At last, the Lutheran Brethren Discipleship Institute (LBDI) is online. After three and a half years in development, LBDI now provides Bible and ministry resources. Many more courses will become available as they are developed. The first courses are now online for you to investigate.

The mission of LBDI is “To serve the Church and the world by equipping members of the body of Christ to be disciples of Christ who are carrying out His Great Commission.”

The primary objectives for the students participating in LBDI are to:

  • Apply Scriptural precepts in their daily lives based on a working knowledge of the Bible
  • Develop the skills to do ministry in the body of Christ and in the world they interact with on a daily basis
  • Develop biblically-based convictions of the truths of Scripture
  • Exhibit the character traits of a follower of Christ as the Holy Spirit produces growth in their lives

LBDI offers online courses that can be self-paced. The student can take them quickly or slowly. In order to make the learning experience as effective as possible each student is strongly encouraged to identify a local mentor who will help them integrate the learning into their lives. This mentor will be chosen by the student with the help of the student’s pastor or elder.

In a discipleship program like this it is important to understand that the mentor-student relationship mirrors the way Jesus interacted with his disciples. Learning that results in a changed life does not often come from books alone. As important as books are in transmitting knowledge, discipleship is not only knowledge, but knowledge applied in the crucible of life with a mentor sharing their life and experience with the student. A student can take a course in one of three ways:

  • As an individual student with a local mentor
  • As a member of a church cohort with a leader/mentor
  • As an independent-study student, without a mentor
  • The third method is available in circumstances in which it is not possible to find a mentor.

In an educational setting a cohort is a group of learners who are taking a course together. A cohort in LBDI has all the benefits of taking a course with a local mentor plus the additional benefit of also learning from others. The leader of the cohort is a person who not only schedules the meetings, but also functions as a mentor to the cohort. Within each course module, the students will work at their own pace. But they will complete the module work before the cohort meets with the leader to work through the discussion questions at the end of each module.

These courses could also be used in a small group setting or an adult Sunday School class. In these cases, the teacher could show the video at the beginning of the class and then lead the students through the discussion questions. If the course has a textbook, the students could all get the book and read the assigned sections before each meeting of the class or small group.

LBDI  course material is geared toward the community-college learning level, so these courses should be appropriate for anyone from late-teens to senior citizens. In each class the learning outcomes will be clearly stated. The learning resources will consist of videos prepared by the instructors and carefully chosen textbooks. The textbooks will help the students learn now, and also serve as resources for their future ministry. Learning will be reinforced and assessed by discussion questions provided after each course segment, that the student can discuss with their mentor.

Each  course will consist of four to eight modules designed for about two to four hours of watching, reading, and discussion question engagement. Each module is expected to be normally completed in a week, although the student can proceed at whatever speed works for them. After a course is completed the mentor will inform LBDI and the student will receive a completion certificate for the course.

As we launch LBDI publicly, we have four courses to offer: 

  • Reading and Understanding the Bible, prepared by Dr. Pribbenow
  • New Testament Survey, prepared by Dr. Berge
  • Elder Training, prepared by Dr. Boe and Rev. Egge
  • Introduction to Mentoring, prepared by Dr. Bjerkaas

We have been piloting these courses during the past few months. The New Testament Survey course has been used in an adult Sunday School class. The Reading and Understanding the Bible course has been used in a men’s small group. Two churches are using the Elder Training course with their elder boards, and four other churches are planning to do so very soon.

Tim Mathiesen used the Reading and Understanding the Bible course with a small group of men at Bethel Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. What follows are Tim’s responses to questions about his experience.

How did you use the LBDI course in your small group?

Three of us from my men’s small group committed to going through Professor Brad Pribbenow’s LBDI class Reading and Understanding the Bible. We used each other in place of the mentor role and processed the questions and exercises together on Wednesday mornings.

How did the members of the group respond to the course?

Since all of us grew up in Christian families, and read our Bibles on a regular basis, we approached the class with a little bit of pride, I guess. But we quickly realized that we had a lot to learn. It was good to learn how to approach God’s Word in a comprehensive way. We learned the basics, from how the books of the Bible are laid out, all the way to best practices on how to lead a Bible study.

What was the overall effect of the course on the small group members? Was it different than you expected?

We expected to walk away from this course ready to give the seminary helpful feedback on the user experience, the format and the content of the course. We did that, but we also learned much about the beauty of God’s Word and how to effectively study and teach it. That’s the wonderful thing about the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. We hold God’s Word as our highest authority, understanding that it’s a living book, and we are invited by God to daily live in it. The Bible is so much more than words on a page. I think our small group realized that growing up reading the Bible caused us to, in some ways, take it for granted—lose some of the wonder. This course reminded us of the depth and beauty of that wonder.

Courses in the planning stages are:

  • Worship Leading
  • A three-course Old Testament Survey
  • Evangelism
  • Preaching

Other courses planned for the future are:

  • Disciple-making
  • Church History
  • CLB History
  • Systematic Theology courses
  • CLB Statement of Faith
  • Ethics
  • Youth Ministry
  • Sunday School Teaching
  • Other Ministry Skill-related courses

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Bjerkaas: [email protected]

Dr. Allan Bjerkaas Ph.D. serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as director of distance education at Lutheran Brethren Seminary.
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