The Spirit and Mission of a Twelfth Century Bible College

August 27, 2012 by Paul Chappell

This summer I had the opportunity to visit the valleys of Piedmont, Italy—home to the Waldensians for centuries.


(If you cannot see this video in your RSS reader or email, you can watch it here.)

The plaque pictured above is mounted in a mountain hut which was used for a Bible college by the Waldensians. In this hut, barbas—the Waldensian pastors and teachers—would train young men for ministry.

I was humbled as I saw the rough benches around the hewn stone podium where the barba would teach from the center. The eager students were not only risking their lives in attending the school, but they were literally preparing themselves for martyrdom. When they graduated, they would be traveling evangelists preaching the Gospel message to an unfriendly audience. For many of them, it was not a question of if they would be martyred, but of how much they could accomplish before martyrdom came.

In secrecy, the barbas trained their students to read and write (in multiple languages) and to rightly divide the doctrines of God’s Word. Additionally, they taught enough about medicine or trade to enable them to travel with the disguise of a physician or merchant.

As I stood in that cave, I couldn’t help but think of West Coast Baptist College and contrast our facilities with the stone benches. God has given us beautiful buildings in which to teach His Word to our students. He’s given us a gorgeous campus and modern dorms. And yet, our goal is to persist with the same emphasis of the Waldensian barbas—teaching God’s Word and preparing His servants for ministry.

I stood in that hut and prayed, “God, give us men from West Coast Baptist College who will hunger for Your Word, absorb Your truth, and be fervently faithful to You!”

I ask you, too, to pray for us as we begin a new semester this week. Pray for our students, pray for our faculty, and pray that we will see a generation of Christian servants wholly dedicated to the Lord and faithful to the doctrines of God’s Word.

[pictures below: top left: stone hut of Waldensian Bible college, bottom left: roof of the same hut—shows how it is hidden in the valley, bottom right: meeting room inside Bible college, top right: cave where Waldensians met for worship, center: path to hidden cave]


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