Riverside Church

Former Gang Member Ministers in Prison, Starts a Church, and Runs a Bible School (Part 2)

STILLWATER, MN (ANS) – A small church in Stillwater, Minnesota, started a simple Bible study in 1996 which has been the launching pad for an international Bible school in several countries around the world.

Beginning as “a Bible study with meat on,” called Arming For Battle Bible, the study has morphed over the years into a missionary training Bible school named CLIMB – Christian Leadership Institute of Minnesota and Beyond (www.climbschool.com), which has sites in Uganda, Kenya, Mexico, Haiti, India, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Rev. Bill Hieb, whose Riverside Church in Stillwater, MN, started the study which became an international missionary training school, told ASSIST News: “CLIMB is actually something that we started back in 1996. It was basically a Bible study that we wanted to put some meat on, and we wanted to instruct and disciple the congregation about the church’s statement of faith and the doctrines of belief. And Arming For Battle Bible was the first name we gave it.”

Hieb named it Arming For Battle Bible, “so that we could get people to come for more instruction and lecture, as opposed to Bible study and fellowship. And it kind of expanded from there.

“We’ve had excellent records from the beginning, so we thought ‘hey this is working out great.’ And then we started it as a Bible school that turned into a missions training because we were taking a lot of people on missions trips who didn’t understand missions theology, and we wanted to train them cross-culturally on how to rough it and be involved in missions. So it was kind of a combination of missions and academic Bible study that became a school.”

Hieb said the CLIMB School idea came out of The Philippines. “We felt that it would be advantageous for us to create a curriculum that would give the ministers a foundation for preparation and church planting and for spreading the Word of God. It’s not a financial experiment for us at all in terms of income. But it is in terms of spreading the Word of God.”

It wasn’t very long after that where CLIMB started to pile up the credits, disseminate associates versus biblical certificates and what was required and what was important for the school to teach, Hieb said. “And we found out that our international friends had no education and that their conversion was as a result of a Gospel tract and that there were people in Malawi that were operating as ministers with little or no doctrinal training at all other than an evangelistic zeal. ‘Zeal without knowledge.’ the Bible says, ‘is not good.’ So, being of the charismatic persuasion I always felt that we were woefully inadequate theologically. So I was studying a lot of different Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, writers — all of the different schools of charismatic teachings — and I just felt that they were less than biblical from my perspective. And being a charismatic in expression, I wasn’t able to legitimately defend a lot of the teachings that we had embraced ‘by faith.’ So after a lot of prayer and study and debate — some good, some bad in terms of division or disunity, I guess you know this is something I’ve paid a dear price for — to develop a theological position that is defendable, that is apologetic, that can have both ‘the baby and the bath water’ in the sense that you can be charismatic, but you also need to be biblically sound.”

Hieb considers himself to be a ‘reformed Charismatic’ or a ‘charismatic Reformed’ in theological terms.

“You can call it anything you want. There are certain aspects of Reformed theological teaching that I don’t agree with, but as a whole I think the Reformation and the five Solae are incredibly important to me. That would be faith alone, grace alone, the word alone, Christ alone, and his glory alone. And so those Solae of scripture are very important to me and are key foundational principles and teachings for me and for the church. They come from the Reformation teachings out of the 1500s with gentlemen like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, Jan Huss, Jonathan Edwards, John Owens, Charles Spurgeon. But you know my eschatology is a little different maybe than theirs, my understanding of the Holy Spirit is a little different. Maybe not the Holy Spirit per se, but the work of the Holy Spirit — but I’m not going to compete or argue with any of them. I like to read the books of dead men — they can’t seem to make any more mistakes! I certainly haven’t written a book and don’t intend to!”

Hieb said CLIMB has an entire four-year curriculum that he has condensed down to 300 hours of training, a hundred-fifty for a certificate and three-hundred for a diploma.

“We’ve got this course in ten languages and we make it available for free,” said Hieb.

“So missionaries love the school because we give it to them on CD and they take it around the world and they develop their own instructors, they develop their own fee structure. It’s their school because they’re the ‘beyond’ in CLIMB. We’re the Christian Leadership of Minnesota who provides curriculum for the regions ‘beyond.’ And the only thing that we ask is that they give us occasional reports on how they are doing, is the school developing, have you graduated anybody, is there anything we can help with? The schools are flourishing especially in the prisons in Kenya. The Kenyan authorities have embraced the school to such an extent that their staff officers and administrators are actually taking the school separate from the prisoners.”

Hieb said the vice-president of Kenya is very much aware of what CLIMB is doing and soon the Kenyan site will be graduating 425 students at two levels: the hundred-fifty hour certificate, and the additional hundred-fifty hours of diploma.

“We have a twenty-hour counseling course that we provide also for them to learn how to counsel. It has impacted that prison so much that there is very little violence in the prison. The guards are able to travel without security. The men are worshiping daily. The families are elated. The government is showing mercy and favor in releasing people early,” Hieb said.

