MONROE, Iowa—First Baptist Church launched a Bible Institute aimed at helping believers build a Christian worldview. This college-level program, lasting two-and-a-half to three years, equips Christians who don’t attend Bible colleges to think seriously, deeply, and practically about how their beliefs impact their lives.
Pastor Jeriah Shank, who leads the institute, calls the program a “substantial project.” He hopes that by investing their time in this teaching, students will be able to “take [their] faith to the next level” so that their faith “makes a difference when life gets hard.”
During hour-long classes on Sunday evenings throughout the program, Shank will lecture on systematic theology (the longest topic in the program, taking about a year to cover), Bible survey of the Old and New Testaments, comparative religions, church history, philosophy, apologetics, and counseling.
Students first study systematic theology—a topic that Shank admits can sound daunting. But he assures students that the course will reach each student regardless of that person’s current knowledge. “My goal is that if you’re here and can barely spell Bible, this is for you. If you’re here and you’ve walked with God for many, many years, this is also for you.” Everyone will “be on the same page” as they walk through the topic together, he says.
One of Shank’s gifts, says Steven Cox, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Oskaloosa, Iowa, is “to clearly and succinctly communicate Biblical truth.” Other pastors of Regular Baptist churches where Shank has spoken agree.
“Jeriah takes his Biblical training and years of study and puts it in the context of today’s world in a way that today’s teens, college students, and older adults love listening to and learning,” says Phil Betz, director of Iowa Regular Baptist Camp, where Shank serves on the board of trustees. Shank even “goes a step further, assisting the learner in how to use this new knowledge to share with others,” Betz adds. “He is very effective in relating to them and putting the training on their level through lectures, workshops, and Q&As as well. In fact, he thrives in his ability to think on his feet, making learning fun!”
Sam Jones, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Hudson, Iowa, says Shank “not only teaches on a significant academic level, but also has the unique ability to reach the heart of the person. His teaching style is one that feeds the mind in order to understand the principle and also equips the hands with practical tools to use in your everyday life.”
Shank says he is “passionate about the truth of the gospel and its power to transform lives.” He earned a BS in Bible and pastoral studies with a minor in Biblical counseling, an MA in theological studies, and an MDiv in Greek grammar from Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary; an MA in Biblical apologetics from Baptist Bible Seminary; a certificate in Christian apologetics from Biola University; and a certificate in apologetics from the Creation Apologetics Teacher’s College. He also has had substantial graduate-level training in Biblical counseling.
As a resource for those in the Bible Institute and for sister churches, First Baptist Church films each lecture and posts it to the church’s YouTube channel and Facebook page and to Pastor Shank’s website. First Baptist welcomes churches to use the lectures in their Bible studies, small groups, Sunday School classes, and other settings.
Is attending the Bible Institute worth students’ time investment? Shank asks. Absolutely, he says, for “our beliefs about God dictate our perspective . . . when life gets hard.”