing of position statements, or the gain of a financial profit. Second, we seek to influence. Whether in the home, the church, the community, the workplace, or the marketplace, leaders influence. Third, service is a key way to influence. Servant leadership is demonstrated throughout the text of Scripture and is modeled in the person of Jesus Christ. Fourth, the sphere of that influence is localized in the body of Christ, yet it permeates the entire world. We desire that all our students have personal ownership of the axiom that “life is ministry, and ministry is global.” Fifth, the ultimate aim for this purpose, for all people, and for all of life is doxological. We exist to exalt God. Why does Maranatha exist? To develop leaders—influential, service-oriented church-centered leaders—for ministry in the local church and the world “To the Praise of His Glory.”

This mission statement effectively declares our purpose, but a delineation of the operative verb “develop” is necessary. Many good institutions state a similar, lofty objective. What distinguishes one from another is the way in which each seeks to develop students to achieve that purpose. The focal point of this article is to communicate the foundational principles that shape the methods Maranatha utilizes in fulfilling its mission. How do we define spirituality? How do we seek to develop spiritual leaders? What means do we utilize to accomplish our purpose? This article is a summary of the biblical principles which we seek to embrace and enact as we develop spiritual leaders for global ministry.  [2. The nature of this article is not intrinsically academic. The purpose is not to exegetically develop or defend a position. This article is a summary of principles of discipleship that were internally placed in writing during the 2009–2010 school year.  These principles impact the entirety of the discipleship emphasis at Maranatha.] Four truths summarize the spiritual ethos Maranatha desires in order to effectively develop spiritual leaders:

  1. The Gospel is central to the mission of Maranatha.
  2. Internal growth is the primary focal point for spiritual development.
  3. The distinct environment of a Christian college enhances spiritual development.
  4. External ministry involvement is necessary for spiritual development.

The Gospel is Central to the Mission of Maranatha

The first principle Maranatha embraces to fulfill our mission is to keep central the message of the Gospel. The Gospel initiates our institutional mission. God’s ultimate goal for mankind is that they worship Him in spirit and in truth. He is seeking worshippers. Worship begins when a sinner, by grace through faith, acknowledges his sinful condition and trusts the only Savior, when the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ brings him to the knowledge of the glory of God. His heart is regenerated, and he is delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God. It is then that all of the magnificent biblical images of salvation and all of the benefits of salvation become realities in his life. The Spirit of God begins to permanently indwell him and becomes the guarantee that all of the positional realities of salvation will be completely fulfilled when final salvation, glorification, is secured.

This message of the Gospel is central to the fulfillment of Maranatha’s mission. Leaders, intellects, businessmen, politicians, lawyers, homemakers, humanitarians and anyone else who lives outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ squander their lives. The message of the Gospel restores one to fellowship with God, renews friendship with his Creator, and reconciles him to his Father. Biblical spirituality and leadership do not exist apart from the Gospel. Maranatha should not exist unless it also makes much of the Gospel.

Second, the Gospel initiates and empowers an individual’s spiritual growth. Until glorification takes place, the believer is instructed to “work out” his salvation. He seeks to be changed into His image. He is actively being transformed by the renewing of his mind. He wants to know Jesus Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings. He practices daily death to self and the putting on of Christ. He celebrates his union with Christ. As he allows God’s Spirit to direct his life, he reflects that control through humility, submission, singing, giving thanks, mortifying sin, and numerous other steps of faith.

Progressive sanctification does not come out of daily duties driven by self-discipline. We are not saved by grace to then walk in the strength of the flesh. We are not moralists or legalists who seek to live holy lives by aspiring to standards of self-righteousness. Our growth in Christlikeness is founded in Gospel truths. Biblical spirituality and leadership are both birthed out of the Gospel and empowered by it. The sanctified life is one of faith which is produced by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The message of the Gospel at Maranatha is not limited to sharing its wonderful truth with the unsaved. The “old, old story” is frequently expounded so that each believer can discover anew its precious power as it fleshes itself out in his daily sanctification. The Gospel is that which draws one to Jesus Christ and keeps him before the cross.

Internal Growth is the Primary Focal Point for Spiritual Development

The second practice that Maranatha enacts to fulfill its mission is to biblically define spirituality.

