Nebraska Christian College: A Eulogy

by Nate Powell
As was noted a few weeks ago, Nebraska Christian College announced that they would be closing their doors at the end of the current Spring semester of 2020. We received word of this via calls from their trustees and staff, thru letters, and on their website. You can read more directly from Hope International University President Paul Alexander by clicking here.

As well, in light of the closing, Christian Standard wrote a very good review of the history and recent events that led up to the closure. You can read that article at this link.

This is not news we take lightly. In fact, it pains me greatly that we can’t share about this in a more personal way. The vast majority of my interactions with others on this topic have been on the phone or in Zoom meetings. There are some of you who are alumni, some of your who have given very generous support, some of you who have sent and prayed for students who studied for ministry and other occupations thru NCC’s educational opportunities that they provided. Honestly, it does hurt on a variety of levels, and there are some of you I would simply like to give a warm handshake or hug, to remind you that we will support each other in this, and it will all be OK.

The History of the Auburn Christian Church and Nebraska Christian College’s partnership goes back the full 75 years of the school’s history. NCC was born from the cooperative spirit between a few ministers, Roy Coup, Robert Hanson, Harold Milliken, and Auburn’s own pastor Guy B. Dunning, who served as the first president of NCC. The annual Dunning Lectures have been a longstanding tradition on the NCC campus. Their campus in Norfolk knew 3 locations, before the schools move to Papillion in 2006. Toward the campuses at Norfolk & Papillion, this church was very generous to the work of the college. As well, we remember that 40 years, ACC benefitted from the ministry and partnership of NCC Alums Frank Zimmerman and his wife Margie. Since Frank served here as our pastor, all of the years since 1962, almost all of the pastors or youth pastors who have served our church have been NCC alumni.

For me as well, NCC has been a long running partner in the history of my life. My home church, Skidmore Christian Church, had sent more than 40 students to NCC over the years, and had raised up many pastors and teachers. Upon being called into ministry around 1989, I benefitted from the summer mission trips that NCC led, called Crosswinds. I took two trips with professor Dan Cravatt, which solidified my desire to serve and grow the church. I also spent a summer after graduation alongside NCC alum Tim Guerino, serving the inner city of Syracuse, New York.

I arrived to study on the NCC campus in 1992, in the midst of a boom in admissions. I studied under some of the best professors: Dr. Bill Weber, Dr. Richard Brown, Chuck McCoy to name a few. I met Jodi in the fall of 1993 at NCC, and we were married a year later. Jodi and I graduated from there in 1996.

When I struggled in my faith, NCC Alumni like Corey Miller, Bob Milliken & Rich Milliken were there to pick me up. When I needed partners in my ministry, NCC Alumni like Andy Turner, Tim Boyd & Justin Raulston were there to support me. When I sent students into ministry, NCC Alumni like Austin Ettleman, Joey Norton & Kris Kirby were produced as fruitful servants for future ministry. When I needed a best friend, NCC Alumni Kelly Turney was there for me. There are more people than I can mention here, each of whom mean the world to me and have a connection to NCC. I would not have the beautiful family I have or the pastoral role I currently serve in without NCC.

I was thankful for four years to have the opportunity to sit as a Trustee. In those years, I received much perspective on the difficulty of Christian higher education in this century. Certainly, even when the trustees voted to merge with Hope International University in 2016, we understood that there were many challenges that NCC would have to face in order to remain viable. Sadly, our alma mater could not compete with the many other challenges that colleges of her size and stature would face in these days. Also sadly, I fear that she is not the last of schools that may close in the current economic climate.

But, we should not let this lead us to despair. It is not that pastoral training will not take place, it is simply taking place in different ways. There are still good schools that are training pastors in our movement. I’m very pleased that one of our own, Preston Vaughn, is headed to Ozark Christian College this fall to study youth ministry. (Make sure you are praying for him and our other graduating seniors!) As well, churches are doing better and better at hosting training programs and residencies that guide called individuals toward ministry.

So, while I know that we are sad, I think the place where we need to land as a church is a place of thanksgiving. Thankful for 75 years of ministry partnership. 75 Years of 1000+ pastors and ministry professionals that have served churches. 75 years of NCC’s support for ACC, and of ACC’s investment in NCC. And because we have trained disciples who have borne fruit, it is not an investment without a payoff. As the Apostle Paul spoke tenderly of the Ephesian church, so we note our affection for our NCC brothers and sisters: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Ephesians 1:16-19)

Let’s continue praying for the school as she winds down. Let’s pray for the faculty and staff that are seeking jobs. Let’s pray for the students who are making educational decisions for their futures and ministries.

Thank God for Nebraska Christian College.