The view from my office window is a complete mess. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
From where I sit, I can see giant tractors tearing into the ground. Mounds of dirt piled high. Construction crews hoisting and hauling, drilling and digging.
It’s quite the commotion. And for me, it’s a daily reminder of God’s great faithfulness to Biola University, and of the work that he has done, especially over the past several months.
A year from now — thanks to his goodness and the generosity of so many who believe in the mission of Biola University — the mess outside my window will be a beautiful facility for the students and faculty of Biola’s Talbot School of Theology. But what is being built is far more than 30,000 square feet of offices and classrooms. It is a pulpit for this university.
This year, as we experience a record number of undergraduate students, we need this pulpit more than ever.
From this pulpit, students will be educated for ministry through the graduate programs of Talbot School of Theology. From this pulpit, thousands of undergraduates from dozens of programs will be immersed in the 30 units of Bible that will ground them in the unchanging truth of God’s Word. From this pulpit, it will be known that as Biola University begins her second century, we are serious about our unwavering, non-negotiable commitment to the transforming and transcending Truth of Scripture.
In the last year and a half, the fundraising for the project had been slow going. Money had been trickling in. As of this spring, we still needed over $6 million before we could build. So in March we consecrated 40 days to pray and fast as a community, asking that the Lord would provide. And the cool thing was, we had no certainty where the $6 million was going to come from.
A couple in their 80s heard we were fasting and praying for a miracle, and they got excited because they’d seen God respond to fervent prayer during seemingly insurmountable challenges in their own lives. They told Rick Bee, our senior director of alumni relations: “We believe you’re going to see a miracle!”
You don’t know how much those words encouraged our faith, wobbly at times.
As the weeks went by in April, God began to show us that he was at work.
It started on day one of our 40 days of prayer: I was coming out of an off-campus meeting and I received a text message that an unexpected check for $1 million had just arrived. A few days later, a foundation indicated to us that they were giving $1 million to the project. And in the coming weeks, gifts to the project continued to come in: $60,000, $100,000, $150,000, $250,000, $50, $100.
On May 1, the day after the conclusion of our 40 days of prayer and fasting, I was traveling back from a morning in the mountains with our 11-year-old son, Sam, when I received word from a couple who was considering a gift to Talbot.
They asked if we could meet together to talk about Biola — our vision for the future, the work of the Holy Spirit in our faculty, staff and students, and the critical role Talbot plays biblically in equipping our students for kingdom impact. We spent more than two hours together that Saturday night, personally a deeply rich and moving evening.
Before I left, they shared with me their commitment in the neighborhood of $2 million. This was the same couple who told Rick Bee when our time of prayer began that they believed God was about to do a miracle here. On my way out the door that night, the dear wife said to me, “Barry, we believed from the beginning that God was going to do something great, but we had no idea he was going to do his miracle through us.”
The next day I received an e-mail with word that a wire transfer of $1 million would arrive the next day from a family in Asia toward their $3 million dollar commitment to Talbot. The father in that e-mail wrote this exhortation: “Talbot must continue to anchor Biola. It must also symbolically occupy a central place on the campus.”
And then, on May 5, just 24 hours before the Board of Trustees meeting when approval for this groundbreaking would be discussed, I received a phone call from yet another family with equally jaw-dropping news — a $2 million commitment!
The final weeks of this prayer campaign had been staggering, bolstering our faith and invigorating this community as we were reminded of God’s unfailing faithfulness. In just over 40 days, more than $6.4 million had been provided.
Sometime last year I had given an assignment to the inimitable professor Richard Rigsby about finding a verse that would help me develop some of my thinking about the future. This dear brother came by my office and said that all he kept thinking about were the words of the Lord to the prophet Zerubbabel in Zephaniah 4: “It’s not by might, nor by power, but it’s by my Spirit.”
What I desire is that the presence of the Holy Spirit is sensed on this campus.
And it’s not our culture nor our friendliness, not our name recognition nor our beautiful grounds nor the architectural design of this new building. But it’s the work of the Spirit alive at Biola so that God will be glorified and Christ exalted in all we do.
May this be true as the Talbot School of Theology building — this pulpit — is being constructed to the glory of the everlasting God.