America’s Need for Christian Education for All Who Want It
The Only Way Quality Bible College Education is Accessible for Most
August 17, 2020
Today the Bible College of which I am blessed to be part held its first graduation. But it is part of a 22-year-old Bible College and Seminary. How is that possible?
Covenant Bible College and Seminary (CBCS) was founded in 1998 by a visionary Christian Educator, Dr. William C. Morris. He recently passed away, but his vision lives on under the inspirational leadership of another great Christian educator, Dr. Jonathan Vorce. CBCS now has 40 campuses throughout the world.
There are many Bible Colleges and Seminaries in this great land that have trained Christian church leaders and missionaries for generations. They have impacted the lives of millions of ministers, including mine. But they are not enough. If we depend on traditional institutions based in expensive campuses, we will never have enough well-trained workers to bring in the great harvest of souls who are waiting for the Good News of the Gospel.
The reason this is true is two-fold. First, there are not nearly enough accredited institutions to fill the need. Second, it is financially impossible for millions of men and women who have God’s calling on their lives to attend most of those Bible College and Seminaries.
So what was so visionary about Dr. Morris' plan to bring Bible College training to millions of people? I’ll answer that by answering my first question: How is it possible for our college to hold its first graduation when the institution is 22 years old? The answer is easy. CBCS uses a simple but powerful strategy of planting extension campuses anywhere there is a need for inexpensive quality training and a church or other organization willing to give it a home.
Most traditional Bible Colleges and Seminaries have fallen into the trap of accepting Government Accreditation. With this comes Government financial aid - and Government control over much that should be at the sole discretion of Christian educators guided by the Word of God. For instance, the Government can force an institution to hire a homosexual - to teach at a Christian College! One Christian college I attended employed a professor who was a member of the Hemlock Society - a suicide advocacy organization.
Government Accreditation comes with major strings attached to the curriculum. I was saved when I was 13 at a youth camp. The music director of the camp was the head of the music department at a well-known institution with a long history as a respected Bible College. They were accredited by a Theological Accrediting Association which is parallel to Government Accreditation, but which allows the Bible Colleges and Seminaries they accredit to function according to the Word of God. For years I planned to attend this great school, and I enrolled there after I completed my active duty in the Marine Corps.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived and found out it was no longer a Bible College. Oh, Bible College was still in their name. (They have since removed those words.) But before I arrived on campus they had decided to add a School of Education in order to train school teachers. It is great for school teachers to be trained at a Christian institution. But in order for the college to train teachers, they had to accept Government Accreditation.
This meant that approximately 75% of my classes had nothing to do with the Bible or ministry. I was forced to take many courses that would be of no use in my life. I called them collectively “underwater basket weaving” because that was how beneficial they were. For instance, I had to take a secular psychology course. It will come as no surprise to my readers that I had zero interest in Freud’s perverted theories about women envying men’s genitals, or Masters' and Johnson's equally perverted theories on sex therapy.
At CBCS the courses are what I call “All Bible, all the time.” Of course, we study history - but not the revisionist histories taught in most colleges, because the Government dictates the textbooks that can be used. We study human relations, counseling, and coaching - but with a Biblical focus. In other words, we prepare our students for life in the real world by equipping them with Godly training that includes how to put on the whole armor of God so that when they battle Satan they know how to defeat him.
Most institutions - secular and religious - that have Government Accreditation follow a traditional semester-based calendar that requires students to study five or more different courses at one time. That means switching one’s mental gears every hour as you go from class to class. That means studying from five or more different textbooks. And - worst - it means cramming for the dreaded Finals Week in which you are supposed to take five different final exams that count for a major percentage of your grade.
At Covenant, we operate on a one-month Term basis. During that month we have one textbook, and we study one subject. It is amazing how beneficial it is to focus on one important subject without being constantly distracted by the requirements and assignments of four other classes. This model allows our students to immerse themselves in that Term’s material, resulting in better retention of knowledge - and better grades.
I have written quite a bit about the dangers of Government Accreditation. The main problem with such accreditation is that it puts the Church under the Government, when it should only answer to God. Jesus espoused this principle when He said, "...Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's..." (Mark 12:17).
The dangers of ignoring this principle include the Government threatening Christian institutions with removal of their accreditation because they refused to change their Statement of Faith to suit the Government Accrediting body. Most Christian institutions accept Government funding or student aid. They become addicted to this money because it allows them to build more and bigger buildings. This gives the Government another way to enforce compliance with its dictates - withholding of funding.
The ultimate end of the Government becoming involved in the business of the Church is best illustrated by the chilling example of the lesbian Mayor of Houston, Texas. She ordered pastors to turn over to her any sermons that commented on homosexuality, “gender identity”, or the mayor herself. The pastors properly refused to comply, and she issued subpoenas that required them to do so or be found in contempt of court.
By refusing to accept Government Accreditation CBCS prevents the Government from regulating the Church. By refusing to accept Government funding or financial aid, CBCS prevents the government from threatening to remove it. So how do we flourish and provide free Bible Colleges on the Mission Field, when many Christian institutions say they cannot survive without Government money?