Man is comprised of two primary parts: the material and the immaterial. Regardless of one’s theological position beyond that delineation, the outer man and the inner man are easily distinguished. For a believer, God claims ownership of both. The outer man is to reflect His glory as the believer affirms choices of purity and wise stewardship; yet the fate of the outer man is sealed from the moment of birth—it is perishing. On the other hand, the inner man is very much alive, and it is being renewed day by day in holiness and righteousness. It reflects the image of Christ. While the outer man faints, fades, and validates mortality, the inner man grows, develops, and evidences spirituality.

Maranatha seeks to influence students primarily in the development of the inner man. Outer man conformation without inner man transformation does not further our mission of developing spiritual leaders. Our desire is to see students changed from the inside out. Spiritual growth is the developmental process of the formation of a whole person in the Lord Jesus Christ under the authority of Scripture, by the power of the Holy Spirit for ministry in the local church and the world in order to bring glory to God. Intrinsic within this definition are multiple concepts:

1. Spiritual growth is a process: Spiritual growth is not an end. It is a process. The task of Maranatha is not to produce a finished product. The goal is to create and maintain an environment in which spiritual maturation can effectively take place. Thus, we are careful not to identify a “one-size-fits-all” mentality of spirituality. We acknowledge the individuality of each student’s spiritual background, spiritual struggle, and spiritual growth process. Above a desire to see our students reach a particular external standard of perceived maturation, our aspiration is to see the student moving in the right direction toward truth and grace.

2. Spirituality integrates the whole man: Spirituality is not limited to merely spiritual activities. The great command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Jesus Christ, our ultimate model, increased “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” In light of this, we seek to integrate all aspects of life in order to promote spiritual growth. The classroom, the concert hall, the dorm room, and the athletic field are all forums in which varying aspects of spiritual growth can take place. Any model of spirituality that stresses one aspect of formation over another is rejected by the institution. Historical examples of these incomplete approaches include those that are noted below. True biblical spirituality incorporates elements of each of these approaches.

Spirituality

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3. Spirituality is marked by a transformation of the internal man: Biblical imagery of the spiritual life identifies it as the formation of the inner man into the image of Jesus Christ. A Spirit-filled life is marked by the fruit of the Spirit, a life of joy and thanksgiving, and an attitude of humility and submission. Though these key indicators of a truly spiritual man are not easy to assess, the goal is to emphasize and model these before the student body.

4. Spirituality is Word-centered: The spiritual life is marked by obedience to the Word of God. The path to spirituality is a correct interpretation of biblical truth. No additional words or traditions are necessary to completely equip someone to “be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Thus, the presentation of biblical truth is the most important activity on campus. The Scriptures are the final authority. The most conclusive act of a spiritual man is obedience to the Word of God.

5. Spirituality is Spirit-dependent: A spiritual life is the creation of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. No man can change another man. Man can be pressed by man to conform to an external image or standard, but only God can transform the heart and life. We acknowledge that no amount of emphasis on spiritual growth will be effective unless it is empowered by the Spirit of God. Also, we will not be satisfied with any amount of external conformation if it is not accompanied by internal transformation.

6. Spirituality has a goal of external ministry: The grace of God that brings us to salvation, identifies us as His workmanship, and creates us in Christ Jesus also empowers us for good works. The spiritual life is not an isolated or independent life. It demonstrates a vertical love for God that manifests itself in an equally powerful horizontal love for man which includes fellow believers, neighbors, and the larger sphere of humanity who abide outside of the love of God. This love motivates us to redemptive action through the venue of the body of Christ, the church. Acts of external ministry will be distinctive for individuals as they develop and utilize their unique giftedness.

7. Spirituality has its ultimate end in the glory of God: We live and move and have our being for the glory and praise of our Creator and Redeemer. The spiritual life is the renewal of our marred image into the original image “created in righteousness and true holiness.” The progressive nature of our transformation on earth awaits the perfected completion when we arrive in heaven so that we can worship God for all of eternity.

These seven principles are parameters for Maranatha as we seek to see students developed by the Holy Spirit for spiritual leadership.

