Category Archives: Education

A History Lesson for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The following is a repost of a devotional I wrote for my church family, October 16, 2017. I am publishing it today as a challenge to my peers and friends to take time to review the history of 20th century Bible fundamentalist.  Read their writings and sermons.  Do not fall victim to progressives who pull a quote out of context to support a position the men they quote would have never taken.  

I am today a 63-year-old pastor who had the privilege of standing in the shadows of great fundamentalists who are now with the LORD.  Were they perfect men?  Of course not; however, the same is true of my generation and the rising millennial generation. The following is a copy of the devotional, posted two years ago.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The Hebrews who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

The late Dr. Richard Rupp who succeeded Dr. Gilbert Stenholm as the leader and mentor of the Preacher Boy’s Class of Bob Jones University in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many Gospel preaching churches, Bible colleges, and fundamental Christian institutions in recent years.

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible fundamental churches, Bible colleges, and Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the fundamental spiritual heritage of those institutions.

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

A Failure to Stay the Course

Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018

Institutional erosion often begins slowly, perceived by only the most discerning, and too often explained and dismissed as harmless and inconsequential change.  When the signs of decay are apparent, it is often too late to correct without a major, often expensive, and sometimes impossible attempt to salvage.

Like the disaster that follows a ship at sea when its captain fails to stay the course only by degrees, so too is a Christian institution’s end when it departs from the very distinctives that instilled discipline and character in its student body.

For more than 15 years I have observed a pattern of change at Bob Jones University that is all too familiar.  Like a ship slowly, imperceptibly drifting from its course, the University is adrift from the disciplines that shaped the character of generations of Christian students in its past.

While the University has failed to stay the course in its disciplines, its alumni have failed to hold its administration accountable for its direction.  Fundamental pastors, so quick to point out the flaws and failures in other ministries in the past, have been all but silent while the board and leadership at BJU steers the University away from its fundamental moorings.  Why the silence?  Why the accommodation of changes we know are not welcome in our own ministries, but are being thrust upon us and our children by an institution we loved and trusted?

The University recently announced changes to this year’s Student Handbook that include allowing women to wear pants to class and athletic shorts raised to 2 inches above the knee.  Other changes in the clothing standard are summed up as “too many changes to write”.

Admittedly, there were some things in BJU’s Student Handbook that did not make sense in my era (for example, guys wearing ties to classes in the morning, but not in the afternoon; men wearing suit jackets to dinner and ties to go off campus; women wearing hose year round).  All of those irritants are gone now, but so are many of the disciplines that instilled distinctive Christian virtues in the student body.

In a video Facebook post, Dr. Steve Petit addresses the dress code changes that  take effect in this Fall’s 2018 Student Handbook (see pp. 29-32) and gives his reasons for the changes.  Some changes in the handbook are practical and merely an adaptation of institutional policy taking advantage of new technology.  Other changes are, in my opinion, a continuing pattern of pragmatism evidencing a drift from core principles that were once the trademark of Bob Jones University.

It is not the individual rule changes that are bothersome as much as it is the continuing pattern of change that is eroding the core values that once shaped the character of the student body at BJU.  The distinctive disciplines that set BJU apart from the likes of Furman University, Liberty University, and Cedarville University are eroding as is the polished character that was BJU’s hallmark.

The board and administration of Bob Jones University are following its smaller predecessors to its own ruin.  Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University, and Clearwater Christian College (to name a few), all drifted from their distinctive character as fundamental Bible Colleges and because of that drift their demise became inevitable.  I am afraid their end will be sadly the same for the University. 

For too long we have given liberty to the BJU board, administration, and faculty, believing they shared the same convictions and core values as our churches and families.  It is with sorrow I confess, while many of the University’s alumni have stayed the course, the board, administration, and faculty have not.

The erosion and decay of BJU has manifested itself openly.  The institutional drift has taken the University far from its distinctive moorings.  I fear Bob Jones University is too far gone and what was once the flagship of Bible fundamentalism is a shadow of her past.

With the heart of a shepherd and a 1977 alumni of Bob Jones University,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

  • An Addendum (09\07\18) – I became aware some of the critics of my original post have tried to paint me as an old “fuddy-duddy”, anti-pants pastor; however, my article on the dress-code change at BJU was not an anti-pants rant, but a question of where the institution will draw the line in holding to its disciplines and distinctives.  I believe BJU’s decision on the matter of women wearing pants to class and chapel removes yet another discipline for teaching young women godly modesty and appropriate decorum.  BJU was at one time all about training, discipline, and developing a sharp product.  I fear that philosophy continues to be sacrificed at my alma mater.
  • On a personal note, every organization of any worth will have established policies for appropriate decorum.  While Hillsdale Baptist Church requires men on our platform to wear suit jackets and women to wear modest dresses, we do not expect the same of our audience (although the overwhelming majority of our membership follows the lead of our platform dress).

