Here we begin a really awful fundraising letter.
Nothing dire is going to happen if you don’t act, now. No jobs will be lost, and no hard decisions will need to be reached. Programs will remain in force. No one is going to starve. Nothing will be shuttered. The only brink at which we stand is frankly that of the end of another school year. We fully expect that all of our needs will be met. Indeed, we have received a promise that they will be met by a Benefactor of infinite affinity, capacity, and generosity of spirit.
When I told my now-late mother in 2013 that I was moving to Minneapolis to become Vice President of Advancement and Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce and Vocation at Bethlehem College & Seminary, she asked “What’s that?” My punctured pomposity obligated me to then confess sheepishly, “I’m going to be the fundraiser.”
Having never raised funds before, I made a study of it while combing the professional literature to isolate the so-called “Best Practices” of raising money for institutions of higher education. When I showed my list to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees here, he said, “Well, I’ll tell you. Eight of those things we’re never going to do, and the last four we don’t understand well enough to wave you on.”
What was I to do?
John Piper was in the season immediately after stepping down as pastor and living in Tennessee, in order to give the new pastor here some runway to establish himself. So, I requested an audience with our founder-chancellor to work through some things. Two items were on the agenda when we met at the bucolic setting at which he was then in residence.
The first was that of synthesizing “Christian Hedonism” into a watchword to describe our work at Bethlehem College & Seminary. Like two blacksmiths sharing the work of forge and anvil, we hammered at word—and to some extent at each other—until the phrase “Education in Serious Joy” appeared amidst our collaboration. We understood that God had given us something in our work that could endure time’s testing. The other agenda item was:
Did George Müeller have a guy like Rick Segal,
and if so, just what did that guy do?
George Müeller, of course, was the 19th century Prussian-born evangelist who cared for over 10,000 orphans at Ashley Down in Bristol, England. Biographer Roger Steer wrote of Müeller in 1997: “Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost more than £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. Müller was in constant prayer that God touch the hearts of donors to make provisions for the orphans. For example, on one well-documented occasion, thanks was given for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart broke down in front of the orphanage.”
Was this task of stirring generosity toward Bethlehem College & Seminary to be simply that of prayerful passivity? Were my designs of strategies and tactics somehow disrespectful of God’s sovereignty over these things, a running ahead of him, a hedge against his promise to supply all our needs? Forbid it be so. What then was I to do?
Piper’s response to me was in the form of a show-and-tell. He brought out a coffee table book that was a bound volume of China’s Millions, the newsletter of China Inland Mission founded in 1865. It was a tabloid-size publication, beautifully illustrated with engravings and rich with testimonial and documentaries of the gospel’s advance in Central Asia. The inside cover of this magazine featured a masthead that read:
A Publication of China Inland Mission
Dr. Hudson Taylor, President
Beneath the masthead were the names of a half dozen men identified as “Secretaries”, and beneath their names a ledger of receipt numbers and corresponding amounts: #2306 – £10, #2307, – £25, #2308 – £150, #2309 – £80, and so on, at least eight columns of such entries with well over a hundred of them. Between the masthead and the ledger were words to this effect:
“Here you have a record of all of the benevolences directed toward China Inland Mission without solicitation.”
At the very bottom of the page, beneath all the columns of numbers, were the words:
For more information, contact:
“Was he asking?”, Piper wondered. Then he sent me to 2 Corinthians 8, told me to make it my manual, and let the Word of God guide my understanding of the way God works in the hearts of his people to advance his own purposes for his own glory.
And so I have, and so here I do. “We want you to know,” 2 Corinthians 8: 1a. At this writing we are $72,310.53 short of the amount required to fully fund the Serious Joy Scholarships for those students who were here for the school year just concluded.
For more information, contact:
“Secretary” and Fundraiser
- Pray for our graduates as they launch out into God’s call on their lives for his glory.
- Pray for the funding of the final Serious Joy Scholarships as we near our fiscal year end, June 30.
- Pray for our students and faculty as they head out across the United States and abroad on missions trips.