Growing Deep and
Wide, Big and Tall!
Written by Rev Dr Clement Chia
Singapore Bible College is doing theological education with a clear mission—to glorify God by training faithful servants of Jesus Christ for the edification of the church and the urgent evangelization of the unreached. In other words, this college exists to equip God’s servants for advancing his kingdom by building up his earthly agency, namely, the church.
How may we accomplish our mission? No one would know better than the “kingdom advancer,” Jesus Christ. He employed the image of a mustard seed to teach about the arrival and expansion of God’s kingdom:
What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches. – (Luke 13:18–19 NIV)
The mustard seed planted in the garden would have taken root as deeply as possible and spread its roots as widely as possible, for the tree to grow as big and as tall as possible. The audience would have understood the image from everyday experience but would have been unprepared for what Jesus said next: “And the birds roosted in its branches.” The reason why the tree grew tall and stretched wide was to provide birds with a resting place!
Growth must be directed for a purpose. Thus, SBC grows for the purpose of training the servants of Jesus Christ through holistic theological education, so that our students can advance the kingdom of God in the mission field by edifying the church. Following from Jesus’ parable, holistic theological education must help students to go deep, to expand wide, and to grow big and tall for a purpose!
1. Helping Students To Go Deep
We aspire to help students take root in their churches or denominational traditions by delving deep into biblical literacy and theological discourses. We want to embrace tradition but avoid traditionalism. As the late historian Jaroslav Pelikan reminds us in The Vindication of Tradition,
Tradition is the living faith of the dead: traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.
Thus, we challenge students to appreciate their faith traditions as living legacies that provide solid ground for deeper dialogues with other traditions, beliefs, and worldviews. Grounded in the richness of Christian traditions, students are then encouraged to work out their personal convictions in light of the whole counsel of God and the spectrum of doctrines formulated across church history.
Our faculty are instrumental in this endeavour. They are exemplars of lifelong learners who integrate and contextualize their expertise and skills for the people they teach and serve.
2. Helping Students To Expand Wide
We are determined to do theological education in a community of learners by harnessing the strength of our multinational body. At present, our students come from 25 countries and more than 40 denominations, and speak beyond 50 languages. This means that we provide a wide platform for cross-cultural experiences and missional learning with a strong ecumenical spirit.
The developmental psychologist Howard Gardner highlights in Five Minds for the Future that “individuals without respect will be not worthy of respect by others and will poison the workplace and the commons.” Day in and day out, our students are challenged to adopt an open mindset toward the different peoples on campus. Faculty, staff, and students interact with one another through a variety of activities. New levels of synergy arise from interaction and cooperation, which also result in learning to lead by serving and to serve by leading.
3. Helping Students To Grow Big And Tall For A Purpose
We do theological education for edifying the church and evangelizing the lost. Thus, we extend our service to the world by sending our students to intern in local churches and parachurch organizations.
We also work with theological institutions abroad so as to contribute our specialities and resources. We collaborate with mission agencies in order to nurture our students to engage the needs of people groups in this region and beyond. And we partner with various other organizations to provide expertise in music, social services, and counselling assistance.
The 65 years of SBC have testified that a tree has grown from a small seed. By God’s gracious provision, our roots have gone deep and expanded wide as the tree continues to grow big and tall, so that all can find a place in the kingdom of God.