Note from the author: The concerns expressed in this blog are the latest of a series I have published expressing my concerns with the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches. For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Silent No More

This brief blog post serves as an introductory post to one that will follow titled, “A Failure to Stay the Course: Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018”.  I am a 1977 graduate of Bob Jones University and one who has been a loyal alumnus.  

I arrived at Bob Jones University as a 16-year-old freshman in the fall of 1973 and was overwhelmed with a culture shock like none I have experienced since.  This son of the South, born in Lancaster, South Carolina and aptly self-defined as a country-boy was unacquainted with the graces of culture and the refinements of art.  I was a rough, crude piece of coarse clay; a public-school graduate who loved and longed to serve the LORD and desired the training and polish of a Christian education.

My childhood home was loving and disciplined. I knew the rigors of rising early on a small farm, working hard, and appreciated the sacrifices of my loving parents. My desire to go to a Christian college was foreign to my family and the culture of my community; however, it was a seed planted in my heart by the visit of a missionary to Alaska.

A child of the hippy culture of the 1960’s and the anti-war, anti-establishment of the 1970’s, I was unaware of my immaturity as a believer, the deficiencies of my education, or my cultural backwardness.  I knew little of the scriptures and nothing of Christian Fundamentalism, Keeping the Faith, or Fighting the Good Fight.

The administration and faculty of Bob Jones University gave no accommodation to this southern boy’s worldly-wise ways and even less provision for my academic failings.  I found myself, in a proverbial sense, thrown into the deep-end of the pool where I found little empathy for my struggles. BJU had somehow insulated itself from college-campus riots and “panty-raids” that were dogging other college campuses. The school was not only unapologetically Christian, it was doggedly adherent to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

There were many irritants in the BJU culture that were not only exasperating, but provoking.  There was a discipline that gave little grace and even less understanding for the excuses and failures of youth.  Outside the campus fence my generation was bold and rebellious; casting aside disciplines and morals that had shaped the “Greatest Generation”.  Inside the campus fence little had or would change for another twenty-years.

I thank God it was that culture of discipline, tough-love, and unapologetic convictions that were present to shape and prepare the pliable heart of this Christian teen.  I learned my superiors were not concerned with fairness, but rightness.  I also knew there were times they were wrong; however, the rules were the rules and institutionally the approach was “one size fits all”.

I have learned rules and regulations, often inconvenient and at times inexplicable, are necessary.  Patterns of personal and academic disciplines thrust upon us in our youth shape attitudes and strengthen character.  When we cast off or adapt rules and standards to accommodate youthful immaturity or to enhance cultural assimilation we do so at the peril of a generation that will never know the enrichment of exhortation or the powerful influence of loving correction.

I close with a brief dedicatory of names whose lives provoked me in my youth and whose influence follows me to this day: Dr. Bob Jones, Jr; Dr. Gilbert Stenholm; Dr. Richard Rupp; Dr. Gunter Salter; Dr. Walter Fremont; and Dr. Dwight Gustafson.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Note from the author: You will find the observations expressed in this blog mirrored in several posts I have published in recent years regarding the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches.  For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Is Love Really All You Need?

In July 1967 the iconic English rock band known as the Beatles released a single titled “All You Need is Love”.  The “hippy” movement embraced the song and it became the defining song of a summer that became known as the “Summer of Love”.  Abandoning the moral values of their parents and voicing an open rebellion to authority and government, a whole generation of youth embarked on a journey defined by the use of psychedelic drugs, “free love” and sex.

It is that generation, the late “baby boomers” now in their 60’s and early 70’s, that has shaped American society by their cavalier disdain of moral values, religion, and law.  They have invaded every stratum of government, education, commerce, and media.  From governing in the Oval Office of the Presidency of the United States to inculcating minds of 5-year-old kindergarteners, the influence of the “All You Need is Love” generation is pervasive.  Is it any wonder they have spawned a generation of selfish, narcissistic youth embracing a socialistic ideology that threatens our society and nation with anarchy?

The “All You Need is Love” generation has so skewed the definition of “LOVE” it has become an excuse for all manner of sin, wickedness and depravity.  Liberals in the media, government, and education would have you believe, regardless of what you do and who it hurts, all that matters is LOVE.  The measure of right and wrong is no longer immutable truth and undeniable facts, but whether or not one’s intentions were loving.

Love becomes an excuse for all manner of sin. Teens, college students, and adults defend fornication and open adultery with the excuse, “I am in love.”  Society accepts homosexuality reasoning, “they love each other.”  The LGTBQ crowd demands society accept their sin because that is the loving thing to do.  Women are counseled to abort unwanted infants because that is a loving choice.

Some quote Romans 13:8, “…love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; however, they fail to read Romans 13:9-10 which identifies the restraints and standards on God’s definition of LOVE.

