'Training the church'
Hidden away in Lake Lure is a school teaching its students to observe, interpret and apply the Bible within a nine-month span.
The Emmaus School of Biblical Studies (ESBS) is a residential discipleship school located at Camp Lurecrest in Lake Lure which takes students through the Bible using the Inductive Bible study method. The school has its roots within the international missions organization, Youth With a Mission (YWAM). The ESBS is an affiliate of YWAM's School of Biblical Studies (SBS) International and its course of study follows the curriculum and standards of that program.
Tom Phillips is the school director and helped found the school with the help of two other families eight years ago. He previously worked at Camp Lurecrest and the camp has allowed the school to use its facilities August-May for classes.
"We were exposed to the YWAM program and thought it was a great way to learn the Bible. We asked if we could take that curriculum and offer it to anyone, regardless if they wanted to be a missionary or not," Phillips said. "It's not just for pastors. We aren't training pastors here, we are training the church."
According to the school's website, the name "Emmaus School of Biblical Studies" is based on the "Emmaus Road" story found in Luke chapter 24. In the story, two downcast travelers on the road to Emmaus are discussing Jesus' recent crucifixion and death when they encounter the resurrected Jesus. He reveals himself to them in the same way the school brings students face-to-face with him through the study of the Bible.
"I graduated from Lee University in Tennessee, worked for seven years at a church, started seminary and then I came here. It's a unique way of learning," Caleb Ives, staff member at the school said.
During the school year, students study the entire Bible one book at a time. They attend 12 hours of lecture a week and the rest of the time is used to complete their assignments individually. Lecture topics include an overview of the book's major themes and ideas, pertinent historical background, the book's major theological contributions, relevant application topics and discussions about difficult passages.
"We are giving students the tools to properly interpret the text on their on so they can form their own opinions," Phillips said. "The essence of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus and we are facilitating that here."
In order to attend the school, students must have already completed high school. Phillips said the school has had students range from 19-47 years of age. At the end of the nine months, the students that complete the program go through a graduation and receive a certificate. However it is not an accredited institution.
"I have a lot of parents that ask 'What is my child going to get out of this?' If you are really a Christian, then what could make you more successful than spending nine months to get to know His word? This is probably the best way to learn the content of the Bible in a community of people who really love God and have a relationship with Jesus," Phillips said. "We are trying to recruit people who have really expressed some sort of desire to live by the things they are learning in this book."
The tuition for next year will be $7,900 which includes housing, food, Bible study software and high-speed Internet. The school offers housing for singles, married couples and families. Housing includes a bed, desk and chair per student, closet and drawer space and a full bathroom.
"Our average over the years is seven students. We usually have between seven and 12. We would love to have 15 to 20 students but its a tough thing to ask someone to commit to," Phillips said. "It's about 40 hours of studying a week and you have to spend time studying the text. The bulk of the program is individual study."
However, former student Anna Lauren Schumpert, 20, says that the outcome of the program is worth the time and the tuition. She came from Alabama to attend.
"For me, I came here because of growing up in the Bible belt. If I was going to say that I believed this, I wanted to know the motives behind my actions," Schumpert said. "The best part is just the community behind it. The staff invests in the relationships and there is constant encouragement. They want to make sure you are learning and growing."
Phillips and Ives both agree that the school's students graduate will all of the knowledge and skills they need to interpret the Bible for themselves.
"What an awesome gift to be able to sit in church and hear a good person preach something unbiblical and know it's not accurate and not line their life for it," Phillips said. "Our students have a foundation to filter that stuff. It's an invaluable skill. We want them to understand what the text means to the original reader and how we can translate that today."
The school will be holding a free event with Dr. David Hansen on Tuesday, Feb. 4 that is open to the public. Hansen is a biblical archaeologist and taught at Penn State University and the U.S. Army War College. He will be speaking on the book of Joshua and the Exodus event.
For questions about the event or the school email Tom Phillips at email@example.com or call 828-625-4673. You can also visit http://www.esbsonline.org. The school is located at 207 Charlotte Drive Lake Lure, NC 28746.