The Distinct Environment of a Christian College Enhances Spiritual Development

The Scriptures clearly identify the growth process of a believer as a spiritual battle. Spiritual growth does not take place naturally. It has both natural and supernatural enemies. At times, even within the context of a Christian college campus, these enemies are more significantly poignant and powerful. A college campus is populated by young people who are often characterized by infant faith and incipient spiritual maturation. The world, the flesh, and satanic forces are threats which seek to devour them from within and without. These enemies are obstructions to the growth process and must be recognized, so that appropriate action can be taken to eradicate some elements from the environment, neutralize others within the environment, and at least prepare students for their onslaught whatever their source.

At Maranatha, we seek to identify these enemies and, when possible, protect students from the fullness of their onslaught. Part of this protection is accomplished through an established, structured discipline system. The structured discipline system is a means of establishing environmental controls. These controls do not produce spirituality, nor are they all inherently biblical in themselves. They merely function as a means to create an atmosphere in which spiritual growth can thrive and potentially deadly enemies can be thwarted. We do not want any member of the Maranatha family to become dependent upon an external system for spiritual safety. The battle that will be fought by every member of the Maranatha family must be won via Holy Spirit-dependent, grace-motivated, Gospel-centered discipline. We recognize that the “grace of God that bringeth salvation . . . teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” A structured system for spiritual accountability is not antithetical to a Gospel-centered life. Both can exist and be beneficial within a Christian community.

The purpose of our structured discipline system is fourfold.

Functional Management. As an educational institution which has a specified purpose, we must institute specific rules for the sake of accomplishing organizational objectives. These rules are not always based upon biblical principles or moral necessities, but are designed to assist all members of the institution in functional aspects of educational and campus life. Types of these rules include expectations in basic cleanliness and timeframes for activities.

Moral Accountability. As a body of believers we are instructed in Scripture to maintain watch care for one another’s spiritual growth. There are numerous “one another” passages that provide guidelines for this type of accountability. These include positive commandments to provoke one another to good works and seemingly negative commandments to identify the unruly and rebuke him. Both of these are for the sake of the growth of the individuals within the Christian community. For this reason, we ask all members of the Maranatha family to abide by rules that seek to enforce biblical commands and implement biblical principles. This category of rule is clearly inter-related to biblical instruction and is communicated as more than just institutional preference. Some of these guidelines are birthed directly from the text of Scripture. For example, we prohibit all forms of swearing, cursing, and degradation of the name of God. There are sufficient texts in the Old and New Testaments that explicitly exclude such language from a believer’s life. Other rules that aid in moral accountability are implicitly noted in Scripture and are appropriate applications of principles in our contemporary milieu. For example, Paul did not address the challenge of the Internet in collegiate settings; yet, there are sufficient biblical principles for us to arrive at a rule that prohibits students from viewing inappropriate material. Explicit New Testament commands are true for all time regardless of cultural context. As an institution, we consistently seek to delineate and communicate the distinctions between explicit biblical commands and the application of biblical principles. We desire to model before students the need for unquestioned obedience in areas in which the Scriptures are clear, and careful, wise discernment in areas in which the Scriptures allow for personal application.

Distinctive Environment. Since Maranatha seeks to prepare Christians for global ministry, we intentionally create an environment in which external influences are limited so that they not distract from potential spiritual growth. We know that the allure of the world is contrary to spiritual development. We know that there are issues that may be inherently morally neutral, but in our context they act as weights or disruptions for young people who are training for spiritual leadership. Like any organization whose purpose is to prepare specialists, we are selective in what we allow to impact our environment. Thus, we desire to limit the distractions within our campus life. In place of those diversions, however, we seek to create spiritually healthy alternatives that promote holistic growth without undue temptation. Examples of this include the limited access students have in watching television, guidelines in dating relationships, and structured dorm activities. The goal is not isolation from the world, nor do we suggest that limitations create spirituality. But within our unique environment, we deliberately protect students from what could be spiritually unhealthy distractions.

