When Lloyd Elkins received the call, he wasn't sure he could follow through.

"The Lord's calling me to be in the ministry," he said. "I could quit work and go to school full-time, but I can't afford it."

In answer to the requests of Elkins and other countians like him,the Rev. Donald W. Pickens of the First Assembly of God is creating a Bible institute.

"We had a lot of young people who wanted to enter Christian work and didn't have the money to go to college," said Pickens, who started a similar school at his former parish in Florida."So we are training them on a local level."

The fledgling institute will be offering two classes this semester -- the "Holy Spirit," taught by Gary "Pete" Puckett and "Old Testament Survey" with Steven Wingate.

"Old Testament Survey" will meet on Sunday beginning Feb. 24, and the "Holy Spirit" meets on Wednesday, starting Feb. 27. Registration is due Sunday; classes run for 20 weeks.

"We expect to increase the number of courses over a period of time," said Pickens. "They're equal to college courses, but we can't call ourselves a college because we're not accredited."

Taken in cooperation with the Berean Christian College in Springfield, Mo., classes will prepare students to work as pastors, missionaries or Sunday School teachers.

Berean, which also offers a Bible correspondence course, will provide the study plans and the textbooks, said Wingate, dean of the institute.

"(The classes are) training for ministerial students of any denomination," Pickens said. "Most of the courses will be taught strictlyon the basis of the Bible."

Puckett, who received a license to preach from Berean's correspondence school in 1984, said it took him three years to complete the course.

A former assistant pastor and currently a deacon at First Assembly of God, he eventually plans to study at a seminary.

Wingate -- a 1979 graduate of Wesley Seminary inWashington -- said classes will be taught on a college level for those interested in becoming pastors and a Bible institute level for people who simply want to work in the church.

"The college classes are designed to be home study, while the classroom is a discussion class to help you understand what you're learning," he said. "We're combining one class that would include some college-level students."

Institute students pay $30 for classes and text, while college-level students are charged $144 for a similar three-credit course and, in addition, must pay for books, Wingate said.

"There is an open-book test for the Bible institute, but the one for the college level would be proctored," he said.

Within the Assembly of God denomination, students must take eight classes to receive a Christian worker certificate. They take eight more to receive a license to preach and nine more for ordination, he said.

"To be an ordained minister, you must sense a call by God," Wingate said.

"After you've taken the specific courses, your pastor concurs that you have a calling and you've worked in your local assembly, then you are interviewed by the districtboard. They recommend or don't recommend you for ordination."

Information/registration: 848-8982 or 239-8453.

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