This pastoral passage was written originally for LRBC for 23 April 2023
Last weekend Laidlaw College celebrated the centenary of its founding in 1922 (a year late due to Covid-19 issues). A recurring theme of the weekend’s events was thankfulness to God for his faithfulness in the past one hundred years in the establishment and continuation of the college through its various phases. Another was the work of God both within the lives of individual students, as well as through them as they afterward moved out into mission, ministry, and other important forms of service. Many thousands of men and women have been shaped and trained by this institution, and have then gone on to contribute to churches and society in New Zealand and beyond.
We at Lincoln Road Bible Chapel know and have known many of these people (LRBC is only a few minutes drive from Laidlaw College).
I would like to use this occasion to consider the important role that churches play for training institutions like Laidlaw College, especially one such as ours that is very local and counts staff and students among its community.
First of all, we should pray for colleges like Laidlaw College. We must pray especially for their teaching staff, who are tasked with the bulk of student education, training, and formation. We should pray likewise for the college leadership, who are entrusted with maintaining its historic identity and making important decisions for its future. And we must not neglect to pray for its support staff, without whom the college would barely function and whose role in students’s experiences are often significant but unsung. It is important to pray for the staff of Bible colleges, that they continue to love, practise, and impart sound Christian teaching, morality, and spirituality.
Secondly, we must support its students who join our church. We can and should pray for them just as we ought for college staff, but we have a further role as the Christian community in which they have become a part. Some of these will be from out of town who have left a church community (as I did). They might only be with us for a year or three (unlike me!), but the friendship as well as mentoring that fellow believers can provide is very important. It is easy to assume that theology students are spiritually active and mature. Often enough that is not the case and the fellowship of people who spend more time in the “real world” is important to keep them (“us”!) grounded and growing spiritually. A head full of scholarship and theology is a useful gift but it does not make a complete Christian faith. Your friendship in Christ is crucial.
So: Pray for and support and keep grounded the students (and staff) who join our fellowship, and pray for the success and faithfulness of colleges like Laidlaw College. And thank you to those of you who already do these things!
Please remember to pray for Raymond Koh – A graduate of Laidlaw College and member of LRBC for a time during his training in New Zealand in the 1990s. Koh was a pastor in his home country of Malaysia and is thought to have been kidnapped by a branch of the Malaysian police department. He has not been seen since 13 February 2017 (see here and here). Many of you will remember when John Hitchen announced this at LRBC soon after his abduction.
Also read this post on the spiritual heritage of Laidlaw College’s founder, Joseph Kemp: https://chrisnorthcott.org/2020/03/13/small-but-important-assignments-from-the-lord/
 The thoughts for this pastoral passage were prompted by a great book that was gifted to me by a friend when I was a young student in the mid-2000s. It is Brothers, We are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, by John Piper. In it there is a chapter stressing the importance of praying for Christian seminaries and colleges. After making his case for such praying and outlining the sort of things we should pray, he concludes “Brothers, let us not merely criticise or commend the seminaries. God loves his church and his truth. He ordains to do his work through the intercession of his people. Generations of faithfulness are at stake. Therefore, brothers, pray for the seminaries.” This chapter has been republished as an article here.