Sharing the ‘Unchanging Word’ in New and Different Ways
The Baptist College of Florida
While The Baptist College of Florida’s values are as old-fashioned as they were when it started 70 years ago, the tiny institution isn’t afraid to keep up with modern times.
BCF was started during World War II to serve those who felt called to ministry later in life but didn’t have the educational background, said Dr. Thomas Kinchen, who’s now in his 25th year at the helm of the college whose mission is, well, missions.
When he arrived, the institution offered three diploma programs. Today, 21 undergraduate degrees are offered, along with two master’s degrees — all available at the college’s Graceville campus, at satellite facilities based in churches in Jacksonville, Panama City, Pensacola and Orlando, and online.
Enrollment is about 700, with 500 on campus.
While many of the degree programs are directly related to church service — ministry, education, Biblical studies and Christian counseling, for example — and most of the graduates go on to work in churches and missions, Kinchen said his college also seeks to develop business leaders with Christian values. Even non-ministry majors are required to take 18 hours of theological study. “For way too long the church has been segmented out — you know, ‘This is my Sunday life, and (work) is the rest of my life,” he continued. “What we’re saying is, in the marketplace, it’s vitally important that you be who you are in the worship center.”
Kinchen said when it comes to planting new churches, some of the greatest resistance he encounters is not in developing nations, but right here at home. “I’ve actually been called by churches (that) are going to locate in areas that businesses didn’t want them to come to because they were going to take land off the tax roll,” he said.
But he’s got a rebuttal for that: “It’s good business to have a strong church in your community, whether you’re a believer or not.” Churchgoing people are honest, reliable and have a good work ethic, he said, “and all of those are good business — and your tax money isn’t going to repair nearly as many broken lives.”
Kinchen proudly relates that BCF carries no debt and that programs are added and buildings are built on a pay-as-you-go basis. Only about 20 percent of the college’s budget comes from the Baptist church. The rest is tuition, auxiliary services and “beating the bushes” for donations, he said.
The college is about to break ground on a $1.5 million dining facility and recently added a minor in aviation — so missionaries in far-flung regions can spread the Christian faith. When talking to people from a program in Brazil, Kinchen said, “I continued to run into folks who say, ‘We know of this group but they’re on the other side of the jungle and it takes three weeks to get there,’ or, ‘they’re on the other side of this big lake system and we can’t get there,’ or, ‘they’re on the other side of this canyon and we can’t get there.’ They didn’t mention anything that you can’t fly over.”
After attracting renowned Florida landscape and wildlife artist Keith Martin Johns, FBC will add a fine arts component to its worship arts program in the fall.