Again, it’s simple. We charge radically lower fees - as little as 1/10th of the cost of Bible Schools that have to support large campuses, many buildings, and all the staff needed to maintain such campuses.
So just what is Theological Accreditation? Covenant is accredited by the world’s largest, the Transworld Accrediting Commission International. They accredit many great institutions, including Christ for the Nations, the most respected Missionary Bible Institute in America. They also accredit, among many others, the 250 worldwide campuses of Rhema Bible Training College, River University, Living Word Bible Institute (President, Dr. Bill Winston), and Charis Bible College (President, Dr. Andrew Womack).
A Theological Accrediting Association serves the same purpose as a Government one. In both, the qualifications of an educational institution are judged by their peers. With both, educational institutions must adhere to high standards, including curriculum and the qualifications of their professors.
But they diverge when it comes to who is the highest authority. With Government accreditation, the Government is the highest authority. Theological Accrediting Associations recognize, like our Founding Fathers, “No king but King Jesus.” We cannot have the Government dictating what ministers and church leaders should be taught, deciding whether our Statements of Faith meet their standards, or forcing Christian institutions to hire professors who are not Christians. Covenant will never put itself under such authority.
So what does Covenant offer Bible lovers who desire to serve the Lord, whether in full-time or part-time ministry, or as a minister in the marketplace?
Students at Covenant Extension Campuses can earn an accredited four-year Bachelor’s degree for less than I pay for one semester of my daughter’s online schooling at a large Christian college. My daughter has never spoken to a professor at her very expensive Christian University. Her only contact is with “coaches” who are not educators. Our Campus has two professors with doctoral degrees teaching in person at our campus, and teaching live in our online classes. Instead of huge lecture halls with hundreds of students, our classes are small enough to allow students to ask questions, and comment on and discuss the material being taught.
Students at all Government accredited institutions typically graduate with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. For ministry students, this often means delaying entry into full-time ministry for years while they work to pay off this debt. Our President, Dr. Vorce is determined that no student will have to go into debt in order to attend any Covenant campus.
We accomplish this by using facilities, often churches, which are not in use on the evenings our classes meet. Our students meet one night each week with their professors, but they do the same amount of work they would if they had to sit in classrooms five hours a day. They just do the work, including research, writing term papers, and exam preparation when it fits in their schedule. It is not easy, but we only accept students who are mature and motivated. They are capable of independent study and don’t need a professor to tell them every step to take. This also helps keep costs down.
Finally, our highly qualified professors frankly don’t make the money that educators at big institutions do. They could teach at those schools. But most are engaged in active ministry, and teach at CBCS because they love teaching and love empowering their students. Many don’t accept any salary.
Covenant is different in two other ways. We accept spiritually mature high school juniors and seniors for dual enrollment. These students can earn the credits for an Associate’s Degree while they finish high school. The degree is not awarded until they receive their high school diploma. Any student can dual-enroll, but this is particularly attractive to home-schooled students who can receive high school credit for the college classes they have taken. This benefit is also available in other schools, including private, charter, and some public high schools.
Some of our campuses also offer a choice of in-class or online training. The Virus made us become proficient in online education at our campus in South Florida when the state restricted the number of people who could congregate in one room. Now that those restrictions have been lifted we will continue to offer live-streaming of our classes in a way that will allow all students - in the class and online - to interact. This makes it possible for students with no CBCS campus nearby, as well as those with medical restrictions, to continue their studies.
Who should enroll at CBCS? Certainly anyone with a call to any type of Christian ministry. But we are also called to train church leaders - teachers, elders, deacons, administrators, and others who are not called to full-time ministry. Pastors are always on the lookout for qualified leaders. We also have many students who simply want to learn the Bible in a deeper way and grow in their spiritual lives. As a pastor myself for over 40 years, I am well aware of the limitations on how much I can teach in a Sunday sermon and a Wednesday night Bible study.
We have four levels of training that students can undertake, including a one-year Diploma and all degrees from Associate’s to Ph.D. We currently offer four majors at the Bachelor’s level and above, including Theology, Practical Ministry, Biblical Studies, and Biblical Counseling. Other majors are under development.
The choice is clear. You can do what I did. I left a good job, my family, and a church I loved to relocate to the city where I attended Bible College. I had to pay room and board when I could have lived at home. And I had to find a job, which is always difficult in a college town. I ended up working two low-paying jobs to make ends meet - including working all night at a gas station three nights a week. I left there with a mountain of debt that took years to pay off.
Contrast that with two of the students who graduated today. They are husband and wife pastors with 22 years of ministry experience. Long ago they earned Associate’s degrees in Bible, but since then time and financial restrictions have prevented them from furthering their education. Today they both received Bachelor’s degrees.
They were able to continue their ministry to their church and Christian school while attending our College. They kept their home and were able to be close to their family. Even the extremely low tuition we charge was a challenge, but they did some belt-tightening and managed it. The required work had to be fit into their busy schedule, and I’m sure that caused some late nights. But they made it. You can see their smiling faces in the photo above.
I tell all our students two things. 1) “This isn’t 13th grade. You’re in college now. We’ll help you all we can, but you need to do the work. Unless you really want to succeed you won’t.” 2) When they get discouraged at times, I quote Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
This was a day for reaping.
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