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The History of SBS

By Ron Smith



Section I – Personal History

In 1977, hearing Dr. Earl Morey teach the book of Revelation at a charismatic conference in Pittsburgh, Loren Cunningham asked him to begin the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in Youth with A Mission (YWAM). Earl received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and pastored a Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. However, Earl told Loren that he did not feel he was to leave his church in Richmond.


I had met Earl while at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts in the early part of 1975 and Judy was a family friend. In the fall of 1980, Judy and I attended a Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM in Kona, Hawaii. During this time, Earl called Loren and mentioned that he thought Ron Smith should launch the School of Biblical Studies for YWAM. In February 1981, Loren called me during my DTS outreach and invited me to start the SBS in Kona that September.


On the day Loren called, I just happened to be fasting and seeking the Lord for one week and it was from that call, that the School of Biblical Studies was birthed. In September 1981 we began the SBS in Kona, Hawaii with eight students meeting in a small house up the hill from McDonald’s. Earl Morey was the technical off-site leader of the school that first year and Ron and Judy were the on-site co-founders of the first SBS.


From that beginning, SBS worldwide has now conducted about 1,000 schools in the last twenty-five years and has trained about 15,000.


To give you more of an understanding of our history, let me begin by outlining the history of Inductive Bible Study in the body of Christ.

Section II – History of the Inductive Method


Yale Professor, Dr. William Rainey Harper surveyed 1,000 pastors in the late 1800s. These ministers stated that their greatest weakness in seminary training was studying the English Bible. Harper’s chief assistant, Dr. Wilbert White developed the method known as the “Method of the Biblical Seminary” in New York. From the Biblical Seminary came the current sweep of Inductive Bible Study throughout the world. Seven basic streams flowed from this start.


The streams from Wilbert White’s method include:

1. Irving Jensen, Kay Arthur [Precept Ministries]

2. Howard Hendricks [Dallas Seminary], Multnomah, Bruce Wilkinson etc.

3. Howard Kuist [Princeton], Fuller Seminary, Earl Morey SBS

4. Robert Traina [Asbury], Ron Smith [Th.D. thesis on Traina’s work]

5. William Carey University, Barbara Boyd IVF

6. Stanley Shenk [Goshen College]

7. Biola, Talbot, Campus Crusade


Based on the various streams flowing from Wilbert White, the SBS flowed originally through Howard Kuist [stream 3] and Earl Morey as Kuist’s student at Princeton; plus Robert Traina [stream 4] who was also a student of Kuist with Ron Smith writing his Th.D. thesis on Traina’s work. [The Basics of Bible Study handout is a boiled-down espresso outline of Ron’s thesis].


So, what we are doing in the SBS is not original but right in the middle of a large movement that started at the end of the 19thcentury. The original thing we have done in the SBS is to study the whole Bible, every book, using the Inductive Method.

Section III – Multiplication of the School of Biblical Studies


Several different nations were represented among those first eight students in September 1981. Seven students finished out the first year and the location of the school moved from Kona, north to Makapala. The second year, we had nine students, the third year we had thirteen. All during this time, we had no other schools outside of YWAM, Hawaii.


By 1984, we had a large class of twenty-five students including regional, national, and international leaders in YWAM. Shortly after that time, the school began to multiply. The first three schools were South Africa, Korea, and England, in that order. At the end of 1987, we had several schools with locations on virtually all the continents.

We communicated to all base leaders that the SBS on their base is primarily accountable to their base leadership, reasoning that this would maintain a sense of simplicity and unity in those locations. This has proved to be a wise move. We said to Loren that we were going to be external encouragers to the local school leaders.

Through the years, people have asked me from time to time the following question: “What is the vision of the SBS?” I respond consistently that we have two major goals that we have not swayed from:

  1. I want people to know the content of the Bible in their native language.

  2. From this, provide them with a Bible foundation for their lives and for their ministries.


We are truly grateful to God for what he has done so far in the SBS. It is wonderful to know that God’s word is accessible to everyone. As well, the fellowship we have enjoyed among the staff and leadership through the years has been fulfilling. Pastors, teachers, and all kinds of saints in various walks and calls in life have come through the ministry.


We feel that God wants to continue SBS’s influence. We have desired to keep the course simple. It is not our goal to impress people with our scholarship. Our desire has always been to feed sheep.

Ron & Judy Smith

Ron and Judy Smith assumed leadership of the first School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in Kona, Hawaii in 1981. Since then the SBS has multiplied to around 60 schools worldwide.

Ron and Judy presently serve as encouragers to the SBS students and staff and continue to teach in the schools. They also help by providing resource materials and advice.


Ron has been busy putting more of his amazing teaching into book form for all of us to enjoy. You can understand more of God’s heart for missions, money, and Bible reading through some of his latest works.

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