Minding the Returns at the End of the Semester


This year at Bethlehem College & Seminary we’ve made it a special point to “mind the returns,” that is, to express our gratitude to God when he has answered our specific prayers. As I come to the end of my first year as President, it seems fitting for me to share with you just some of the evidences of God’s kindness from the last year. (These are drawn from my President’s Report to the Board of Trustees and the Bethlehem Baptist Church Council of Elders):

1) Clarity of Vision and Unity Around Our Strategic Plan
Last summer we established a strategic plan to guide us for the next five years. Our three strategic priorities are 1) Get to Scale (250 traditional students + $2.5M for the Serious Joy Scholarship), 2) Strengthen the Church-School Partnership, and 3) Broaden the Base (in our church-based education).

2) Fruitfulness in Our Mission
Based on my formal and informal interactions with our students, I believe that we are successfully accomplishing our mission to teach students. We have a world-class faculty, and we continue to grow and strengthen our academic community. I personally enjoyed teaching Foundations of Christian Hedonism to the first-year seminarians, a two-semester study of Shakespeare and Desire, and a course on “What is Man?” to our seniors and M.A. students. It is a great blessing to me to be both President and a professor.

3) Health of Our Culture
I believe that the Cabinet is leading the way in establishing a healthy, resilient, and transparent ethos within the school. Meetings at all levels are purposeful and productive. We see high engagement from the staff and faculty in various initiatives. I’m especially encouraged by regular staff and faculty participation at our weekly “Mind the Returns” prayer meeting.

4) Campus Community
We successfully re-established a vibrant campus community in the post-pandemic era. School lunches, chapels, and other events were well-attended. There is a vitality to the community that is encouraging and that we hope bears fruit in a formative student experience.

5) Bethlehem Baptist Church
We are in a season of greater church-school alignment. I’m especially grateful for the partnership with Kenny Stokes, the Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Downtown, and Tim Johnson, chair of the Bethlehem Elders. As Bethlehem Baptist Church steadily moves toward multiplying her campuses into distinct churches, I’m encouraged by the active engagement and cooperation of all the elders in thinking through the implications of trifurcation for the school

6) Broaden the Base
Last fall, we hired Jon Hedger to assist in the execution of our seminary apprenticeship. Jon has done a tremendous job in delivering on our unique seminary promise with a broadened base of churches. Our apprentices are actively serving in a variety of churches in the area, and we have actively engaged pastors from Bethlehem Baptist, Cities, Jubilee, Westview, Redeemer Bible, All Peoples, Emmaus Road, and others as chapel speakers and participants in Table Talk.

7) Events: Pastors Conference, Inauguration, and Commencement
We successfully held Serious Joy: The 34th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors amidst substantial challenges related to COVID. It was a rich time of worship, fellowship, and preaching, and we are glad to continue the legacy of the Pastors Conference. After rescheduling from the fall, we successfully held a worshipful inauguration ceremony that I believe honored God and represented the vision and ethos of our school well to those who attended. And last week, we graduated 32 college students and 10 seminary apprentices in a beautiful commencement ceremony, marked by the gravity and gladness that makes this institution unique. I thank God, especially for Amy Rabon and Bethany Briggs who deserve an enormous amount of credit for executing all of these events with God-centered joy and excellence.

So as we come to the end of this academic year, I find myself deeply grateful for God’s kindness to the school and would simply ask that you continue to pray that the Lord would establish the work of our hands. It is a good and worthy work that we are doing, and we are entirely dependent upon Jesus for it. Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Clinging to Jesus with you,

Joe Rigney, Ph.D.


Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God with us for his faithfulness this last year.
  2. Pray for the graduates who have now launched into life and ministry.
  3. Pray for our students and faculty as they head into the summer break.
  4. Pray for the full funding of the Serious Joy Scholarships by June 30, 2022.