I have a daughter heading off to Taylor University in August, so college is on my mind. I'm thinking about all kind of college-things that don't normally cross my mind, like campus safety, tuition, financial aid, programs and degrees, athletics, and college boys. Every now and then, someone asks me why I didn't choose to go to college. When I graduated high school in 1985, I was convinced God was calling me to full-time ministry but was unsure where that would lead me. I couldn’t figure out my long-term future—but knew without doubt what I was supposed to do for the next year. And that was to join an organization called Life Action Ministries. Even though I was barely 18 when I left home and arrived at their training camp, God launched me into a practical educational and spiritual journey that hasn’t stopped. Within a few months, I was moved into a leadership position, then another and another. By the end of my second year with that organization, I felt I needed to make a decision: Am I going to pursue a degree? Or am I going to continue to grow in my leadership at this organization? I sought counsel from many people who knew me well—and over and over I got the same advice: “Tim, you are a self-starter and a voracious learner. You don’t need the structure of a formal education to learn or accomplish your life goals.”
And so I made that decision, as a 20-year old, to not pursue formal education. I stayed with Life Action for nine years—and then joined the staff at Granger Community Church in 1994 when around 300 people were attending. At the time, Mark Beeson was working on his doctoral degree, yet he never questioned my decision to go without a college education. He just asked me to come along beside him and help lead the church into the future.
Now we have more than 70 on our staff team, many with undergraduate, masters’ and even doctoral degrees. The books I've written have been used as textbooks in at least eight different colleges or seminaries, and I've had several opportunities to speak on college campuses (I'll be at Central Methodist University next month, and at Bethel College in July).
I don't say that to brag--but to make a point that it is more important to follow what God tells you to do than the prescribed path of culture or religious tradition. I've never regretted my decision to skip college. It is exactly what I was supposed to do. I've been asked whether I tell my kids they have to go to college. I think most kids today graduate high school and would benefit from the structure, learning, and social environments of college. But I will not make any of my kids go to college. I will encourage them to follow God. And that might not lead to college.