It is the time of year at which we write to thank you for being a faithful contributor to The Serious Joy Scholarship and to encourage you to continue, even deepen, your commitment to this extraordinary ministry. Would you please consider renewing your support at the same level as last year, and supporting one additional student with a gift of any amount?
Almost exactly ten years ago this month, I made the decision to leave a significant leadership position at another college in order to accept the call to become the first president of Bethlehem College & Seminary. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made in my life. When this opportunity arose, I had been growing increasingly eager to spend the rest of my working life involved with something that would have a significant, long-term, global impact for the sake of the church and for the sake of the lost. I wanted to invest myself in something that would spread the same passion for God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples that had so gripped me. Bethlehem College & Seminary provided exactly that opportunity.
What was needed, I thought, was a school that would be theologically strong—absolutely committed to the inerrancy of the God’s Word, thoroughly reformed, baptistic, and permeated throughout with the point of view of Christian Hedonism—God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. I thought, there has to be a better way to train future pastors, missionaries, church leaders, and radically God-centered workers into the marketplace who would see themselves as non-vocational ministers of the gospel in and through their professions. I wanted to be connected to a school that wasn’t interested in prestige, or affirmation from peers, or trying to be “all things to all people.” No, I longed to see a school developed that would be connected to the real world of life and ministry, in partnership with the local church, and that wouldn’t saddle its students with mountains of debt in order to get their education. And at the same time, while keeping tuition affordable, I knew it must be possible to offer a world-class, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated, thoroughly Christian education that would prepare students for effective work and ministry. Bethlehem College & Seminary has fulfilled so much of what we had hoped and prayed for when the school was created.
As I reflect on these past ten years, I am astonished and amazed at the what the Lord has accomplished in such a relatively short amount of time here. The Lord has assembled a top-quality faculty, many of whom could teach at any other institution, if they so chose. However, they are as committed to the vision of education at Bethlehem College & Seminary as I am. They are here to build something very special for the sake of the church and for the glory of God.
The Lord has also brought us high-caliber students from all around the U.S. and even from around the world. We have had students from 46 states and 10 countries attend our school. For a school as new as ours and as unique as ours, this is remarkable. We have graduated over 375 students between our college and our seminary since we started. That may not seem like a large number, but it’s the quality of our graduates, not the quantity, that is so strategic. We are attracting students who are drawn to our distinctive theological commitments, our church-based structure, our unique, integrated, undergraduate curriculum, which situates all subjects of study within their proper context under the sovereignty of God, our rigorous approach to studying both God’s Word and God’s world, and our emphasis on personal, spiritual growth. We now have over 60% of our graduates currently serving in full-time ministry positions—in churches, parachurch organizations, campus ministries, global missions, and other outreach ministries. We are also thrilled to have graduates ministering on six of the seven continents of the world.
As encouraging as those statistics are, though, there is still so much work to be done. We have adopted the goal of “25 by 25” as a means of furthering the advancement of the gospel around the world. Our aim, in partnership with Bethlehem Baptist Church, is to equip and inspire our graduates to take up the challenge to plant 25 churches and to engage 25 unengaged people groups by the year 2025. This is an ambitious challenge, but our students are eagerly embracing it.
Just this summer I visited a church in southern Minnesota, in a secular college town, which was planted by one of our graduates. It has been in existence for a little over a year now, and it is thriving as the gospel is being faithfully preached. Another group of recent graduates dreamed together of planting a church in Boise, Idaho. Four graduates and their families have now moved to Idaho and have planted a church in heart of Mormon country where there are precious few gospel believing churches. Also this summer, we sent off one of our graduates to his homeland of Cameroon, West Africa, to plant a church in the capital city of Yaoundé where we also intend to establish an extension site of Bethlehem College & Seminary in order to train future pastors, church planters, and missionaries who will reach the unengaged people groups in that part of Africa. And these are just a few of the stories I could tell you about the remarkable men and women who are graduating from our school who are zealous for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be preached and taught throughout the world.
One of the great ministry/missionary texts of the Bible is found in Romans 10:13-15.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Verse 13 is the beautiful and straightforward message of the gospel. It’s the truth that all of us know and cherish and because of it, we have eternal life through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. But then comes the raw truth in verses 14 and 15. How will people believe in Jesus if they’ve never heard of him? And they will never hear of him unless we, the body of Christ, send faithful, bold preachers to them. This is our task. This is our calling as a school. And we can only do this in partnership with you, dear friends.
One of the greatest hindrances to fulfilling this exhortation in Romans 10 is the fact that many who go to school to become faithful, accurate preachers and teachers cannot go to the many unreached and unengaged people groups around the world because they simply can’t afford to go. Many of them are so strapped with college/seminary debts that no mission agency will allow them to go until they pay off their debts. For many, that would take years. This is why we are so committed to keeping tuition affordable at Bethlehem College & Seminary. We want our graduates to be able to launch immediately into ministry as soon after graduation as possible. This is such a key strategy for fulfilling the call to send preachers and teachers to the nations.
We have created The Serious Joy Scholarship as a means of freeing up our students to launch into ministry as soon as possible after graduating from our school. This strategy is working. Through your faithful partnership with us, our graduates are taking the gospel with them wherever they go in service to our great God and King. One day, perhaps, the Lord may let you and I know just what kind of eternal impact this partnership has had, and will have, as we meet souls in heaven who are there because of your investment in the lives and education of our students through The Serious Joy Scholarship.
I pray that as you support these students, and the professors who teach them, you derive much satisfaction from your investment in their education knowing that it will pay dividends into eternity.
Thank you so much for your strategic, faithful partnership with us for the sake of the gospel and for the building up of the church around the world. We consider it a great privilege to partner with you in this most important manner.
Yours in Christ