By Lowell Blasingame
One of the most frequently asked questions by Nigerian brethren is, “What is World Bible School?” Much time and money has been spent there in promoting it for the spread of the gospel.
Action, a monthly religious publication founded by Jimmie Lovell and presently edited by Reuel Lemmons, is the voice for WBS. Acdon’s masthead includes a figure of the world formed by the words, World Bible School, and within the inset, “Nothing Compares With It In Our World.”
Our forefathers conceived the American Christian Missionary Society in 1848 in Cincinnati, Ohio and thought they had founded the ultimate for spreading the gospel. Lucien Palmer wrote of the Bible Training College at Ukpom, Nigeria, “We are convinced that it affords the greatest of all opportunities to preach Christ to the 80 million in Nigeria” (World Radio News, Nov.-Dec., 1975). Action says of WBS, “Nothing Compares With It In Our World.”
Somehow I can’t get as carried away with these human innovations as those who conceived them. I keep thinking that maybe the church built by our Lord, bought with His blood, of which He is foundation and head, and which is a declaration of the manifold wisdom of God and which succeeded in preaching the gospel to the known world in less than 50 years after its establishment just might compare favorably with these human creations!
What Is World Bible School?
It is an organization conceived by Jimmie Lovell that promotes teaching by means of correspondence courses. Concerning it, brother Lovell said:
Legally, and again I have never been questioned, we are incorporated under the laws of California as West Coast Christian Publishing Co. – a non-profit, tax deductible religious organization. We have another corporation in Texas known as World Bible School, with directors who are on the WCC board. In neither organization have we ever had any conflict of purpose (Action, Sept., 1983, p. 2).
WBS is not a school in the sense that a Sunday or Wednesday arrangement of classes is nor is it simply a method of teaching. It is a “corporation in Texas” that is under “directors who are on the WCC board.” It obtains students through ads in newspapers and journals and its teachers consist of volunteers who send lessons to students assigned them by WBS.
In some areas WBS has workers employed to do “follow-up” on students. Jake Coppinger, who worked in devising this plan, said that natives in the area were first used but this did not work out too well “so we started our current plan and it is working very effectively. We have people working full-time in Ghana, Liberia, India and Malawi. Ralph Perry supervises Follow-Up work in Nigeria.” In the same article he says, “Support runs from $60.00 a month in some countries up to $300.00” and “All of this is handled through our follow-up work in Visalla, California with funds provided by churches and individuals who want someone to follow-up on their students” (Action, Jan., 1986, p. 4).
WBS is an organization that employs a method of teaching, provides the contact between students and teacher, employs workers to do “follow-up” work on the student and solicits contributions from churches for its work.
We would like to see more churches financially supporting WBS. Small churches that do no mission work because they are small would find themselves responsible for more baptisms than more large churches if they simply sent a monthly check to WBS to help with this good work. Mention it to the leaders and elders where you worship and ask that they consider doing it (Action, March, 1986, p. 2).
It should be obvious that WBS is not just a method of teaching but an organization that employs methods, hires personnel and solicits contributions from churches for doing its work. It is not a local church, the Lord’s organization, but an organization formed by a man for doing what local churches are to do.
Doctrinal Soundness of WBS
Christians are to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3) and to speak things that become sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1). However, statements have been made by those who promote WBS which give reason for doubting their doctrinal soundness.
Jimmie Lovell, in Action, March, 1984, said, “My observation of us of the church of Christ as I read, listen and look, the more our children and friends tie into other religious groups by marriage and otherwise, the less we appear convinced that our platform is the only safe one upon which we can stand.”
Hear him again in the same article, “I have wrestled with this question of who is in Christ and who is not more years than most of you have lived. As Rubel Shelly has said in this paper recently, no matter what man may think, he will never be able to pass final judgment on another.”
My response to brother Lovell’s statements is that truth is not determined by what my children and friends do or by my emotional reaction to their actions. If my children married into a cult which advocates faith in more than one God and I bent my convictions trying to justify their decisions, would it alter the fact that there is only one God (Eph. 4:6)? Neither will my wavering convictions about there being but one church change what the Scriptures teach (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4). Brother Lovell said that he has wrestled with the questions of who is in Christ and who is not. Isn’t this something! Here is the man who founded WBS and he has a problem telling who is in Christ and who isn’t. The Scriptures teach that salvation is in Christ and that one is baptized into Him (Acts 4:12; Gal. 3:27). Denominations teach that one is saved before baptism, therefore they deny what the Scriptures teach. The cry about passing judgment on others is the same denominational dodge used for years by those who don’t believe the Scriptures. That one is baptized into Christ is not my decision but the Lord’s and my failure to believe it won’t change it.
“Mrs. Art Mueller, 750 East 36th Pl., Eugene, Or. wants to share this letter from one of her students, a member of the Pentecostal Church in Africa: ‘I was able to teach on baptism and we will baptize our members by immersion next Sunday'” (Action, March, 1986, p. 3).
What profit is there in immersing people if they are not being baptized for the reason given in the Bible (Acts 2:38) and into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)?
Following one of the unity forums held between liberal preachers in the church and Christian Church preachers, Victor Knowles said, “And Reuel Lemmons; told me that from five to ten thousands teachers in his World Bible School (which baptizes scores of thousands each year) are people from instrumental churches. So we are uniting our effort in feeding the hungry, educating the church, and saving the lost souls. And isn’t that really the three-fold work of the church?” (One Body, July, 1985, p. 21)
With between five and ten thousands in Christian Churches using WBS, its literature will contain no teaching opposing the use of instrumental music in worship. Lemmons who presently heads WBS, agrees with Lovell that children of God are in all denominations and regards the use of instrumental music in worship as a matter of opinion, not one of faith.
A further illustration of brother Lemmon’s doctrinal softness is seen in his writings in the May, 1986 issues of Action. “Incidentally, we furnish teaching materials to any who order them and pay for them and we have a number of denominations who order World Bible School materials regularly. I wish every one of them would use our materials. But we provide student names to our own people only. We have never had a request from anyone other than our own brethren for student’s names.”
Brother Lemmons says that there are “a number of denominations who order World Bible School materials regularly.” Obviously little or no teaching against the errors of denominationalism is done in WBS material or this would not be the case. Paul’s teaching in Jewish synagogues was so plain that it resulted in the conversion of the honest and the arousal of the prejudiced to the point of denying him continued access to them. Human reactions have not changed greatly and I’ve preached long enough to know that if WBS materials clearly exposed denominationalism and its errors that a number of them would not be ordering them regularly.
Teaching by correspondence is an excellent method and involvement of individuals in using it is commendable but in our quest for souls, we must not forget that the local church is the organization that is to function and a declaration of the whole counsel of God must be made without compromise (Acts 20:24-27).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 8, pp. 227-228
April 16, 1987