By Judy Ryder
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” II Timothy 2:15
As the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote in “To a Mouse” (1796), “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley.” Or, in plain English, “the most carefully crafted schemes of mice and men often go awry”. Most human beings have plenty of experience with that concept. In contrast, however, the newly launched Rhode Island School of the Bible (RISB) has greatly benefited from very well designed plans (as opposed to “schemes”), earlier described in the December 2015 issue of TGNT. And now, just four months later, it appears that none of them have gone “a-gley”. In fact, everything has gone super smoothly, according to Pastor Jack Buckley, Dean of the new school. The only unknown was how many students would enroll. Pastor Jack was heartened that twenty-three enthusiastic students were on hand for the first class held on March 1.
By way of review, RISB is the only brick and mortar bible school in RI, and meets at Grace Community Baptist Church (GCBC) in North Providence. All the teachers at RISB have their Master’s degrees in theology (M. Div) or beyond. In addition, each teacher must hold to a historic Confession of Faith. People who wish to study during the week at a level somewhere between an advanced adult Sunday school class and a seminary class will find many opportunities here. Classes are held Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 7:25 p. m. , and from 7:35 to 9:00 p. m.; students may take either one or two classes per night during each eight-week semester. Six different classes will be offered during the initial year, with three classes offered in the first semester and three additional classes in the second semester. Students may earn a Preliminary, Intermediate, or Advanced Certificate depending on whether they take a total of four, eight, or twelve classes. The cost is $80 per class, per semester, or $10 a night for a 1 ½ hour class.
For its first semester, RISB is offering New Testament Greek (with GCBC’s Pastor Rob Ventura), How to Study the Bible (with Brian Baker), and Biblical Counseling, (with Dr. Robert Burelli.) For the second semester, starting September 6, the school will offer three additional classes: The Doctrine of God, Biblical Hebrew, and Biblical Preaching, taught by the same faculty. For those interested in attending, the latest offerings are available at www.risbible.org. So far, the most popular class has been How to Study the Bible, with 9 students, followed by N. T. Greek with 8, and Biblical Counseling with 6. As the school expands and more classes become available, instructors meeting RISB’s requirements have already agreed to teach future classes.
Dean Jack Buckley, who is also co-pastor of GCBC, readily answered questions posed to him following the successful launch of the Rhode Island School of the Bible. When asked if students could expect to be assigned work outside of classes, he replied that most of the work would be reading and reviewing what was taught in class, but the amount of time to be set aside for homework would depend on the individual and the particular class involved. One objective is to teach the most important material in the class room and focus on that. Students who are actively involved in class, take good notes, and study the notes and handouts should do well.
In response to being asked how intellectually demanding are the classes, Buckley said it depends on how a student is “wired”. For example, a student with a great aptitude for language would find N. T. Greek easier than one without that particular aptitude. The instructors have the Spirit-wrought gift of teaching and a God-given desire that their students understand the material, so the teaching will be straightforward and clear; enabling students to master what is taught in the classroom.
When questioned about the degree of diversity among the first group of students to enroll, Buckley said it was wonderfully diverse. Many originate from other countries, including India, Russia, Ghana, Jamaica, and Latin America. All are church-goers with various teaching or back-up preaching responsibilities, who want to improve their Bible knowledge so they can better serve their churches. This was pleasing, since a main motivation for opening the school was to strengthen local churches in RI and nearby MA. Apparently the first crop of students aims to do just that. Buckley added, “They came with a hunger to learn, and interacted well with the instructors and their fellow students.”
Buckley also answered a question about whether the $80 fee per class, per semester, also covers books and materials. He said that it does cover the cost of the class and class handouts, and must be paid in full before the opening night of each semester. Of course, students wishing to supplement their reading would pay extra for books, but he is unaware of any current requirements. However, each class has its own requirements, so students should check with the Registrar or the Instructor of the class to see if additional materials are required that could affect the cost. The school is trying to keep class expenses low so they don’t become a barrier to attendance. Presently there are no provisions for auditing classes, but if a student pays for a class and, after attending the first one, decides he or she is not interested after all, RISB will refund the tuition.
To sum up, the first night of classes was very gratifying for students and teachers alike. According to Buckley, “Wonderful questions and answers were flying throughout the evening. Hearing the discussions outside of class was also uplifting. Some of the students were friends who attended class together. Others were complete strangers. But there seemed to be a sense of camaraderie building between all the students who each, as far as I could tell, seemed to be serious about growing in their Bible knowledge.”
As Dean of the new school, Buckley had the privilege of welcoming the student body and encouraging them in their labors. He reminded them that studying the Bible is not an end in itself, “for if we fill our heads with all kinds of Bible knowledge and miss the Bible’s main focus, then we miss everything. We learn our Bibles so we can learn more of our precious Savior, so we can love Him more fervently, and serve Him more diligently in our families, churches, and communities. O, that we would all love Him more!”
For additional information please visit www.risbible.org.
“…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)