“I understand that there have even been men who were on Death Row who were released because of their conversion experience who realized the call they now have on their life. The parole board just sat down with them and said ‘we’re not going to kill you, as a matter of fact we’re going to release you.’ And these are documented on our YouTube site.”

Hieb continued: “We also have a follow up program in Kenya where when they get out of prison, if they don’t have a valid support system, they go and live with the ministers of the churches and they get raised up as associates and live there with the pastors, or they might sleep at the church or different places where they’re being trained to go out and plant their own churches.”

Hieb stated: “In Guatemala, our bible college had maybe twenty, thirty men in it and there were no women there in that school and I was curious about that. And I asked the pastor and he said it’s not a discrimination thing — he said they can’t afford it. So I said what does it cost? He gave me a number and I said you mean to say that I can put ten girls through school for $500 dollars through our Bible college? He said yeah, but they don’t have the fifty dollars. He said we have to pay our instructors and pay for the use of the building. I said I’ll give you $500 right now. I want to see ten girls in the school graduating next January when I return.

“They wrote me a couple months ago and said two or three of the girls had dropped out, but there are women in the school that will be graduating. They’re looking forward to seeing us. So we’ll be going down on January 23 and we’ll be meeting with 600 pastors doing a conference and promoting the school. The school internationally is phenomenal — it’s so big that we can’t even keep track of it!”

Hieb went on to say that the CLIMB School is growing exponentially elsewhere, too.

“In the Philippines, we’re getting registered with the government and that’s going to turn and morph into a seminary. So again, you know, we’ve never tried to make money at it. We don’t believe that that’s what we’re here for. We believe that God ‘will provide all our needs according to his riches in glory,’ and He has. And every now and then, when there is a need, when you need ten girls to go to school — whether it’s in the Philippines or Guatemala or Mexico — somehow God provides the money and $500 comes in and we Western Union it over for ten bucks and everything’s fine.”

Hieb has “a lot of plans” for the school. “Right now, we’re trying to expand the school locally in the Minnesota region, in particular Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the beauty of the school is that it doesn’t have to be taught from a Reformed perspective. We simply provide the curriculum. You can put your various bent or twist or color into the material as you so choose. We don’t require that you teach it from our perspective. That’s the beauty of the school. It’s mobile, and it fits your ministry. It’s not a canned workbook that we give you that we say that you must follow, not at all.

“We have plans to go online and make our education available that way, too. Another nice thing is that we provide a Masters divinity program and a Doctoral program, where a lot of other similar Bible schools do not. And this is purely Christian. The only thing outside of accepting missions credits which we do is a language course, everything else has to be Bible-based.”

Hieb also said CLIMB has a medical missionary program that is a unique wing of its missions program.

“We provide an education in missions if somebody is medically-oriented. This is probably because I’m medically sensitive. I still read medical books, and I

love to watch television when they’re doing heart transplants; I just get excited at at that…!! It’s fascinating, and because medical misions issues have been so much a part of my background, that has become an important part of the DNA stamp that we have at the School.”

Hieb added: “I got done watching cataract surgery and foolishly I remember saying ‘I could do that.’ But I went to a village medical school where I was trained to diagnose tropical diseases, and it was a very intense medical training — two solid weeks from early in the morning to late at night with emergency medical training — which was very exciting. So I keep up on my first aid, and my CPR, and my joy is to someday deliver a baby. When we were young and having children men sat out in the waiting room sleeping, smoking cigars. In those days they didn’t let us anywhere near the cord. Of course we probably had too much to drink anyway!”

Hieb said that because his early life was filled with violence, he’s lived a life of being on the cutting edge of life and death from his youngest days, and that one of his biggest fears as a young man was knowing that he was one day going to die, (see: Former Gang Member Ministers in Prison, Starts a Church, and Runs a Bible School http://www.assistnews.net/STORIES/2013/s13010029.htm)

“I would lay in bed at night crying, wondering why He had even created me, because that one day I was just going to have to die. It didn’t make any sense. And now that I’ve come to know Christ, my life is no longer important. I’m no longer afraid to die, matter of fact I welcome it. I know that my life is hidden with Christ in God.”

He concluded: “I don’t live recklessly — I’m methodical, I’m on a mission — and my whole life at this point and hopefully forever more is focused on pleasing God, serving him and loving him. And what I want to be able to do is to have a profound impact on the lives of the people around me, that they would one day testify of me that ‘he walked with God.’ And for me, that’s the only legacy that I ever care about is that I knew God and that He knew me and that He loved me first. And so I always tell people, ‘lay it down, pick up the Cross and follow Him.’”

What would you like to say to those who are interested in CLIMB School or getting more information about it?

“Contact our website at www.Climbschool.com. One of our staff members will return the call. We can help, we want to help, we’re willing to help. You can get your education to spread the Word, whether you’re a missionary or whether you want to have a CLIMB campus in your local church. We’ll do anything and everything we can to help you be successful.”

**ANS would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.

By Michael Ireland
Special Reporter, ASSIST News Service.
Article Originally published at http://www.assistnews.net/stories/2013/s13010029.htm on January 7th, 2013.