Caliber

I’ve been pondering the idea of quality for the past few days. …specifically, quality people. I think we all appreciate working with quality people or people of great skill. And I’m often frustrated when quality people aren’t on my team any longer. 

A few years ago I was reading Andrew Murray’s biography by Leona Choy. Murray used a phrase that stuck out as he described the type of student he was hoping to accept into the Bible college: high-caliber. 

He was looking for top notch, high-caliber students. He wasn’t referring to academic ability or social status. High-caliber students were students that were fully engaged, 100% in their commitment to Christ, and ready to serve. 

Last week on the calvarychapel.com blog Pastor David Guzik said something similar. But instead of calling the potential student high-caliber, he quoted Charles Spurgeon who was looking for students that were already “doing something”. Spurgeon would only admit pastors into the School of Ministry that had two years of preaching experience. 

There seems to be a tension between the caring shepherd that loves whatever sheep the Father gives, and the intentional King that has high standards and high expectations.

I wrestled with this as I executed the admissions policy at the Bible College. 

In the two Bible Colleges where I served, the admissions policy was an “open-door” policy. There were no academic standards other than a high school diploma or GPA. The applicant only needed a Christian testimony and to be free from sexual sin and substance abuse within a six month period prior to attending.

If you couple that admissions policy with an inexpensive tuition, you have a door that is wide open to all kinds of people. We had an amazing diversity in the students that attended. 

But there were some complaints that came from having the open-door admissions policy. Teachers were frustrated that they couldn’t have a high academic standard for their homework because many of the students were unable to perform at that level. Some of the more mature students would complain that the student body was being pulled towards carnality because of the immature students. Some students said they wouldn’t return because the environment wasn’t conducive to spiritual growth.

On one hand, the Bible College had a lot of students attending and was able to provide an environment where God could capture student’s attention. But on the other hand, the staff’s efforts were spread out and the “low-caliber” students could have a negative impact on the school culture. 

Now a Bible college is distinct from the local church. No one needs to apply to attend. But there is still a wrestling that goes on as resources are funneled in different directions. And as the church’s leaders outline vision for the future. 

It seems like this tension is visible in the parables as well. In the Parable of the Sower the seed is cast indiscriminately across the field. The expectation of the sower is that some seed will fall on “low-caliber” soil and other seed will fall on “high-caliber” soil. 

But in the Parable of the Talents there is the expectation that God’s worker will be thoughtful, intentional, diligent, agressive, and have the highest expectations. 

From my reading of these passages and the rest of the New Testament it seems like Jesus’ church is supposed to have its doors wide open. The primary reason for this is because the gospel message is wide open. 

But while the doors of the church are wide open, the Christian leader’s attention, schedule, emotions and energy is focused and intentional. Along with the disciples in Acts 6:2 the Christian leader says “It is not right that we should give up preaching to serve tables.” Instead the task gets delegated to another member of the body. (Eph. 4:11-16)

So what do you think? How do you find the balance? What scriptures come to mind? 

[Updated Note: Please understand that from 1999 to 2012 I served in the arena of education and was expected to produce “high-caliber” graduates. That caused me to think long and hard about the training process. A schools admissions policy is only one piece of the puzzel and I am by no means criticizing the “open-door” policy. I just belief that the expectations need to be adjusted based on what type of student is admitted.]