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  • Writer's pictureTom Marshall

Affordable Christian Education: The Best Alternative to Free Online Bible Study Courses

Author: Tom Marshall, Academic Dean, Maritime Christian College

James desired to improve his biblical knowledge but is unsure if free online Bible study courses are better than courses offered by a college or university. The price for free courses is right but is there a catch? Every time he clicked on a link to find out more information, he landed on an email request page to enroll. Plus, he happened upon one website for a free online Bible study course but found out later it was one of those groups who do not believe Jesus is God’s Son. A friend of his had warned him about organizations using biblical-sounding language in their advertisements. Still, the organization did not believe Jesus rose from the grave and even denied Jesus was God’s Son. James shook his head in frustration because this complicated his task in finding the right Bible study course. He was beginning to think free wasn’t necessarily a great deal after all, especially if he signed up to an online course sponsored by a group denying Jesus’ divinity.

James continued his search and found Michael Chen’s website:, which listed the ten best free online courses. The website identified the institutions behind the courses which James could double-check. The schools offered free courses as an incentive to take other classes they offered at the institution. So why not enroll in a seminary course and complete a program instead of messing around with a free course?

James had been toying with the idea of working in a church. He enjoyed helping others, and he discovered Jesus wanted him to be a disciple-maker. His friend encouraged him to continue studying about Jesus and told him he was a great team player. James considered his friend’s suggestion and wondered if getting a master’s degree might be the answer.

James noticed that free online Bible study courses can be completed at your own pace. Like many people, James is a procrastinator. Deadlines are a necessary evil in order to get his work done. Over time he has become a bit cynical when things are “free.” His dad often said, “If you don’t put your own money in, then you’re not serious. Money equals ownership.” James wanted to get serious and knew he would have to pay. It had to come out of his own pocket. It’s what he wanted to do. The newfound ownership made all the difference because he would be learning something he wanted to learn.

James contacted his friend’s alma mater, and they got back to him. He spoke to a guy named Tim, who answered his questions and explained how the Masters program worked online. Tim informed him he would be a part of a cohort. A cohort is a group of like-minded students who are either serving in a church or are involved in some form of volunteer ministry. The cohort would take classes together and learn within a peer-to-peer relationship with experts guiding their study. The benefits of the cohort system are the relationships a student builds with their classmates, the delving into the why about disciple-making, and the experience one gains by applying what you learn within a cohort to their own life. These relationships can last for years and is one of the benefits of participating in a master’s program.

Tim explained how the courses were asynchronous (teacher and students not meeting at the same time) and had been developed by experienced online course developers and taught by knowledgeable instructors. Tim also explained that Maritime Christian College is part of the Restoration Movement of independent Christian churches who use the Bible as the main “textbook” without an overall denomination head office to explain church policy and doctrine. In fact, MCC’s bylaws state that the Bible shall be the College’s chief textbook and that course developers and instructors must adhere to this principle. But Tim pointed out that students with differing denominational perspectives are still encouraged to take MCC courses as long as they are willing to engage in a biblically supported defense of their denominational position and to maintain academic integrity and Christian unity.

The Masters of Disciple Making and Ministry Leadership offers two courses per semester, and a student can expect to graduate in two years if they complete the two courses per semester offered in September-December, January to April, and May-August. James liked the semester approach because it was like undergrad school, and he’d be forced to complete the work before the end of the semester.

James happens to live in the USA, and Tim pointed out how the exchange rate today is excellent for studying in Canada online. A 3-hour credit course, at $825 CAD translates very favorably into $612 USD per course at current exchange rates. Tim also mentioned MCC has bursaries available to help cut costs, but one must apply early before they were all taken. James went online and checked how much a course would be from another theological seminary and found it was $858 US. Other US courses were similar in price, but the exchange rate made MCC attractive.

When James compared MCC’s master’s courses in their MA program to the free online Bible study courses, he noted the concentration in disciple-making courses at MCC rather than the wide range of topics covered in the free courses. His friend explained the seminary experience is a deep dive into a particular area of study. His friend also pointed out MCC’s vision is to help churches to make disciples who make disciples. Its curriculum is focused on disciple-making as a way to help church leaders and students recapture this core mission of the church that Jesus gave his followers.

James grew up in the church, and over the years, he had noticed most of the regular attenders are now gray-haired and tired after years of faithful service. He looked around and noted how many people his own age were not there. At some point, people his age quit coming to church. Something had changed, but he wasn’t sure what it was. His friend kept talking about the need for disciple-making and James wondered if this might be the answer.

James realized a change must take place within the church but was unsure how to go about making that change. He also knows he must make disciples but is unsure how to do that as well. He wants to do something but what? Tim encouraged him to sign up for a course, get to know the professor and students in the course and ask God to clarify what he should do. By stepping out in faith in taking a course God will either open up new opportunities to serve or he’ll let you know it’s not for you.

James’ friend often spoke about how twelve Apostles carried the gospel message to the ends of the earth following Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. These apostles faced severe challenges and opposition, but their persistence and the work of the Holy Spirit made the difference. The gospel’s spread impacted the Roman Empire to the extent that paganism no longer had a hold as people accepted Jesus. Social institutions began to change for the better because the gospel brings people together rather than divide them. James wondered if a similar change could occur in his own life if he were to sign up for a course. It is a big dream. James is committed to telling others about the gospel message but wants to learn how to do it best. He has learned God sent Jesus to free him from the bondage to sin, and now he wants to share this with others.

Maritime Christian College offers a Masters in Disciple Making and Ministry Leadership Link: Enroll today:

Discover MCC's Vision for our Future and Why Online Programs Are Perfect For You! Link:

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