This blog has been discontinued. See Adam Gonnerman for all future posts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Reflecting on the Changing Landscape of Christian Education

The world of Christian education has been undergoing significant changes over the last few decades. A poignant example is the recent news about Lincoln Christian University closing its doors, though the seminary will find a new life as part of Ozark Christian College.

I recall my days at Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly during the mid-1990s. It was there that I became a part of the independent Christian Churches, dedicating myself to preaching for several country congregations. Those were transformative years, shaping much of my understanding and approach to ministry.

Subsequently, my journey took me to Harding University, where I continued to serve as a preacher. My visits to institutions like Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary (later renamed Cincinnati Christian University) and Lincoln Christian, as well as Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, although worthwhile, did not lead to me attending seminary. Today, of those institutions, only Covenant Theological Seminary stands in its original form.

It's poignant to realize that two of the seminaries I considered for my theological journey are no longer operational in their original capacities. In my estimation, their ambition to attain university status might have been their downfall. The current educational market isn’t as conducive to such transformations. With declining enrollments and mounting costs, many educational institutions are finding it tough to keep their doors open. Staying true to their core strength – offering conservative ministry training – might have been a better strategy.

Ozark Christian College, however, appears to have a silver lining amidst these upheavals. With potentially less competition and the addition of a seminary, their future seems brighter.

While I harbor reservations about Bible colleges – given their potentially limited academic scope – my own academic journey was diversified. Moberly Area Community College granted me a holistic liberal arts education, and Harding University capped off my ministry preparation. My graduate pursuits took me to Catholic universities and Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology.

My children's educational trajectories have been varied. My daughter graduated from a county college in New Jersey, while my son is on a similar path, with ambitions to transition to a broader academic institution like Rutgers.

It's evident that timing and institutional legacy are pivotal to the success of educational entities. Institutions like ACU and Harding, firmly established decades ago, benefit from their longstanding reputations. Others, like Cincinnati and Lincoln, which endeavored to morph into universities, perhaps misjudged the challenges ahead. Whispers of financial mismanagement at Cincinnati further muddle the tale.

In sum, Christian education's landscape is in flux, with certain institutions flourishing while others grapple with adversity. It underscores academia's dynamic nature and emphasizes adaptability, vision, and robust leadership's paramount importance. Regardless of the trajectory, the indelible impact these institutions have had on countless students, myself included, remains profound.