Highland College

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rayburnIt was on this day, January 5, 1990, that the Rev. Dr. Robert Gibson Rayburn died. Dr. Rayburn had most notably served as the first president of the Covenant Theological Seminary, from its inception until 1977. Previously he had served as president of Highland College, Pasadena, California, as an Army chaplain, and as pastor of churches in Nebraska, Texas, Illinois and Missouri.

The following message is excerpted from Koinonia: The Organ of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Roorkee, U-P, India, vol. 4, no. 2 (April 1978), pages 1-3.

The Place of Preaching

by Dr. Robert G. Rayburn

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in his recent book called Preachers and Preaching states in the opening paragraph his conviction that “the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” He then goes on to say that the primary task of the Church, and of every Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.

I would like to go a step beyond Dr.Lloyd-Jones’ statement and say that not only for the Christian minister, but also for every individual Christian the preaching (proclama­tion) of the Word of God itself is, next to his worship, his primary task.

We live in a day when evangelicals are placing more and more stress on the social implications of the gospel. One cannot read the Scriptures without agreeing that those implications are there. But such implications do not give us the direction for our primary emphasis.

Our Lord Himself has given us the great example and pattern for our lives. He was deeply concerned with the physical and material need of men. He performed many miracles of healing.  He never ignored the physical needs of those who came to Him for help.  But He did not come to heal the sick, to open the eyes of the blind, or to give soundness to the limbs of crippled men. He came to save the lost.  His own words were:  “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19 : 10). That which He considered primary is clearly evident when the four men brought their sick friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof of the house. The Lord was preach­ing there; He was undoubtedly preaching about saving faith in Him. When He saw the faith of the four men His first words to the paralytic were, “Son, your sins are for­given.” This was the matter of first impor­tance. Then, however, when questioned by the scribes about His power to forgive, He said, “That ye may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home,” and the man was healed.  Salvation was first; healing second.

Not only, however, do we learn of the primacy of preaching from our Lord. It is evident in ths lives of the Apostles, and also in the practice of the early Church. As soon as the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost they began not to heal the sick nor to aid the poor, but to preach the gospel of salvation. Peter’s great sermon on that occasion is preserved for us in part. It must be pointed out that as soon as people began coming to Christ and being converted by the thousands, the authorities did everything they could to stop these men from preaching.  There was not a word of complaint about the miracles of healing they had performed.  Thev were forbidden to preach!  “Speak no more henceforth in His name” (Acts 4:18 and 5:40)

In Acts 8 we read that there was a great persecution. This came, of course, because of their preaching! Then they were all scattered, except the Apostles, and “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word”. This was not the Apostles; it was the company of believers. They were not preaching in a formal way from a pulpit as our pastors do today. Theirs was the kind of preaching which every earnest Christian is responsible to carry on.

We speak a great deal about witnessing today. We usually mean giving our own personal testimony concerning the Lord’s work in our hearts. This is important, but something more than this is before us in Acts 8. The believers were telling the good news of salvation through Christ. Every one of us must be equipped to convey clearly and forcefully the message from God which we call the gospel.

It is not enough for us just to study the Bible and learn what its message is. To understand its fulness requires a lifetime of study. But the very heart of the message is the divine program of redemption, of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To preach this message clearly, simply, appealingly, accurately and faithfully is the responsibility of every believer and we all should make sure we are prepared for this high task. True preaching ought not only to instruct the hearers in Biblical truth, but it also should bring men and women face to face with their own need in the light of the realities of sin and guilt, salvation and eternal  life and then it should appeal to them to trust God and obey Him. Many who read these words will never be called of God to be professional preachers.  However, if you are a true believer and are obedient to Christ you will have a great desire to obey Him with respect to preaching the gospel and you will take steps to perfect your knowledge of and ability to declare the gospel.

If you are concerned to please God in your preaching you will be careful to make your preaching pre-eminently evangelistic. By this I mean that you will be continually presenting a Saviour to sinful men. No ordained minister has a nobler function than this. Jesus came to save sinner’s, to preach the gospel to the poor. To be evangelical one does not need to be traditional, but he must be informed and intelligent.

Remember that the Gospel is not a nice message for some men. It is an absolute necessity for all men! Why? Because of human sin, sorrow and suffering, not because of social inequalities and the frustrations and failures of human relationships. That which is behind all social problems of every age is sin. The message that we preach then must be a message which offers salvation from sin. We do not need to prove that there is sin in the world. Conscience, experience, and history prove that well enough. What is necessary, however, is convincing men who want to deny it that their own sinfulness is so severe that their only hope is receiving the salvation God has provided through the shed blood of His Son.

In trying to convince men of their sin it is not wisest to pick out such sins as drunken­ness, dishonesty and adultery to get men to see their personal sinfulness. Emphasizing such sins may leave some without any sense of guilt. What we must show men is the secrecy, the subtlety of sin, its ability to appear attractive and harmless. Our Lord’s most severe words were not addressed to the drunkards nor to the adulterers, but to people who were respected for their outward moral­ity and religiousness, while their hearts were unclean. To be more concerned with per­sonal success, prosperity and pleasure than bringing glory to God, that is sin! To harbor in our hearts attitudes of antagonism and animosity for others, and a willingness to see them lose out if we can gain by their loss, this is evil! Anything which is contrary to the holy character of God is sin.

Of course, if we are to be truly evangelical we must be able, having aroused men to a consciousness of sin, to make clear and win­some the nature of salvation by showing them the love of God the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because man is a helpless, hopeless sinner, salvation, if it is a true and adequate salvation, must make him right with God. If he sees himself in his sin he must also see how completely God has provided the remedy for his sin through the blood of His Son.

