Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Fate of Lon Morris

This posting is in response to the report on Lon Morris’ financial collapse found at:
In the week prior to this report the Bishop’s office sent out an email requesting that pastors serving in the conference solicit donations from their churches to fund three weeks of payroll for yet unpaid employees of the school. Summer classes have been canceled and it remains to be seen if Lon Morris will reopen in the fall or COS will continue to be hosted there.

Throughout my life I’ve made a number of friends who attended Lon Morris College on a pastor’s scholarship and went on to Perkins to fulfill their educational requirements and ultimately become pastors themselves. Our home church in Houston garnered considerable renown in the 1950s as a “preacher mill” because we sent a dozen or so fresh high school graduates to Lon Morris each year. But while this may come as a shock to some in the church, it’s not the 1950s anymore.

 Lon Morris’ financial difficulties span many decades. The most notable school president, Cecil Peeples, was renown for finding money for bricks and mortar during an era when that seemed to be the main mission of the church. Not only was he successful in this regard but he possessed tenacity in length of service as well. Peeples was president at Lon Morris from 1935 until 1973 and continued in a supporting role for another 20 years. Unfortunately, none of Peeple’s successors have approached his length of tenure or level of success in mining the revenue streams constantly required to keep the school afloat.

 While enrollment more than doubled in recent years with the inclusion of a walk-on football program, the school lacked housing for the resulting population explosion that took place. As surrounding homes were purchased as a stop-gap measure while new student housing was being constructed the infrastructure of existing systems continued to fail as funds were diverted from the already shoe-string budget.

 The failure of Lon Morris mirrors similar situations facing many of our older, declining congregations still locked in the brick and mortar mentality of the 1950s. Rather than seeking man-made, institutional solutions for our church, including its educational facilities, we should be turning to God for discernment. Instead of launching a new program aimed at increasing our numbers and expecting God to bless it, shouldn’t we first seek His will for guidance and direction of His church? As the institutional church continues to crumble around us wouldn’t this be a good time to admit that we don’t have all the answers and willingly hand the matter over to the One who has?

Until we can do this the rest of the world will continue to see us as irrelevant, and rightly so.

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