Institutional Identity. Maranatha serves a broad constituency of churches. As a servant to these churches we seek to maintain a campus environment that is consistent with our diverse constituency. When doing so, we sometimes have to make choices that are based upon our own institutional identity. Utilizing the principles of Romans 14–15, we at times will create an institutional rule to limit our biblical freedoms for the sake of loving another brother in Christ. The goal of such a rule is not to create a boundary for holiness, but to communicate a bond of unity and love. These rules do not intrinsically produce character or develop leadership. They are not thrust upon students as standards necessary for the rest of their lives. They are unique to this institution as it seeks to model principles of love and sacrifice for the sake of fellow believers. These rules are not moral imperatives; they are patterns for how Christians live peaceably together. They may change as the constituency and the world changes. An example of this type of rule is our institutional standard for music. Maranatha believes the Scriptures are wholly sufficient in communicating what is acceptable music to God. We also recognize that many who make a similar claim come to differing conclusions regarding what is “acceptable music to God.” We teach without hesitation what we believe, but our institutional practice does not demand that we sing, play, or listen to everything that we believe is acceptable. Since fellow believers within our constituency may strongly take issue with a particular song or artist, we may choose to sacrifice our liberty in playing or even listening to that particular song. We do so not to be enslaved by the conscience of another, but to exhibit a spirit of love and unity. These are the types of decisions that all broad-based institutions make. If improperly understood or communicated, this type of guideline can be confused with a rule for moral accountability. When correctly understood, however, these communicate love, honor, humility, and peace.

Maranatha believes that a structured discipline system can enhance the spiritual growth of all members of the community. We acknowledge, however, that any structured system can potentially lead to individuals who seek merely to conform to external standards without any internal change. We are concerned that some in fleshly arrogance deem external conformation to rules as biblical spirituality. This spirit of legalism is deadly to authentic transformational sanctification, but we do not believe that eradication of a structured discipline system is the necessary response to this danger. We believe the appropriate response is threefold. First, keep the Gospel central to all that we do. Second, focus on transparent internal spiritual growth. Third, consistently communicate to students the reasons for the structure. Young, growing believers of all ages can thrive in a structured environment. A structured system of accountability, accompanied by open communication that clarifies the reasons for the rules, a spirit of grace that enforces the rules, and willingness for institutional self-assessment, is a wonderful benefit for all involved.

External Ministry Involvement is Necessary for Spiritual Development

Ephesians 2:8–10 are familiar verses that describe the work of grace which brings one to salvation. Often the emphasis of the passage is on the salvific act, but the concluding phrase states that we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The grace of God that initiates the Gospel and spurs us to internal spiritual growth also empowers us to outward acts of service to our Savior. At Maranatha, we believe that acts of service, good works, and involvement in global ministry are the necessary outworking of salvation and spiritual growth. We believe the order developed in Ephesians is crucial to a healthy spiritual life. Salvation is followed by sanctification which in turn prompts service. Acts of service without either salvation or internal development are not acceptable to the Lord. Demanding acts of spiritual service in students’ lives without a corresponding emphasis on spiritual growth leads to student frustration, legalism, and a dutiful view of Christian ministry. On the other hand, internal spiritual growth without external acts of service is malformed. It lacks integrity and wholeness and results in spiritual stagnation and arrogance. The model presented by Jesus Christ is one of seeing the needs of others, being moved with compassion, speaking to them, and then touching their lives (Luke 7:13–14). Our Savior came to seek sinners and serve His disciples. He came to change lives. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 provides the framework for what Christian service should look like.

First, Christ presupposes the scope of Christian ministry by implying that disciples should be traversing the world for the sake of His name. The opening participle is a reminder that believers should be going into the entire world. In other words, as believers are going, we are to be making disciples. A vital aspect of Maranatha’s mission in developing Christlike servant-leaders is to expose students to the needs of the world. Maranatha has a strong history of seeing its alumni serve overseas. Our desire to see God glorified among the nations prompts us to pray that more students would be thrust into the harvest and to plan for more participation in global evangelism. To meet that need, in 2007 Maranatha instituted the Office of Global Encounters, whose sole purpose is to assist students and faculty in participating in global evangelism. The mission statement and core values of Global Encounters correspond to the institutional purpose.

Mission Statement: Global Encounters exists to strategically mobilize the faculty and students of Maranatha into needy regions around the world for the purpose of local church development.

