Theological training is vital for church growth. In his book Forty Years on the Road to Church Growth, FEBC’s founding principal Dr Timothy Tow wrote: ‘Without proper Bible teaching the church that relies on self-taught evangelists or missionaries will be stifled in growth, inasmuch as the tether of their theological knowledge is short and the ability of their preaching skills is limited’.
Many a self-made pastor has lost his way due to a lack of intensive, systematic training in the Word. Even the theologically trained can succumb to error. So, in obedience to the Pauline mandate, ‘And the things that thou hast heard the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also’ (2 Timothy 2:2), FEBC was instituted in Singapore.
On 28 April 1962 the late Dr Paul Contento laid the foundation stone of FEBC and prayed to the Lord that he would raise up great Christian leaders and preachers from the college’s ranks.
In those days, theology in the seminaries was taught exclusively by modernist professors. There was a crying need for a Bible-believing institute in the Far East for the propagation of the true gospel and the defence of the biblical faith. The stranglehold of modernism and ecumenism needed to be broken.
These needs remain today, made more acute by the emergence of new and virulent ‘isms’, like postmodernism, neo-evangelicalism, charismaticism, hyper-Calvinism and neo-Pharisaism.
Moreover, counselling methods, which syncretise Christian truth with heresy, and unscriptural church-growth methods, have added to the deluge of unbelief and apostasy that is drowning many a seminary today. The need for theologically sound Bible colleges has never been so great.
FEBC was constituted to propagate the Reformed faith and is affiliated to the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC). It has a pre-millennial view of the end-times. It endeavours to carry the Reformation torch into this new century by setting high biblical standards and training both men and women to become effective servant-leaders for the church militant.
From the outset, FEBC has stressed that students must cultivate both true spirituality and biblical scholarship. The first and most important period of the day is Morning Chapel. Besides private devotions, students engage in morning devotions in small groups. Prayer meetings are held every Thursday night.
All students serve, in some capacity, in local churches, putting into practice what they have learned in seminary. The student body goes out distributing tracts every Wednesday afternoon.
This evangelism culminates in a gospel rally near the end of each semester. During college vacation, students engage in short-term missions or teach in church camps and retreats. Overseas students usually return to their home countries and contribute to the spiritual life of their home churches.
Courses are offered regularly to teach students the practicalities of ministry. Of all such courses, homiletics (preaching method) is by far the most important. Every student will have to preach in the Principal’s homiletics ‘swimming pool’, the highlight of the college week!
Sink or swim, budding preachers are (metaphorically) thrown into the deep end. Fellow trainees participate by giving constructive comments under the careful supervision of the Principal.
As regards biblical scholarship, FEBC offers a Bible-centred curriculum based on Greek and Hebrew. In an age when seminaries are minimising the importance of the biblical languages, FEBC maintains the traditional requirement of three years of Greek (14 credits), and two years of Hebrew (10 credits) in its Master of Divinity programme.
Bachelor of Theology students are required to take two years in either Hebrew or Greek. A thesis is required of all degree candidates.
Besides the standard programmes of the BTh and MDiv, the college also offers a variety of degree and certificate courses. The certificate courses in Religious Knowledge and Biblical Studies are for laity and can be pursued externally or through evening classes in ‘Basic Theology for Everyone’.
Although FEBC was established to train full-time ministers, it nevertheless considers training laity to be an essential component in its role as the church’s handmaid, seeking to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
In a further attempt to promote biblical scholarship, FEBC publishes a theological journal called The Burning Bush, which is distributed to 3,000 people. FEBC Press has published over 40 books, authored mainly by members of the college faculty.
Beginning 40 years ago with just three students and one teacher, the college today is a hundred strong, with a dozen teachers in its faculty. It has pleased the Lord to bring students in from all over the world (Argentina, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, England, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Liberia, Nepal, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Scotland, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Vietnam). Most have returned to their home countries to serve effectively in their own areas of vocation. This is accelerated mission, and for this we praise God!