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An Update about Lincoln Christian University and Ozark Christian College

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Since the early 1940s, Lincoln Christian University (LCU) and Ozark Christian College (OCC) have shared a common heritage in the Restoration Movement and a common mission of training men and women for Christian service. Facing a number of challenges, LCU announced in October of 2023 that it would cease academic operations in May of 2024, and together the two schools announced ongoing discussions about ways the institutions might work together. This memo serves as an update on that discussion.

In the subsequent months of conversation, the agreement that has emerged is not a corporate merger or acquisition. While LCU will cease academic operations on May 31, 2024, it will continue to exist as an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, with its remaining assets and liabilities. OCC is not acquiring all of LCU’s assets, nor is OCC assuming LCU’s debt. LCU remains committed to paying its debts and managing or disbursing its remaining assets. Instead, LCU has agreed to donate three items to OCC, and OCC agreed to provide services to the LCU constituency. 

First, LCU is donating the seminary name to OCC. OCC plans to continue Lincoln Seminary at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, beginning June 1, 2024. Ozark is currently pursuing approval of three different accrediting organizations—the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Higher Learning Commission—and nothing will be official until May. Pending final accreditation decisions, OCC hopes to add two more master’s degrees, expanding Ozark’s current graduate program to a full seminary. OCC hopes to welcome several current Lincoln seminary students this fall, and in preparation, OCC has hired additional adjunct and full-time professors, including former LCU professors, to teach in the seminary.

Second, LCU is donating its scholarship endowment to OCC. After the academic closure of LCU on May 31, 2024, LCU’s scholarship endowment will transfer to Ozark Christian College. All of LCU’s scholarship endowment—approximately $3.8 million—will continue to be used to provide scholarship funds for undergraduate and seminary students pursuing Bible and ministry education at Ozark Christian College and Lincoln Seminary in Joplin, Missouri.

Third, LCU is donating a number of physical assets to OCC. These include a few thousand books from LCU’s library to support the new seminary curriculum. (Most of the remaining books in the LCU library will be given to the Tavriski Christian Institute in Ukraine.) Other assets given to OCC include a statue entitled The Divine Servant, depicting Jesus washing Peter’s feet, a few other pieces of campus art, and the LCU “alumni bricks.” Some classroom and library furniture may come to OCC as well.

Fourth, OCC is committing to provide services for the LCU constituency. OCC agreed to administer the academic records for LCU’s 16,000+ alumni. OCC will also provide ministry events, ministry search services, pulpit supply services, and leadership consultation for the alumni and churches in LCU’s constituency. As part of this commitment, OCC recently hired David Upchurch, LCU’s current Director of Church Ministries, to remain in Illinois and continue to serve those churches.

This LCU-OCC agreement seems like a wise kingdom move for at least three reasons:

1. It helps train more workers for the harvest field. Ozark has trained undergraduates (traditionally 18- to 22-year-olds) for over 80 years. OCC’s addition of a graduate program in 2022 allows Ozark to equip a whole new pool of students—providing Bible and ministry education to adult learners who’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree. Continuing Lincoln Seminary at Ozark expands that opportunity to train more workers for the harvest field.

2. It helps serve a strategic role in the Restoration Movement. Because of Cincinnati Bible Seminary’s closing, the closing of Lincoln Christian Seminary would have left the independent Christian churches of the Restoration Movement with only one remaining accredited seminary to serve our fellowship of 5,000 congregations. Ozark did not want to see that happen, and as our fellowship’s only Bible college with an enrollment of more than 500 students, Ozark is a strategic partner to continue the work of Lincoln Seminary—providing biblical teaching, doctrinal preparation, and ministry training from a Restoration Movement perspective.

3. It helps practice good stewardship of kingdom resources. When other colleges faced similar situations, they often squeezed all the value out of what remained in an effort to survive—emptying endowments, going deeper into debt, losing students, forfeiting accreditation, and eroding trust. When forced to close, these institutions were left with little to pass on. LCU has made hard decisions that served their current students, protected their still-robust seminary and its accreditation, and preserved millions of dollars of endowment…all of which can now be passed like a baton to the next runner in the relay. OCC will steward these kingdom resources for the glory of God and the good of the churches.

What’s next? Both schools are taking next steps with accreditors, and we’ll know more by May. There are still many decisions to make and conversations to have, but we’ll share more information as clearly and quickly as possible. Watch Ozark’s website and social media for updates in the coming months.

How can we pray? 

· Pray for God’s comfort as we grieve the academic closure of LCU. (2 Cor 1:3)
· Pray for God’s provision as Lincoln pays off their debt and finishes well. (Phil 4:19)
· Pray for God’s wisdom in our conversations and decisions. (James 1:5)
· Pray for Christ’s power to work in us as we make him known through the church. (Col 1:29)