Core Values:

  1. Local Church Focus: The focus of Global Encounters is joining God in actively, passionately, creatively, and strategically building and strengthening churches throughout the world.
  2. College Team Dynamic: Global Encounters seeks avenues to expose students to multiple geographical regions via short term educational and mission teams, recognizing that college students represent the future of world evangelization.
  3. Life is Ministry: The work of world evangelization is the task of every vocational and academic field. Global Encounters seeks to utilize every student and faculty member’s individual expertise in reaching the lost of the world.
  4. Interdependence: The work of Christ in building and strengthening churches demands mutual partnerships among fellow believers in various countries who are committed to faithful obedience to the Word of God. Global Encounters desires to assist national pastors and schools when possible.
  5. Excellence in Preparation: Global Encounters will emphasize the importance of quality in business, character, and conduct in all of its tasks.
  6. Leadership Development and Vision: Through the mission experience, Global Encounters provides an opportunity for students to personally develop as leaders and to capture a vision for the world beyond.

Since 2008, Global Encounters has sponsored twenty mission trips with over 350 students, staff, faculty, and administrators participating. The goal of these trips is to further the discipleship ministry of Maranatha by exposing students to the needs of the world and seeing them engaged in acts of service as they minister to others. Providing global perspective is vital to the fulfillment of Maranatha’s mission of developing the next generation of Christian leaders.

Second, the principal imperative of the Great Commission is to make disciples. As believers span the globe, they are to be disciple makers. At Maranatha, we seek to be actively employed in the process of both making disciples and producing disciple makers. This is Paul’s model in 2 Timothy 2:2. Disciple making is the impact of one believer on the life of another believer. The heart of Christian service is the fulfillment of the “one another” passages within Scripture. Discipleship is not primarily a formal program; it is a spirit of mutual love, caring, confrontation, and edification. It is two believers committed to each other’s spiritual well-being. This is the type of spirit and activity that we seek to cultivate at Maranatha. The environment of transparent interaction between students, staff, faculty, and administrators is enriching. In the classrooms, hallways, dormitories, offices, and homes, all are invited to openly provoke one another to good works.

In conjunction with the spirit of disciple making on the campus of Maranatha, there are also structured opportunities for enhancing leadership skills as a disciple maker. Paul indicates to Timothy that he is to be “committing” truth to others so that they can lead. The concept of commitment communicates intentional development of young men and women. Students at Maranatha are offered multiple discipleship opportunities by participating in dormitory leadership, ministry societies, and multiple other co-curricular activities. Within these avenues of outreach, students can serve in over one hundred different leadership roles. Each role has a structured program of mentorship and discipleship. Students are encouraged to think beyond their personal comfort zones. They are challenged to serve others and then instructed in how best to do that. Personal giftedness is assessed and developed. Selfless living and leadership is encouraged. Making disciples is the operative verb in the Great Commission. Students who are growing spiritually will be both discipled and discipling. These concepts are at the core of Maranatha’s ethos.

Third, the Great Commission implicitly communicates the primary location in which lifelong spiritual service and ministry takes place. The first step in discipleship of a new believer is baptism. Baptizing identifies the convert with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also identifies the believer with the visible body of Christ, the local church. As evidenced in Acts and the epistles, the local church is where the teaching ministry takes place. At Maranatha, the local church is recognized as the principal work of God in the world today. Maranatha is committed to the primacy and autonomy of the local church. All students attend a local congregation of believers each Sunday and Wednesday. Many are involved in weekly ministry. Each is encouraged to realize that the local church is to be a priority in his/her life. It is there that truth is taught, families grow, gifts are used, accountability sharpens, and Christ is exalted. Students make the local church a positive habit of life. No artificial replacements to God’s body are provided or permitted for students. We celebrate the privilege of manifesting the manifold wisdom of God through the church.

External ministry is the supernatural result of a Spirit-filled life. Activity is not the ultimate mark of spirituality, but spiritually growing individuals will serve. The biblical model for that service is a life of discipleship in the context of local churches spread throughout the world. Maranatha seeks to emphasize each of those characteristics of Great Commission living: a spirit of discipleship, the primacy of the local church, and a vision for the world.

Conclusion

The mission statement of Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary declares that we exist to develop leaders for ministry in the local church and the world “To the Praise of His Glory.” This is a mission that cannot be accomplished by the will of man. The foundation for the mission is the power of the Gospel message as it is applied daily. The focal point is the internal spiritual development of each student. The environment is controlled to provide an atmosphere for maximum spiritual development and corporate commitment. The outworking of that spiritual development is a life of service in the local church and throughout the world. We pray that God will continue to empower us to fulfill this mission “To the Praise of His Glory.”

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