13 July, 2024

Lincoln Christian University Officially Closed – But the Work Goes On

by | 11 June, 2024 | 3 comments

By Chris Moon

Lincoln Christian University has shut its doors for the final time.

The 80-year-old Bible college in Illinois ended operations on May 31. The once-prominent Restoration Movement school had struggled for years with declining enrollment, financial shortfalls, and burdensome debt.

Efforts to halt LCU’s decline by changing its educational model and selling off some of its property fell short.

Lincoln Christian University announced in October it would cease operations at the end of the school year. That time has come.

“Our days as a degree-granting university have ended,” said Silas McCormick, LCU’s former president.

But the closure comes with a silver lining.

LCU has donated its name, scholarship endowment, and some physical assets to Ozark Christian College, which is launching “Lincoln Seminary” at OCC.

The Lincoln name also will continue in the work of the Lincoln Christian Institute, which will offer non-accredited training to pastors and serve churches in a variety of ways, particularly in the Midwest that once was LCU’s primary territory.

On top of that, McCormick said, the university was able to pay off all its debts by the sale of various assets, including the remainder of its campus in Lincoln, Ill. The campus was purchased by a local church.

McCormick said he never would have believed months ago that LCU would finish its days debt-free.

“Our people were so good about embracing the idea of finishing well,” he said.

‘REALLY QUIET REALLY FAST’

McCormick spoke with Christian Standard just three days after the last official day of LCU’s existence.

“It got really quiet really fast,” he said, describing the last day the university’s employees spent cleaning out their offices.

McCormick is one of two remaining full-time employees of the Illinois nonprofit organization that once did business as Lincoln Christian University. The other employee is Margie Martin, a longtime operations staff member at Lincoln.

McCormick now is the executive director of the old LCU nonprofit. It will do business as the Lincoln Christian Institute. Martin is its director of operations.

The two of them will be working to tie up loose ends from LCU’s closure. That means dealing with things like the leftover historical memorabilia from the college and old human resources files that go back decades.

It also includes shifting the nonprofit’s books over to new accounting software – QuickBooks – that’s easier for smaller organizations to manage.

“We have to learn to be small,” McCormick said.

INTO THE PIPELINE

The old LCU nonprofit organization also will turn its attention to its new work as the Lincoln Christian Institute.

The group’s board of directors remains the same as it was during the LCU days.

The Lincoln Christian Institute will continue to hold the Midwest Ministers Retreat each fall and the Church Leaders Conference each spring – both staples of LCU.

The Lincoln Christian Institute also will offer two five-course, non-accredited certificate programs for pastors-in-training – one in Bible and theology and one in Christian ministry. The courses will be taught by former LCU professors, pastors who graduated from LCU, and Ozark Christian College professors.

The courses will include seven weeks of on-your-own learning and two-day, in-person retreats with other students.

Each certificate program can be completed in a year and will cost from $1,250 to $2,250.

The idea is to train up people for ministry who won’t otherwise seek a college or seminary degree because of the time and financial investments required.

But McCormick said he also hopes students in Lincoln Christian Institute’s certificate programs eventually will opt for a more robust education at a Bible college or seminary.

“These courses are our attempt to feed more people into the pipeline,” he said.

McCormick said the Lincoln Christian Institute also will offer pulpit supply preaching to local churches, as well as governance and conflict resolution help. Things like that had been a “corner” of the services LCU always had offered.

“That corner has become the whole thing,” McCormick said. 

OUT OF DEBT

The work will be funded in part by several income-producing assets that are holdovers from LCU, McCormick said.

Those assets remain in the hands of the LCU nonprofit organization.

Among them are a farm that had been gifted to LCU years ago and a broadcasting license that dates back to the 1960s. Both generate revenue through lease agreements – with a farmer and a cell phone company, respectively.

Interestingly enough, the LCU nonprofit organization also owns two oil derricks in Texas that still produce a small annual income – money that now will help support the Lincoln Christian Institute.

McCormick said the nonprofit also is a beneficiary in at least two charitable remainder trusts that will provide revenue in the future.

McCormick expects the Lincoln Christian Institute to begin with about $180,000 cash on hand.

That’s quite the change from expectations just nine months ago. Back in October, the university thought it would have $2.6 million in outstanding debt on June 1, McCormick said.

But LCU began selling off its physical assets. Everything went – from the university’s campus to its vehicle fleet consisting of three Toyota Camrys.

McCormick said LCU’s donors kept giving to the university through the end of the school year, further helping to pay off debt.

 “The further we got, the brighter the sunrise looked,” he said.

‘HOPEFULNESS AND VISION’

Tanner Green, board chairman of LCU – and now of Lincoln Christian Institute – said the debt-free closure of the university is “one of the more amazing things that I’ve watched unfold.”

Most colleges that close are left with nothing but a financial hole. But LCU’s closure comes with opportunity with the future work of the Lincoln Christian Institute.

Green said McCormick and the LCU staff showed a lot of perseverance as they worked to close down the school in a positive way.

“I walk away inspired. That’s my short answer,” said Green, who graduated from LCU in 2005 and Lincoln Christian Seminary in 2009.

Green said he never saw the LCU board of trustees despair, even when things looked bleak.

“I saw a group of people who were ready to make the best decision, the next right decision, with the circumstances in front of them – and to do so with an eye on reality and also an eye on hopefulness and vision,” Green said. “I never saw anyone who was discouraged, and I think that’s a quality of great leadership – to name reality and yet to maintain hope moving forward.”

Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.

3 Comments

  1. Bridget Schnautz

    I’m proud of my Alma Mater for the dignity and grace she has expressed in the difficult task of finishing well and preparing for the next season.

  2. Roger Wever

    Amen Restoration Movement Brethren! We as the LCU family have finished well and continuing in ministry and mission through LCI, LS@OCC and elsewhere. Praise God from who ALL blessings flow.

  3. Mark Roberts

    I am a believer not from the Restoration stream, but I am saddened by LCU’s closing but encouraged by how it closed solvent and is continuing its work in the ways named. I’m not far from Ozark Christian College and pray for & cheer on its flourishing aided by these LCU gifts.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

A Listing of Restoration Movement Podcasts

Christian Standard created this listing of regularly produced podcasts loosely defined as “Restoration Movement” podcasts. The theme-driven podcasts in the top portion of this listing are produced by Christian churches and organizations. The podcasts at the bottom are individual churches’ weekly sermons/messages. . . .

New Discoveries on Medical Care for Transgender Youth

Hilary Cass is the leading pediatrician in England’s National Health Services. She recently completed what The Economist has deemed the most significant review “ever undertaken in the field of transgender health.”

The Lone Ranger Comes to Church

We seem to be returning to those “thrilling days of the yesteryear,” as more and more Americans are toting guns, even in church. News reports indicate a growing number of churches are training church members as armed guards. Is this a good idea? . . .

The Gift of Pain

Micah Odor writes, “Every meaningful period of growth in my life has been a time of tremendous pain” . . .

Follow Us