Romans 13:9-10 – “9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there beany other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

My generation, the “baby boomers”, believed “love is all you need” and are finding too late the heartache and emptiness of a philosophy of life devoid of absolute truth and genuine LOVE.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 by Travis D. Smith

Worship With Hillsdale This Sunday!

Following a tragic week when our State witnessed the loss of 17 innocent lives, our church family will remember in prayer this Sunday the grieving families, students, faculty and administrators of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

When I began my new series, “Reflections on Compassion and Grace”, I had no idea how appropriate that theme would become for our church, State, and nation. This Sunday morning, my focus is on John 6 and my title is, “Feeding the 5,000: What Would You Do?”

I plan to address several questions in the morning service:

1) Why did Jesus retreat to the wilderness on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee?

2) Why is the Sea of Galilee referred to as the “Sea of Tiberias” in John 6:1?

3) Why did the multitude follow Jesus?

4) Why did Jesus ask Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread?” (John 6:6), if he knew what He was going to do? (John 6:7)

We will consider three responses to Jesus’ suggestion to feed the multitude (John 6:7; Matthew 14:15; John 6:8-9) and the spiritual principles we should take from this wonderful miracle.

“There She Is, Mrs. Persia”

We continue our verse-by-verse study of Esther 2 in Hillsdale’s 6:00 PM service this Sunday.  Remembering the overriding truth in the Book of Esther is the providence of God, I look forward to drawing your attention to God’s unseen hand as He providentially orchestrates the affairs of man to accomplish His eternal purpose and the good of His people.

Have a blessed Saturday, prepare your heart, and join us as we worship the LORD this Sunday!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Prayer for Students and Families of Broward County, FL

The news of the senseless slaughter of innocent young lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Wednesday afternoon, February 14, 2018 dominates the news this morning.  As of this morning, the death toll remains at 17 and the names of the dead, students and teachers, has not been released.

Like you, I am aware the tragedy of the loss of life reaches far beyond the dead…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and yes, our state and nation…are all affected and scarred by the violence, suffering and death.

Liberal pundits will stand in their bully-pulpits and blame firearms for the loss of life.  The media and anti-liberty zealots opposed to the 2nd Amendment, will attack the NRA and conservatives, and advocate the need to limit, if not eliminate private ownership of guns and rifles.

Few will look deeper and honestly examine why this happened.  Why 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student expelled last school year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would plan and unleash a hail of gunfire on students of his former high school?

We are learning Cruz’s life is scarred as much as the wounds he inflicted on innocent lives Wednesday.  USA Today reports, “teachers and former classmates say [Cruz] had an angry disposition that led to him being expelled and flagged as a danger on school grounds.”

Former classmates describe Cruz as a troubled soul and many say they are not surprised he unleashed his fury in an act of violence. According to Fox News, an unnamed student told a news station, “kids joked around that the student [Cruz] would be the one to ‘shoot up the school.’”

Cruz is a troubled soul and tragedy seems to have been the haunt of his life.  Fox News reports Cruz and a younger brother were adopted and both his father and mother, Roger and Lynda Cruz, are dead.  Roger apparently died of a heart attack several years ago and Cruz’s mother, Lynda, died of pneumonia November 1, 2017.  Unhappy with family members who took him in, sometime after Thanksgiving 2017, Cruz moved into a mobile home with a high school friend who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz’s anger, rage and violence are pandemic in a generation educated in classrooms and nurtured in a society with an irreligious view of human life.  The doctrine that human life is sacred and every life is to be cherished is lost on a generation that mocks God, denies the Creator, and is entertained with acts of violence in video games and television programs from early childhood.

I am not surprised a 19-year-old murdered 17 classmates; I am surprised it does not happen more often.  Look into the eyes of today’s youth and you will find many who appear soulless…unloved and unloving; desensitized by bitterness, rejecting authority, angry with God, and waiting to be triggered into an act of rage that will not only destroy their lives and future, but leave countless others broken and dismayed.

Remembering Cain, the first son of Adam, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8), we understand the problem is not guns and rifles; the problem is sin.  The invitation to this generation is the same as it was to Cain when God wrestled with his sinful soul and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God warned Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth [crouches] at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire [sin drives our desires], and thou shalt rule over him [man will either master sin or sin will become his master](Genesis 4:7).

King Solomon taught his son the same truth, “[A sinner’s] own iniquities shall take [trap] the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords [ropes] of his sins.”

Nikolas Cruz, and I am afraid many like him, is the personification of hopelessness.  Sinners have but two paths to choose in life…Remorse or Repentance.  Cruz followed the path of remorse and dejection and left in his wake 17 lost lives.

Repentance, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, admits guilt (Psalm 51:4), confesses sins, and seeks forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let us pray for the lives touched by the loss of 17 lives, but remember there are many Nikolas Cruz’s in our midst who feel unloved, act unloving, need to know the love of God, and our lives serve as the conduit of compassion for their lost souls.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith