In the course of the outworking of God’s purposes on earth, He has often graciously brought individuals and organizations together in ways that serve the greater interests of His Kingdom. Such is the case with Montana Bible College (MBC) and Grace Bible Church of Bozeman (GBC). It was through the vision and dedication of godly men both in and outside of GBC, to initiate in 1987 the beginnings of an educational ministry to train young men and women for a lifetime of dynamic Christian living and service. This joint effort proved to be vital in those early days and subsequent decades in establishing the college on a good foundation. GBC has been a dependable and gracious benefactor to MBC by offering space for classes, chapels, meals, and special events as well as being a financial contributor. Our gratitude for their generosity cannot not be overstated. In turn, the leadership of the college afforded teaching opportunities for a significantly large number of staff and elders from GBC– a privilege which recognized the unique nature of this non-formal partnership. We also funneled students into GBC’s college-age and general church ministries. We look back and see much fruit from these years of working together.
Though many years of this relationship were remarkably harmonious, over the course of the last several years, there have been seasons of difficulty that have caused pain and struggle for all those involved. Strongly held differing perspectives related to educational philosophy, finer points of theology, and certain personnel decisions have strained the relationship. Many efforts have been made to bridge these gaps in an effort toward unity and reconciliation, but with limited success.
In May of 2019, the MBC board of directors made a decision to pursue facility independence, in order to better establish a clear identity for the Bible College as the independent institution that it has always been. It was also hoped that this would provide operational space for both ministries to function with their own unique distinctives without causing the other ministry to feel the need to explain the choices of its counterpart. In the long run, we believe that this can provide an even better relationship. This process was set in motion over the course of the last academic year by preparing space in one of MBC’s own buildings to house the administrative and academic offices of the college. Providentially, Grace was desiring additional space in their facility to house their growing biblical counseling ministry and this freed up the needed room. During the 2019 – 2020 academic year, Grace continued to generously provide facilities for offices, classrooms, chapel, and lunches to MBC at no cost. Arrangements to lease space for some of these activities during the coming academic year was under discussion.
In May of 2020, the board formulated guidelines for the administration related to understanding the eschatology portion of the doctrinal statement of the college. The wording of this section has a degree of vagueness to it that allows it to be read in more than one way, which has led to confusion and contention. The board determined to allow limited latitude in the understanding of its premillennial position, provided such positions maintain distinction between the church and Israel, expect the physical return of Jesus to either rapture then reign or rapture and reign, and teach a physical reign of Jesus on Earth. The board believes this is the position that best serves the needs of an independent Bible College that serves the larger evangelical community. It upholds the “literalness” of the Bible’s teaching on the return of Christ, while also recognizing that not all matters of eschatology are as clear as we would like prior to such events unfolding in real time. While making this adjustment, we remain firmly grounded in conservative biblical doctrine which the church historically has deemed essential.
There was no direct intention in this change to put distance between Grace Bible Church and MBC, but that was the result. The areas of difference have created enough discomfort for Grace Bible Church for them to see a need to move ahead with the finalization of facility separation at this time, and the leadership of the college concurs with this. Some of the adjunct and full-time faculty who are also a part of GBC have also chosen to resign. These separations are difficult, and we are grateful for the service of so many from Grace who have given of their time and gifts.
There are other areas of MBC doctrine that some claim have also changed recently. We do not agree with these assertions, but agree to disagree and move forward in a common desire to see disciples made for service in the church and reaching out to a lost world. If you would like further detail, please request a copy of the document entitled MBC Doctrine in Historical Perspective. This overview will be extremely helpful in answering any specific questions directly. The administration is also available to answer any other questions that you may have about MBC and our future direction.
While these events have been difficult, they have caused us to rely upon the Lord even more and to recognize the truth that ministry relationships can and do change to accommodate God’s specific plans. This is nowhere more evident than in Acts 15 where a strong disagreement between the apostle Paul and Barnabus was used by God to produce greater gospel fruit in two different spheres. We believe this will be the case for Montana Bible College and Grace Bible Church.
Being hopeful about our future, we are earnestly praying that God would use this change for His greater glory and the good of both respective ministries. We urge you to join us in prayer to this end.
Warmly in His Love,
Ryan Ward, President
Glen Schaumloeffel, Vice President of College Relations
William Grinder, Chairman of the Board