Continued Education at Global Outreach Developments
We don’t know anything about Carpus, but we do know that, at some point, he had the Apostle Paul’s coat. Paul asks Timothy to pick it up from him on his way to Rome. He also asks Timothy to bring something else: “The books, and above all the parchments” (2 Tim 4:12). With all that Paul had going on at the time--not the least of which was his imprisonment in Rome as an old man--Paul wanted to continue his studies.
Paul had a tenacity for learning. Even during his period of Pharisaic studies in Jerusalem, under the highly respected Rabbi Gamaliel, he says he outstripped his fellow students in enthusiasm. It was a tenacity he expected his followers to adopt. Paul’s main preoccupation in 2 Timothy is for Timothy to continue in the Word. “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me.” (1:13); “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things,” (2:7); “Study to show yourself approved,” (2:15); “But for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believe,” (3:14). And in 2 Timothy 3 we get Paul’s clearest endorsement of the value of studying God’s Word:
All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (3:15)
It is clear that Paul firmly believed that Timothy’s success as a minister of Jesus would be predicated on his continued perseverance in the Word. Paul himself declares this about his own ministry: “It is by holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I have not labored in vain” (Phil. 2:16). Paul had a grip on Scripture, and he wasn’t letting go.
Paul’s educational tenacity is a model we want to follow. We have adopted his belief that education doesn’t end with the attainment of a degree. Education must continue even as we enter into our public ministry. Timothy, it should be remembered, had many years of ministry under his belt at the time Paul forcefully reminded him to keep learning and holding fast to his teaching.
There is a personal responsibility for each person to embody the tenacious desire to know God’s word, but there is also an organizational responsibility to offer venues for people to pursue their thirst for learning in constructive and communal ways. For a few years now, our ministry has offered continued education courses. These courses are for people who have finished their degrees and are in full-time ministry. The students in these classes have all spent many years studying the Bible. When I was in Bible college, they talked constantly about being “burned out.” This was supposedly especially true of Seminarians. They must have been doing it wrong because, from start to finish, there is a palpable excitement in the room for these courses. In our most recent course on “Spiritual Development,” we had to extend the class time because it felt too short. There is something about getting to continue to study God’s Word with people you do ministry with that is just incredibly special.
Instead of becoming stale, Education around G.O.D. continues to deepen and become more rich. There are more discussions. The discussions are enlivened by people’s knowledge of the Bible, their experience in full-time ministry, and the strong relationships that we have all formed working together. It just keeps getting better.
Paul’s letter ends with the warning that “many will turn away from listening to the truth,” (4:4). Paul wanted Timothy to do better. He wanted him to continue to listen, actively learn, the truth. He wanted Timothy to imitate his tenacity for learning. Paul wouldn’t let go of Scripture, and we won’t either.