Calvary Bible Institute

Discipled in the Desert
Calvary Bible institute Places graduates in ministry positions

Calvary Bible Institute places graduates in ministry positions.

Story by Margot Bass
Photos by Micah Martin

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1b

Noah Templeton was flying to a job interview at a Calvary Chapel in Idaho when he received a text: When you arrive, can you teach in the place of a pastor whose flight has been delayed? The 22-year-old Calvary Bible Institute (CBI) student from Shaver Lake, CA, immediately pulled his Bible out of his backpack and prepared a teaching on Psalm 6. “I always have my Bible with me in case there’s ever an opportunity to share or teach on the go. [My Bible] notes are all ready for me so I can understand what’s going on in the chapter,” he stated. His Bible contains his personal, hand-written commentary in its wide margins, pulled together over his 10 months of training at CBI. All students at the school create their own commentaries by taking notes from class lectures and the recorded teachings of CC Founder Chuck Smith.

Nathan Sander, a CBI student, teaches Sunday school at Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel as part of his servanthood training.Noah is one of 27 students in CBI’s first graduating class. Sponsored by the Calvary Chapel Association (CCA) and located in the desert area of Yucca Valley, CA, CBI opened its doors in August 2017 in a renovated rest home near Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel. “I’m having the time of my life helping raise up the next generation of CC pastors and leaders,” said Jerel Hagerman, CBI director and senior pastor at Joshua Springs CC. “It’s like Moses raising up Joshua, what Jesus did with the disciples, and what Paul did with Titus and Timothy—to have sons and daughters in the faith who are going to carry the torch into the next generation.”

For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12

Some of the graduating students have been placed in churches or on mission fields in California, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Ireland, and Mexico. Others are returning to intern at CBI for another year and work toward a bachelor’s degree online with Calvary Chapel University.

Jerel explained that the school can serve churches in two ways: Pastors can request a trained intern or send a young adult for education in ministry. “What’s great is that a 10-month program makes it a short time to lose someone valuable to you right now,” he said. “Because it’s a compressed program, students are busy all day long, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.” All students take Bible classes; young men also study pastoral ministry while young ladies study women’s ministry. After classes, they spend the day in personal devotions and serving at Joshua Springs CC or other nearby churches.


Valuable Input from Calvary Chapel Pastors

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1

Students learn from experienced Calvary Chapel pastors who teach every week and from visiting pastors who teach for shorter times. “Lots of people can teach the Bible,” said Jarrod Coburn, 19, from Cathedral City, CA. “What I really love about CBI is the teachers who offer insights to us. They tell us stories that are unique to them that I really couldn’t get anywhere else. Hearing stories of pastors who have gone through hardship helps me know what I’m getting into. That way I’m not surprised and shaken when it comes my way.” He will intern at his home church, The Bridge CC in Cathedral City, CA.

Student Danny Hartlerode (right) prays for a homeless man he met at a fast food restaurant.Steven White, 23, of Twin Falls, ID, related, “We’re constantly fed the Word and poured into by many well respected pastors. They’re willing to spend their time with a bunch of kids who want to serve the Lord. It taught me to do the same for others.” Steven will intern at Wildwood CC, Yucaipa, CA.

“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9

Orange County, CA, native AJ Nevils, 27, appreciates the pastors’ wisdom: “Their stories about actual ministry have blown my mind. What’s most encouraging is knowing that they are faithfully serving the Lord.” He will serve at CC Stone Mountain, GA.

Not all students will become pastors. Leslie Gonzalez, 25, of Dana Point, CA, will teach at a small Christian private school at CC Teton Valley in Driggs, ID. She recounted, “We were taught the Bible, but also so many practical things the pastors said they wished they had been told along the way. We were so inspired by the way they gave of themselves to us. They love and believe in us so much.”

“We were so inspired by the way they gave of themselves to us. They love and believe in us so much.”

Growing in Wisdom and Prayer

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Jarrod Coburn described himself as zealous about his faith before attending CBI. “But I was walking blind. I believed what my pastor said because he was my pastor. If I heard it on K-WAVE (a Christian radio station), I believed it. And I didn’t really go too much deeper into it,” he admitted. He now has a greater understanding of Scripture. “It matters because when we blindly follow what other people believe, we leave a huge hole for the enemy to come in.”

