Pastor Stan Long
Faith Christian Fellowship Church – Baltimore, Maryland
What is the New Testament pattern for theological education? In Matt 10 we are reminded that the Lord Jesus had around Himself 12 men. He was intentionally training them for kingdom ministry. In Acts 20 Dr. Luke lists 7 men that the Apostle Paul was intentionally training for kingdom ministry. The training process by Jesus and by Paul involved these men being with them, assisting them in the ministry, many offline discussions, practical ministry assignments and projects with feedback. Essentially watching, helping, learning together and then being launched.
About 8 years ago, seeing the need to equip future leaders theologically several of us began to dream. We sought and found a more church-based, more mentor-based, more inexpensive theological training experience. We heard of LAMP (Leadership and Ministry Preparation) which could create a structure whereby we could use lectures and audios from best theologians in the nation, yet work alongside our students right here in our city, framing their learning experience for the unique, diverse culture of Baltimore.
So we stepped out in faith to get approval to become a regional site of LAMP Seminary, a denominationally approved alternative to the traditional method of theological preparation. As the so-called “Seminary for the Working Man,” LAMP was created over 20 years ago to prepare men to pastor and to plant new churches in our denomination. A secondary goal was to see many non-degree students, men and women, become more equipped to serve and teach in our local congregations.
And so after carefully planning, in 2011 we launched our first Baltimore-LAMP class with 5 students. In that History of Redemption class was FCF member Vic King, a teacher in Carroll County public schools commuting from the city. Vic had a new bride, Joanna, and the question of what ministry might look like for him in the future.
And there was also one student from City of Hope in Columbia, Rueben Amlalo, who was trying desperately to finish his studies at U of Maryland-College Park, working as a part time shoe salesman, considering whether the gospel ministry was to be his calling in life while praying, pondering, hoping that this future would also include a young lady named Golda!
There are 2 other members of the LAMP class of 2017. One is now serving in Florida and the other is serving in South Carolina. So Vic and Rueben will actually be this year’s 3rd and 4th to graduate from LAMP Seminary.
Most LAMP sites have 1 pastor and a few students. Baltimore-LAMP is different. We are a Regional site with a team of Facilitators that you see here today. Thurman Williams was one of the original dreamers but he actually never got to teach a class before heading west to St. Louis. Dr. Louis Wilson, who succeeded Thurman at New Song, stepped right in to join the team of facilitators. We also had several other PCA Pastors who stepped in as facilitators: TE Ben Taylor from Timonium Presbyterian and TE Paul Warren from Abbot Presbyterian.
The biggest challenge for us was finding a right way to handle the biblical languages which can’t be learned within the normal 2 month LAMP class window. The LAMP Headquarters came through offering an online Hebrew Language class that included students from the other LAMP sites around the country. It used Reformed Theological Seminary’s online class materials and was taught by one of the RTS faculty. This was a great solution. And what about biblical Greek? Well, Brother Irwyn Ince was the man! We had several others who audited the 2 important Greek classes, learning the original language of the New Testament.
Over these 6+ years we had several guest lecturers who were not PCA Teaching elders:
- Rebecca Ecklund-Assistant Professor of Theology at Loyola. She is an author and scholar who brought to us her expertise in the Gospels.
- Dr. Michael Gorman – St. Mary’s Seminary, Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology. He is an internationally known author and Pauline scholar.
- Kim Sutter – FCF staff counselor. (Karl D’s counseling class)
This LAMP M. Div. curriculum involved 37 classes offered consecutively. With a few exceptions each class took 8 weeks. We finish a class, briefly pause to exhale and then started with the next class. 37 classes! Some were as small as 3 students and others as many as 19 students. Three of the classes had over a dozen auditors: Biblical Counseling, and 2 very interesting doctrinal classes: the Holy Spirit, Last Things (i.e second coming)
We had many other people who audited classes from 8 different churches. LAMP provides excellent theological training for “lay leaders.” There were 52 people who took at least one class, 30 men and 22 women!
You always learn a lot the first time you attempt something new. I personally learned much as the local site coordinator. We plan to make a few necessary modifications and launch a new cohort in the fall of 2018. If you have interested in taking LAMP classes, whether for degree or for your own growth and quipping, let us know and we will keep you informed.
These 2 men labored long and hard: Reading, listening to lectures online, lively class discussions, memorizing scripture, being mentored personally, preaching and being evaluated, writing projects and papers that were instantly usable in their current ministries, and of course the traditional “assessments”, i.e. formal written exams.
I want to especially thank Joanna and Golda. In the midst of work and the normal cares of life, of engagement and marriage, of family expansion, etc. These wives have been by your sides as your biggest cheerleaders. They have helped you accomplish this goal, reminding you as you pressed on that as important as your studies are, your first priorities are your God and your family. But they have sacrificed their needs that you might have the time to study. We want to recognize their commitment and their joy that this day has come!
You 2 brothers will always be linked together in our minds and hearts. After 37 laps around the track and you are the last ones standing! Jesus said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” Let me simply take a little liberty to suggest …“he who endures to the end …shall get their diploma!” and that is why we are gathered here this afternoon!
So Rueben Amlalo and Victor King, on the behalf of the LAMP board, and the staff in Miami, the local teacher/facilitators, I want to commend you for your diligence and perseverance. May our Lord guide you both as you consider His will and His timing in the next phases of ministry as you serve our King. Amen.