As many of you know, Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. One of the most unique things about the school is that we are committed to graduating students debt free.
A recent article reports that “since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the amount of outstanding federal student loan debt owed to the government has skyrocketed, increasing by 463 percent.” Currently, America’s student debt stands at $674,580,000,000.00. Yikes!
When Francis Chan started Eternity, he saw the vicious cycle of how student debt cripples Christians from furthering the kingdom. To be a missionary, for instance, you’ve got to get training, which includes some sort of Bible education. To get solid Bible education, you’ve got to pay $30,000-50,000 a year to learn the Bible at most Christian universities. After graduating, you apply to a sending agency only to get told that you have too much debt to be sent overseas. Now, you’ve got to work for the next 10 (or 30) years to pay off your student debt so that you can go overseas. But in reality, you never leave. Mission stifled.
The same cycle rears its ugly head for pastors and lay leaders. We tell them to get trained and then pay them a modest wage that doesn’t cover the $800/month (for 30 years) loan payment they’re enslaved to.
Now, smart students who get scholarships or who come from rich families who foot the bill are exempt from this cycle. But from Genesis to Revelation, the kingdom of God is rarely furthered by people who are smart or come from rich families. The 12 thugs Jesus called apostles are case in point. And they turned the world upside down.
John Dickerson points out in his book The Great Evangelical Recession that the evangelical church is facing a financial crisis. We’ve built unsustainable ways of doing church and unless we learn to run things much more efficiently, many churches and organizations are going to crumble over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, tuition costs at most evangelical schools continue to soar, and student debt continues to rise.
The problem doesn’t just apply to pastors and missionaries. In fact, most of our students at Eternity do not aspire to be full-time pastors or over-seas missionaries. Most end up working secular jobs upon graduation and become lay-leaders and servants in their local churches. But being freed from the vicious debt-cycle furthers their mission as well. Because now, these graduates do not scramble around finding high-paying jobs in order to pay off debt. Now, they seek out a secular job because they see that job as a mission field.
For instance, one recent graduate named Alise is an artist. And now after graduating, she’s been equipped to apply a rich biblical worldview to art. If she was enslaved to her school debt, then Alise would need to pursue one of two things upon graduation: A rich husband or a high paying job. Reaching the art community, or producing theologically rich art, would be nothing more than pipe dream realized in the finger paintings of her future kids tacked on the refrigerator door (“That’s a nice painting, sweetheart, but does it really reflect the Imago Dei?”).
Fortunately, Alise graduated debt free. And so she moved into an art district in downtown Portland, where she lives missionally—producing art and rubbing shoulders with artists. The gospel has wiggled its way into a dark pocket of society,
through the brush and paint of a creative student with a dream. Mission advanced.
We want to keep graduating students like Alise, who can apply the gospel to every vocation, regardless of whether such a vocation shells out enough dough to pay off a pile of student debt.
Come partner with us!
Eternity is currently running an end of the year campaign to help support our mission. If you desire to partner with us financially, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign/. All of your donations are tax-deductible and will be used efficiently to train our students, like Alise, to live and die well.