Elijah Walling, 18, from Apple Valley, CA, found a firm foundation in Scripture at CBI. “I’ve learned so much this past year studying the Bible from Genesis to Revelation,” he said. He will serve as an intern at CC Oakland County, MI; his work will include outreaches to nearby Detroit.

CBI registrar David Enos (left) shows prospective students the CBI campus at Joshua Springs CC. New students enter in January or August.

Steven White came to CBI after attending Joshua Springs Bible College, a smaller program offered by the church. “I definitely was on fire for the Lord, but I didn’t have a firm grasp of foundational beliefs, like salvation,” he explained. While at CBI, he sensed God’s call to become a pastor. “My prayer and devotional times are so much better. I feel like I can talk to God because I understand His Word more.”

Although Rachael Williams had previously served on the mission field with her parents in England, her relationship with God became her own at CBI. The 25-year-old from Idaho, born in England, said she better understands the Bible because of the verse-by-verse teaching. Before CBI, her relationship with God was based more on her parents’ relationship with Him. “He [God] is now my best Friend, and I talk to Him by myself. I share Him with everyone else as well.” Rachael will join CC missionaries in Ireland to work in children’s ministry.

Rickey Vega, 21, of CC Moreno Valley, CA, fully surrendered his life to Christ at CBI. “I had been putting on a face, but later I took my faith as my own and really pursued Christ.” The biggest change occurred in his prayer life. “I’ve gone from praying irregularly to consistently meeting and talking with God. All day, every day, I’m praying in my mind.” He will go to CC Fellowship of Foley, AL, to take over the youth ministry.

Real Life Ministry

“Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. … Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26b, 28

Student Jarrod Coburn cautioned potential students about the rigorous schedule and hard work. “The schedule is set up to reflect a senior pastor’s schedule—very long and taxing.” Students must learn to schedule their days to complete all their tasks.

They spend hours outside class in many roles—including serving at nearby Calvary Chapels, CC Joshua Springs’ thrift shop and the community food bank. They have ministered to local first responders and children with special needs. CBI students learn trade and maintenance skills—painting, laying tile and artificial grass, installing drywall, and performing general maintenance. “These work skills help you when you plant a church,” Pastor Jerel Hagerman pointed out.

Students look at photos of their graduating class; many went directly into ministry roles. Left to right: Rickey Vega, Jarrod Coburn, Danny Hartlerode, Rachael Williams, and Tiffany Greager.Leslie Gonzalez confessed, “I kind of freaked out my first day at CBI when they explained how involved we were going to be at CC Joshua Springs. They want you to be fully in—your heart, your mind. I had to open up fully and give of myself completely. You would think it would be super overwhelming, but it wasn’t. It was perfect.”

Noah Woods, 18, from West Virginia, will serve in children’s ministry at CC Brownsville, PA. “CBI provided practical, thrown-in-the-fire ministry. It helped me to see what my calling was and how to communicate with little kids. It’s a lot harder than people think.”

Steven White learned to speak from a pulpit, even conducting a mock funeral. “That’s the beauty of this place. I came here expecting just to learn the Word, but I got thrown out of my comfort zone. God has us do things we don’t want to do because He knows we need to do it.”

Noah Templeton initially resented his mandatory work hours at the thrift shop. “But the Lord convicted me that I was not just working for Joshua Springs or my manager, but for Him,” he recalled. His attitude changed, and he was later able to encourage other students, telling them, “You don’t realize what a blessing you are to the thrift store staff and everyone who comes in.” Noah will continue working at Joshua Springs.

Elijah Walling gained experience with youth ministry and worship at Joshua Springs CC. “Coming, I perceived ministry almost as a business. I now realize that ministry is to edify believers, build up and pour into people, and grow the church community.” Elijah added, “One of the biggest things a pastor faces in ministry is letting pride build up. I definitely learned how important it is to be a servant.”

As graduates leave for new vocations, they are excited about what lies ahead for them and the school. “I feel like CBI is going to be a great movement of God for the world,” exclaimed Leslie Gonzalez.