PINEVILLE — Colorful butterflies glide on the mid-summer breeze. Songbirds flitter about from maple to oak to pine. Minnows float lazily beneath the surface of a pristine stream. And, in every direction, mountains rise toward the sky.
Little wonder visitors to the campus of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College are smitten by its breathtaking beauty.
“If Clear Creek is ever in the running for the most beautiful campus, I feel sure it would win hands down,” said Donnie Fox, president of the 90-year-old school tucked snuggly into the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. “There’s no other place like it.”
It is from this setting that thousands of mountain preachers have gotten their biblical bearings to serve as pastors, evangelists, teachers and missionaries all over the world. Many of them will be returning to campus Aug. 1 and 2 to celebrate the school’s 90th anniversary.
“It’s one of the most tranquil, peaceful places I’ve ever been,” said Jared Gullion, a London pastor and Clear Creek student. “You feel the presence of God there. It’s a calming place that seems nestled right in the heart of God.”
While the beauty of the college is a plus, it’s the strong reputation for preparing men of God to meet the challenges of the 21st Century that draws new students. It doesn’t hurt that Clear Creek is consistently ranked among the Top 25 most affordable Bible colleges in the U.S.
“In fact, for every dollar our students pay in tuition, someone else donates three dollars,” Fox said. “Our donors are as committed as we are to training God-called men and women for Christian service.”
Clear Creek, an institution of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was the brainchild of the late Lloyd Caswell Kelly, a once renowned mountain preacher, when he was pastor at Pineville’s First Baptist Church. He realized the need to prepare local ministers by helping them hone the art of preaching and by helping them to understand the scriptures.
Initially called Clear Creek Mountain Springs, 700 acres were set aside “for educational, recreational and religious purposes.” The first class for preachers was held in July 1926. Twelve students attended. By 1946, the school had developed a strong reputation through the Appalachians for preparing “God-called” men and women for ministry.
“When it comes to Bible colleges, Clear Creek is the best deal around,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “We see the quality education they provide each time one of their graduates walks into a pulpit. They’re turning out faithful preachers ready to impact the world for Christ.”
Fox said the faculty, most of whom also serve as leaders in local churches, have a passion for increasing their students’ knowledge and understanding of the Bible, improving their speaking and writing skills, honing leadership and communication skills, and creating within them a sensitivity to the needs of people.
“Our faculty and staff know what they are teaching – not just because they have studied it, but because they have lived it,” he said. “In many cases, our professors are still pastoring churches. When you sit down to learn, you are receiving a wealth of knowledge that is well-tempered with experience and wisdom.”
Jonathan Grizzell, a former Clear Creek student who now is pastor of Hedgeville Baptist Church in Boyle County, agreed wholeheartedly.
“As far as what is taught in the classroom, I would put Clear Creek up against anyone,” Grizzell said. “They do a wonderful job of preparing preachers with an understanding of the scriptures.”
Clear Creek describes itself as a community of Christians brought together by their faith in Christ. The faculty, staff and students affirm the total trustworthiness of the Bible, acknowledge redemption from sin is only through Jesus, and commit themselves to serving the needs of churches.
The average age of Clear Creek students is between 30 and 32. Most are already married and often they already have children.
“Family housing is not unique to Clear Creek, but with over 25 two, three, and four bedroom units, you know we are a family-friendly environment,” Fox said. “God has allowed us to provide inexpensive housing to families in order to remove as many obstacles as possible when it comes to answering God’s call later in life. We also have one bedroom units for those who are married without children. Of course, we have dorm and apartment housing for singles as well.”
Gullion said administrators do everything possible to remove financial barriers that would prevent rising preachers from enrolling.
“They’ll look for scholarships in every nook and cranny,” he said. “They do everything in their power to help preachers get a degree without incurring huge debt. Sure, the campus is beautiful, but what they’re doing to prepare ministers is even more beautiful.”