The original idea evolved into a “Bible Institute” under the leadership of Grace Fellowship UMC Teaching Pastor, Paul Helbig – a former teacher and key leader at the College of Biblical Studies in Houston, Texas. The church officially established a Bible Institute in 2008 to teach a series of lay courses covering all 66 books of the Bible. Classes were designed to be highly engaging and transformative, a joy and not a burden, taught by seminary-trained, credentialed instructors, and more intensive than typical Bible studies, but not quite as intense as a full-level seminary class. The original Bible Institute courses included Bible Study Methods, three Old Testament and three New Testament classes, and one missions class. Each course was one semester in length, and students generally met one night per week throughout a semester.
Exploration and Planning
The Bible Seminary became officially registered as Domestic Non-Profit Corporation in the state of Texas in Feburary 2010, and an IRS 501(c)(3) Charitable Institution of Higher Education in August 2010. The new Board officially named Dr. Jim Leggett President of The Bible Seminary, and hosted a fundraiser at Grace Fellowship in which more than 260 church members and friends committed in excess of $1,100,000 to help launch the seminary.
The passion for a vibrant Bible-based, Christ-centered, mission-focused training center for church laity and professional ministers began in the life and ministry of Dr. Jim Leggett, founder and senior pastor of Grace Fellowship United Methodist Church in Katy, Texas. Part of the church’s founding vision in 1996 included eventually creating a school offering seminary-level training to laity and initially visualized as a "Growth Institute."
Several key Grace Fellowship members began working diligently with Dr. Leggett and others to develop a graduate school as a separate, non-denominational, charitable, educational organization. The team selected a name – The Bible Seminary – and worked to establish bylaws, a Board of Trustees, core values, doctrines, ethos, financial support, incorporation in the state of Texas, institutional policies, and a program track for a three-year Master of Divinity degree aimed at attracting full-time, residential students. These tasks were completed or advanced significantly under the leadership of seminary Board Chair, Dan Dunham, and seminary Vice-President of Finance and Administration,
Founding The Bible Seminary
The Board launched a nationwide search for an Executive Vice-President/Provost. Dr. K. Lynn Lewis – a dynamic professional with more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneurial businessman, educator, fundraiser, and ministry leader – began serving TBS in July 2011. TBS received an exemption for its Master of Divinity program by the Texas Workforce Commission in March 2011, received a similar exemption from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in May 2011, officially transferred the Bible Institute from Grace Fellowship UMC to The Bible Seminary in July 2011, and began publicizing and recruiting students for a new, 32-course, 96-hour Master of Divinity graduate school program scheduled to launch the next fall. The first ten Bible Certificate students completed their course of study in December 2011, four years after taking their first class.
The graduate program launched with 12 inaugural students on September 4, 2012. Faculty included Dr. Lewis, Professor Helbig, and select adjunct professors. TBS received approval for Affiliate status with the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) in April 2012 which lasted until ABHE ended their affiliation program in July 2021.
First Graduate Class
The seminary began offering an expanded slate of classes and options for both the Bible Certificate and Master of Divinity programs, as well as a Biblical Leadership Series of monthly seminars on various topics.
Founding President, Dr. Jim Leggett, transitioned to a new role at the seminary in January 2014, and the Board of Trustees selected Dr. K. Lynn Lewis to serve as the new President. The seminary then launched a nationwide search for a new Provost (Chief Academic Officer), and in October 2014, Dr. Steve Adamson – a seasoned corporate and academic manager with worldwide experience – became the seminary’s new Provost.
TBS formally established a Master of Arts program, and developed a Dual Degree Completion option enabling those without a completed bachelor’s degree to enroll at TBS and graduate with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Seven Master of Divinity and one Master of Arts received the first-ever TBS graduate degrees on May 17, 2015. TBS added a Licensed Professional program in September 2015 enabling those without a bachelor’s degree to obtain core TBS graduate level education. The Bible Certificate program added Spanish language classes and received approval by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) in November 2015 to provide continuing education units for K-12 Christian education teachers.
First Graduate Degrees
The seminary began expanding course offerings into the northwest Houston region in association with churches and ministries in that area. By the end of the year, founding Professor Paul Helbig switched from full-time TBS employment to full-time disability leave due to health complications.
Additional Staff, Growth, and Recognition
The seminary hired a new Provost with 36 years of experience serving professionally as a pastor, principal, superintendent, professor, Development Director, teacher, coach, archaeologist, and more – Dr. Scott Stripling. TBS also hired a new full-time faculty member with an extensive background worldwide in educational administration, research, and teaching – Dr. Douglas Petrovich. TBS also implemented major revisions to the Bible Certificate program, added the “Bible Panorama” Bible Certificate course and “Biblical Archaeology” graduate course, and added new teaching sites in southwest Houston and in Luling, Texas. In December, TBS received recognition by the Knowledge Review as one of the "10 Most Preferred Divinity Schools for Religious Studies 2017."
TBS added four defined Master of Arts majors ranging from 48 to 60-credit hours, including Master of Arts in Biblical History and Archaeology (60-credit hours), Master of Arts in Biblical Languages and Culture (54-credit hours), Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (60-credit hours), and Master of Arts in Church History and Theology (48-credit hours). The Board also approved a reduction in the hours required to complete a Master of Divinity from 96-credit hours to 84-credit hours, as well as revised the Licensed Professional program requirements from 8 courses to 9 courses totaling 18-credit hours.
New Majors Added
The Bible Seminary became a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) by achieving Candidate Status as a Category III institution by the TRACS Accreditation Commission on April 16, 2019. Dr. Paul Nyquist, former President of Moody Bible Institute, joined the TBS administration full-time through 2019 as Dean of Graduate programs and Professor of Biblical Preaching, Leadership, and Theology. He moved to Adjunct Professor status in January 2020.
In January 2020, following Dr. Nyquist’s change from full-time to adjunct status, TBS named Dr. Doug Petrovich Dean of the Graduate Programs and Mrs. Carousel Pieterse Director of the Bible Certificate Program. In October 2020, TBS renamed the “Licensed Professional” program the “Vocational Ministry Certificate” program, and earned Accredited Status with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).
In 2021, TBS received approval from TRACS to offer Distance Education and became a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).
In 2022, four concentrations were added to the Master of Arts in Biblical Studies: Biblical Leadership, Christian Education, Media Production, and Missions. TBS also added a publishing division, Nehemiah Press.