If you are going to be faithful to your task of preaching the Gospel, a few worn cliches will never serve adequately to present to dying men the wonders of God’s great salvation. May you give yourself whole­heartedly to the task of being prepared to preach with power.

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highland_ college_1953

When the Bible Presbyterian denomination was formed in 1938, they consciously chose to have all of their associated agencies, schools, and mission boards established as separate, independent organizations. It was sort of like “every egg in a separate basket” — in case one work went bad, the chance of affecting the others was minimized.

In 1950, Rev. Clyde Kennedy was the leading force in establishing Highland College in Pasadena, California. The former Annandale Country Club property was purchased, and Rev. Kennedy began to promote the school. Somehow the school struggled through the first two years, and by the fall of 1952, Dr. Robert G. Rayburn, recently returned from the chaplaincy in Korea, was hired as a full-time president. As more students began to enroll, things were finally looking up for the school.

rayburn_highland_1953But Rayburn was a man of honor and conviction. He ran a tight ship and he expected the same of others. He became aware of improprieties in the management of the American Council of Christian Churches, another BPC-related agency. He began to speak to others in the BPC about those problems, and that in turn brought conflict with some of the denominational leaders. Eventually Dr. Rayburn lost the battle and the Trustees of Highland College dismissed both he and his registrar, Rudy Schmidt, on March 1, 1955.

Half-way across the country in Iowa, the Rev. Max Belz heard about the problem. Belz was the founder of the Cono Christian School. His papers are preserved at the PCA Historical Center, and from all I’ve seen of him, he has my respect and admiration. He was a wise Christian.

Belz wrote these words of counsel to his friend Rayburn:

“Rudy called to tell me that you were no longer President of Highland College, and that he was no longer Registrar. This is most disturbing news. I am wondering  if there is anything I can do to help in the situation. I know that you must be in financial straits, but that is also our situation. Letters have come in from several different directions expressing deep concern, and our people are upset. The sympathy, of course, goes to you and Rudy. Everyone who writes to me seems to expect me to take sides with you and Rudy. I do, of course, but I am not free to enter this thing with both fists swinging because, after all, I assume that the board at Highland has a right to dismiss the President and anyone else they choose to dismiss. Furthermore, I doubt if you, yourself, desire that any intra-Synod strife should come from this.

“Surely now is not the time for any of us to descend to the childish device of saying ‘I’ll quit if I can’t have my way.’ I am always tempted in that direction; but I am a part of the Church, and I know I must never leave it unless it becomes an unequal yoke with unbelievers.

“Perhaps you will not agree, but I think, Brother Bob, that you and Rudy and the others out at Highland are experiencing the bitter results of an error in which we are all involved. We have permitted Highland, (and others) to grow up outside the actual jurisdiction of Synod, and thus the steadying balance of the whole body is lost. I believe we must all soon face the issue as to whether we want our agencies to be independent or whether we want them to be subject to the Synod. Now, I do not have boundless confidence in our Synod, but I am committed to it in the name of Christ; and I am not committed to any other visible body, individual, or clique. I believe this bitter experience at Highland should make us all more determined than ever to build a Bible Presbyterian Church that is truly Presbyterian.

“Right now I want to do anything I can to help you, and help the cause. Shall I sit still? Shall we get busy with the printing press and linotype and editorialize the Synod by mail? Shall we gird for the battle in St. Louis [site of the next Synod meeting], where it appears that we shall be forced into conflict with men we love in the Lord? Shall we conclude that they are determined to oust us, and go down into the arena with them, or shall we bide our time, commit the whole thing to the Lord, and keep a tight rein on our tongues?

“I have a deep feeling that the latter course is the best, but perhaps you have a different view.”

Words to Live By:
And so far as I can discover, that is how they conducted themselves–with honor and with love for their brothers in Christ. Regrettably the denomination split that summer in 1955, but on the positive side, Rayburn and others were able to quickly establish the school that became Covenant College. After one semester, property was located in St. Louis. Then a year later, Covenant Theological Seminary was also established.

The Rayburn/Schaeffer/Buswell side of the BPC split initially called themselves the Bible Presbyterian Church, Columbus Synod. After four years they changed the name to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Then in 1965, that group merged with a small denomination called the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod. The denomination created in 1965 was the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and in 1982, the RPCES became a part of the Presbyterian Church in America.

When the PCA meets annually in General Assembly, at the close of Assembly each year, we sing Psalm 133. But it wasn’t always that way. We used to follow the practice of the Church we had left. The Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern) would sing most anything. And some of the choices were atrocious! It was only with the reception of the RPCES that we began the tradition of singing Psalm 133. It had been a tradition with the RPCES since 1965. More importantly, it had been a tradition with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod since 1833! For you see, it was in 1833 that the Reformed Presbyterian Church suffered a division, creating the Synod (today’s RPCNA) and the General Synod. In singing Psalm 133 we affirm and pray that God would preserve the unity that we have in Christ. But in our singing, there is also an element of repentance, looking back in sorrow at divisions past, praying that in the mercy and grace of Christ our Lord, that one day those divisions will surely be mended.

Behold how good a thing it is,
And how becoming well
Together such as brethren are
In Unity to dwell.

Like precious ointment on the head,
That down the beard did flow,
Ev’n Aaron’s beard and to the skirts
Did of his garments go.

As Hermon’s dew, the dew that doth
On Zion’s hill descend,
For there the blessing God commends,
Life that shall never end.

 

Bonus Extra (no charge!, and thanks for sticking with us; this was a long post today):
Below is an image scan of the Commencement bulletin for Highland College in May of 1954.
On this occasion, the Rev. Francis Schaeffer brought the Commencement Address, titled “In the Spiritual Seat”.
At that same Commencement, Highland College awarded Schaeffer the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
Later in 1971, Gordon College presented Dr. Schaeffer with the Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree.

highland_commencement_1954

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